First of all, what is operations?
Most simply put: operations is managing and supporting the inner workings of a business to help it run efficiently. Working in operations can vary widely based on the industry you’re in and whether you are working in a customer-facing or a business-related role.
Working in customer-facing operations is all about improving the customer experience, and there’s a lot of overlap with a customer service or customer success role. You might be the first line of communication for new or existing customers via live chat or an “info” inbox where you’ll quickly gain knowledge on the experience your customers have with your product or service. Customer-facing operations are important because you’re the closest source to customer feedback! If multiple users are having the same problem, you’ll be able to take that feedback to your team to either fix a potential bug or better explain ways to avoid this common pitfall.
A role in business-related operations still focuses on optimization and improvement, but for the staff and the company as a whole. It’s important to have your “ear to the ground” to know what the pain points are in various departments, so you’re ready to offer a solution. Offering your outside perspective and knowledge of time-saving tools to various departments that you don’t work with on a day-to-day basis can be really valuable as sometimes you’re able to see solutions or workarounds that others can’t. You can build systems to automate tasks and free up staff time, create training guides to ease the onboarding of new hires, and track the reporting of the existing systems you already have.
How to get started in operations
There are a ton of ways to gain an aptitude for operations early in your career! Below are a few projects you can take on to hone your organization skills as well as your attention to detail.
Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Is there documentation for how to do the job you current have? If not, create it! Even if your job already has a training guide or employee handbook, it is a helpful exercise for you to show your understanding of all the moving pieces of your role by documenting how to do it.
Run an Event
Nothing has more moving pieces than an event! Whether it’s a birthday party, reunion, fundraiser, or seminar, put your organizational tools to the test by hosting an event. Keep track of your budget, your guest list, any vendors you’re working with, and then write up a post-event summary on the turnout, what went well, and what you’d do differently in the future.
Learn Common Operations Tools
Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) and likely the most popular one on the market. In an operations role, you’ll definitely want to master the reporting features and learn the building side of the CRM with workflows, the process builder, and flows. Salesforce Trailhead is a great (and free) resource for learning the ins and out, and there are countless Udemy courses as well if you want to get Admin Certified.
Zapier is like duct tape – you can use it to make two softwares work together whether they natively integrate with each other or not. The options for connecting your favorite tools are nearly endless as Zapier works with over 1,000 apps! Check out this post from Praxis alumna Caitlyn Scheel on how she learned Zapier.
If you’re measuring the effectiveness of different processes, you’re likely using excel to do it. There is no better resource than Microsoft’s support page when it comes to learning Excel, but if you need to learn the situations behind using various advanced formulas, check out Excellennial the story-based Excel tutorial Youtube channel.
Operations is all about optimizing processes. If your team is still emailing back and forth with clients to set up a phone call, get Calendly ASAP! It connects to Google calendar, and each team member can set up their availability based on their preferences. Calendly also has team event options where customers can book a call with one of many staff based on availability. Bonus: Calendly integrates with Salesforce.
Zendesk is a pretty common customer service tool for communicating with customers via live chat, text message, and even social media platforms. If your team is using multiple tools to communicate across the platforms, Zendesk could be a good, consolidated option.
Textexpander is a wonderful timesaver and is especially helpful to customer service reps in allowing them to respond to common questions quickly and uniformly with just a few keystrokes.
The most important thing about pursuing an operations role is to develop the right mindset. Those who succeed in operations are constantly hungry for improvement. Even if you build a system that improves efficiency, don’t stop looking for ways to make it even better! Act on this hunger by investigating new tools. There are new apps and SaaS products hitting the market every day, and having your finger on the pulse of what’s new and improved allows you to implement upgrades to your existing system or build new ones quickly.
Praxis Resources on Operations:
- Skills and Career Paths for Each High School Stereotype
- The Best First Jobs You Can Start in High School
- What Companies Are Actually Looking For