Customer Service Representative

Job Description

Customer service representatives working in a busy call center
••• Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

A customer service representative spends his or her days answering consumers' questions, resolving their complaints, taking their orders and signing them up for new services. He or she is the public "face" of a company, although more often than not, interaction is via phone, email, or live chat, rather than actually in person.

Quick Facts

  • Customer service representatives earn a median salary of $32,890 annually or $15.81 hourly (2017).
  • Approximately 2,785,000 people are employed as customer service representatives (2016).
  • They work in all industries. Employers include retailers, insurance companies, telephone call centers, and banks.
  • Customer service representatives have an excellent job outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment will grow faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day In the Life of a Customer Service Representative

Employers listed the following duties in job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Confer with customers by telephone or email in order to provide information about products and services, to take orders for part replacements, or to obtain details of complaints"
  • "Process orders received via email, fax, web, EDI, or customer portal"
  • "Check to ensure that appropriate changes were made to resolve customers' problems"
  • "Ensure confidentiality and security of consumer data in sales transactions"
  • "Maintain a high level of product knowledge"
  • "Provide pricing, product, delivery, and warranty information"

Education and Training

You can become a customer service representative with just a high school or equivalency diploma. Most employers provide on-the-job training that may range from a few weeks to several months depending on the industry.

Training in the financial and insurance industries is usually 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, may require a license.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

Without these soft skills, qualities with which you were either born or acquired through life experience, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do your job:

  • Active Listening: To solve your customers' problems, it is essential that you understand what they are. This can only happen by carefully listening to what they are saying.
  • Verbal Communication: The ability to accurately communicate information to others will let you avoid misunderstandings.
  • Customer Service: Your goal is customer satisfaction. Treating customers well will help ensure repeat business for your employer.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: When working with a client, you must be able to identify a problem and potential solutions. Then you will have to decide which solution is best and implement it.
  • Interpersonal Skills: As a customer service representative, you need more than the ability to communicate with people. The ability to understand their needs and motivations, negotiate with them, and persuade them is also necessary.

    The Negative Side of Being a Customer Service Representative

    • Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone, especially if you work in a call center.
    • Customers will often be upset and will take it out on you as a representative of the company. This can be very stressful.
    • Call centers are often crowded and noisy.
    • Your employer may require you to answer a certain number of calls per work shift.
    • There is a good chance your schedule will include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

    • "Must be comfortable working in a fast-paced, high-volume call center"
    • "Solve problems that are generally unstructured and require extensive use of conceptual thinking skills"
    • "Go out of your way to make customers feel important and valued.  Give 100% attention to customers"
    • "Detail oriented, fast-paced, flexible, team player"
    • "Positive attitude and productive, professional, and courteous manner"
    • "Superior telephone etiquette"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    The probability that an occupation will be satisfying is greatly increased if it matches your interestspersonality type, and work-related values. Do a self assessment to find out if you have the following traits, which will make this occupation a good fit.

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      Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited August 20, 2018).