A customer service representative spends their days answering consumer questions, resolving complaints, and taking orders. They are the key public-facing part of a company, although more often than not, interaction is by phone, email, or live chat, rather than in person, and they frequently work for a business process outsourcing firm rather than directly for the company itself.
Customer service representatives work in all types of industries. If they handle customer complaints, they must be able to deal with people who are angry or frustrated and act quickly to make them happier.
Customer Service Rep Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following tasks:
- Interact with customers by telephone or email in order to provide information about products and services, take orders, or obtain details of complaints.
- Fulfill orders received by email, fax, website, or other electronic data interchange.
- Follow up on customer problems to ensure the correct solution was carried out.
- Work in an open-plan call center setting.
- Keep customer data secure.
Customer service reps play a big role in determining what customers of a company think of it. If they perform their job well, they reflect well on the company they directly or indirectly provide services for. If they do a bad job, the company's image suffers.
Their actions may determine whether a customer continues to give their business to a company or decides to never have anything to do with it again. A lot rides on their ability to process orders quickly and accurately or address a customer's complaint satisfactorily and in a friendly manner.
Customer Service Representative Salary
A customer service representative's salary varies according to the geographical area, industry (financial or medical jobs pay better than others), and the number of years on the job.
- Median Annual Salary: $33,750 ($16.23/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $55,310 ($26.59/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $22,140 ($10.65/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
You can become a customer service representative with just a high school diploma or the equivalency. Most employers provide on-the-job training that may range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the industry.
Training of customer service representatives in the financial and insurance industries is more extensive and involves learning about government regulations. In some states, jobs that involve selling or providing information about specific products — for example, financial instruments and insurance policies — may require a license.
Customer Service Representative Skills & Competencies
Successful customer service reps need to have the following skills to perform their job successfully:
- Active listening: To solve customer problems, it is essential that representatives understand what the problems are. That can only happen by carefully listening to what the customers say.
- Verbal communication: The ability to accurately communicate information to others helps representatives avoid misunderstandings.
- Critical thinking and problem solving: When working with a client, customer service reps must identify a problem and potential solutions. Then they decide which solution is best and implement it.
- Interpersonal skills: Customer service representatives must understand the needs and motivations of clients, negotiate with them, and persuade them.
The number of customer service rep jobs is expected to grow at a 5% pace from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's as fast as the average job.
Many customer service reps work in a call center surrounded by other reps. The environment can be crowded and noisy. Customer service reps spend much of their time on the phone and are often required to answer a certain number of calls per shift.
Customer service representatives may be full-time or part-time. They typically work at least some hours in the evenings and nights and on weekends and holidays.
How to Get the Job
CustomerServiceJobs.com and CustomerServiceCrossing list jobs in the industry. Also look at less-targeted job sites such as Indeed and Monster or on the websites of local companies you would be interested in working for.
WRITE A TARGETED RESUME AND COVER LETTER
Create a resume that plays up your strengths and sets you apart from other candidates. Write a cover letter specific to the job; don't send a generic one that shows you didn't take the time to consider the unique aspects of a given job.
REHEARSE COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Many of the same questions come up during interviews with human resources employees and hiring managers. Review these questions and ways to answer them that will impress your interviewer.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming customer service reps might also consider the following jobs. The figures provided are median annual salaries:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018