What is It Like to Be a Customer Service Representative?

Career Information

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

A customer service representative spends his or her day 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 About Customer Service Representatives

  • Approximately 2,363,000 people were employed as customer service representatives in 2012.
  • They work in all industries. Employers include telephone call centers, banks, insurance companies and retail stores.
  • The job outlook is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.
  • The BLS also projects that telephone call centers will do the most hiring.

How Can You Become a Customer Service Representative?

  • You can enter this field 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 in which you are working. 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 certain products, for example, financial instruments and insurance, may require a license.

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

    • Active Listening: This skill will allow you to build rapport with customers and show support for them. It will help you solve their problems.
    • Verbal Communication: The ability to communicate information to others will let you avoid misunderstandings.
    • Customer Service: Your goal is customer satisfaction. By treating customers well, you 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. You should also be able to understand their needs and motivations, negotiate with them and persuade them.

    The Negatives

    • You will spend a lot of time on the phone; your entire day 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. That 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 you will be scheduled to work during evenings, nights, weekends and holidays.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found 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?

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      Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 (visited October 25, 2015).
      Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited October 25, 2015).