Without a doubt, Katherine Manning is the person you wanted on the other end of the line when you had a CX issue. Or really any issue. She's now an Associate Consultant at Predictive Index, but as a User Operations Specialist she was brimming with genuine care, concern and empathy.
You could feel it when she talks about the field.
She was new to CX when we spoke - just hitting a month at The Predictive Index. But she’s far from inexperienced. Her journey to support started after college when she realized her degree in Business Management and minor in Entrepreneurship wasn’t quite what she was looking for:
“It’s funny because I never want to own my own business. I don’t know if I ever want to become a manager. So it’s a bit frustrating that I got that type of degree for all the wrong reasons.”
This is such a common issue today, degrees that don’t resonate with the student when they graduate. Luckily, Katherine was able to correct her course.
Support comes in many forms
Not wanting to jump on a career path where she’d feel stuck, Katherine chose to spend a year in Australia on a working holiday visa:
“I was able to get a job anywhere I could, but I could only work there for six months.”
Even though it wasn’t much time, she challenged herself:
“I wanted to figure out what I was good at. I wanted to know what I thrive in, am I okay being thrown into environments where I have to struggle a bit?”
That’s how she found out that person-to-person support is her specialty.
When we talk about CX, so often we think of remote support. But many roles have significant in-person support components that are overlooked. Getting a job managing a whiskey bar while in Australia showed Katherine just how true that is:
“I did find out what I’m good at and what I like doing, which is talking to people. I dealt with the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
There is a fine art to in-person support, and during her time at the bar, Katherine jumped at the chance to hone that skill:
“Honestly, I’m not a night person. I hate being up late, and I was looking for every excuse to keep myself motivated during a night shift. We stayed open until 2 AM!"
"What I realized is if I sat there and talked to people, even if I was just cleaning glasses, I loved it. The time flew. Even dealing with those issues of people getting in fights or double booking an event, that’s really how I found out that I liked talking to people. People like to be heard; they love talking about how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. If you know that going in, talking to an angry person, they just want a voice and they want to be heard. That’s ultimately what I did.”
Making sure people feel heard and understood is critical in the support world, and it takes a lot more energy than people would expect. There’s so much that goes into solving an issue beyond fixing the problem. When there’s an angry customer in front of you, you need to put yourself in his shoes and get a quick read on his personality WHILE figuring out an acceptable resolution.
Discovering shared experiences
Since the visa was only valid for one year, Katherine packed up and began to travel around the world. While this is a series of CX profiles, I almost wish it was about travel. Because I’d love to share more about her adventures. From buying a motorcycle and outrunning typhoons across Vietnam to exploring Central American caves. She embraced the freedom to explore the world on her terms.
For such a people person, it seems like solo travel might be isolating. Of course, Katherine found ways to connect:
“I met people from all over the world. It was such an incredible experience to hear their story on why they were there for x, y, and z reasons. Really, it opened my eyes! And helped me understand that everyone has their story and their issues. Now, if I ever have a conflict with someone, I can think back to my travels and say, ‘Who am I to judge them for having a bad day?”
Although she had such memorable experiences during her travels, Katherine was also remarkably candid about how it made her feel like she was trailing behind her peers:
“I guess I was searching for happiness, which I did find. But that also led to me feeling extremely behind. Seeing all of my friends, they were thriving in their careers…I still am behind — but I’m happy.”
Finding a new path
Eventually, Katherine’s finances needed a boost. After returning to the US, she took a job as a community manager at a coworking space. While she enjoyed the interactions with people, she wanted something more challenging.
Katherine took stock of her skills and realized that travel sales would make the most sense. It’s tough to sell something you don’t know too much about, but Katherine knew travel, and she knew it well. After looking for travel-related jobs on LinkedIn, she found a company that would work perfectly:
“I liked to call myself a glorified travel agent.”
Her knowledge, combined with the company-perk called “familiarization trips” where she was paid to travel to the destinations she’d be selling, made the work ideal.
Katherine also mentioned that a key member of the C-suite’s strong leadership and open-door policy made this job one she could really enjoy. Any questions she had or stumbling blocks she hit were turned into learning opportunities. Unfortunately, COVID-19 took such a toll on the travel industry that Katherine had to search for her next move.
Jumping into support
When her friend’s boyfriend mentioned a support role at The Predictive Index, Katherine figured she’d apply:
“I was thinking, ‘What am I good at? What do I like? What do I want to learn more of?’ The answer was that I love talking to people, and I enjoy solving problems.”
Ah, yes! The common core of so many CX rock stars.
Part of her job training has been focusing on email support. Katherine mentioned the big difference between email support and phone or in-person assistance:
“Right now I’m only on email. It’s hard because they can’t hear my tone in the email, and I can’t hear their tone either. Sometimes I might write something and think, ‘Does that sound nice enough? Do I need to use different wording?’”
I hear this from a lot of agents, and I think it’s something to keep in mind. Not knowing the tone, intent, or personality behind an email or chat can make it difficult to appropriately answer their question. Sometimes people pepper in jokes or sarcasm, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the task.
Looking to the future
After just a few weeks on the job, Katherine’s ready for more:
“I am really enjoying it. It’s so refreshing that I do see — finally for once in my life — a career path that I want to follow.”
Just out of curiosity, I asked Katherine where she thought her support journey might take her. Yes, I know she’s only a few weeks in. But she mentioned how important it is to have a company she can grow with and so it seemed appropriate.
“That’s the million-dollar question. Since this is my first role in the client experience industry, I have no idea. I’m pretty happy where I am right now. I know that at the company I’m in right now, there is room for growth.”
I can picture her in a QA role, ensuring the response qualities are high and coaching agents to success. She’d be an excellent champion for any team’s standards. And I look forward to seeing how her next step in her CX career unfolds: as an associate consultant for the Predictive Index.
Have a question for Katherine about how to make better interpersonal connections (even via email) or work your way towards an associate consultant role? Leave a comment below or contact her here.
If you’d like to have your CX story told, we’d love to hear it! Any CX role will do: you don't have to be an associate consultant, you know.
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