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

    • "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

      • "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.

      Related Occupations

      Description Median Annual Wage (2017) Minimum Required Education/Training
      Order Clerks Receives and processes product and service orders $33,510 HS or Equivalency Diploma
      Library Assistant Greets patrons, loans and receives materials, and issues library cards $25,810 HS or Equivalency Diploma
      Teller Processes deposits and withdrawals and performs other routine transactions in a bank $28,110 HS or Equivalency Diploma
      Retail Salesperson Sells products directly to customers in a retail establishment $23,210 HS or Equivalency Diploma
      Computer User Support Specialist Helps computer users with problems with software, hardware, and peripherals $50,210 Educational requirements vary, but computer experience is a must

      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).