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Customer Service Representative Career

Career Description

Customer Service Representatives interact with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to handle and resolve complaints.

Common Work Tasks

  • Communicate with customers through a variety of means—by telephone; by e-mail, fax, regular mail; or in person
  • Interact with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products or services and to handle and resolve complaints
  • Attempt to resolve the problem according to guidelines established by the company
  • Ask questions to determine the validity of a complaint; offer possible solutions; or provide customers with refunds,  exchanges, or other offers, like discounts or coupons
  • Follow up with an individual customer until a question is answered or an issue is resolved
  • Help people decide what types of products or services would best suit their needs
  • Enter information into a computer as they are speaking to customers
  • Have answers to the most common customer questions, or guidelines for dealing with complaints

Other Job Titles

Customer Service Representatives are also known by other titles, including:

  • Help Desk Technicians
  • Call Center Workers
  • Clerical Workers
  • Service Representatives

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
 
Most customer service representative jobs require only a high school diploma.  However, because employers are demanding a higher skilled workforce, many customer service jobs now require an associate or bachelor’s degree. High school and college level courses in computers, English, or business are helpful in preparing for a job in customer service.

Training requirements vary by industry. Almost all customer service representatives are provided with some training prior to beginning work. This training generally includes customer service and phone skills; information on products and services; information about common customer problems; the use of the telephone and computer systems;  and company policies and regulations. Length of training varies, but usually lasts at least several weeks. Because of a constant need to update skills and knowledge, most customer service representatives continue to receive training throughout their career. This is particularly true of workers in industries such as banking, in which regulations and products are continually changing.

Experience
 
Because customer service representatives constantly interact with the public, good communication and problem-solving skills are a must. Verbal communication and listening skills are especially important. For workers who communicate through e-mail, good typing, spelling, and writing skills are necessary. Basic to intermediate computer knowledge and good interpersonal skills also are important qualities for people who wish to be successful in the field.

Customer service representatives play a critical role in providing an interface between customers and companies.  As a result, employers seek out people who are friendly and possess a professional manner. The ability to deal patiently with problems and complaints and to remain courteous when faced with difficult or angry people is very important. Also, a customer service representative needs to be able to work independently within specified time constraints. Workers should have a clear and pleasant speaking voice and be fluent in English. However, the ability to speak a foreign language is becoming increasingly necessary.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Customer Service Representative is $29,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $47,000,  and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $18,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of customer service representatives are:

  • Business Support Services - $24,430
  • Insurance Carriers - $33,470
  • Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities  - $32,920
  • Employment Services - $26,890
  • Depository Credit Intermediation - $30,590

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  25%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 545,000
  • Employment 2006 : 2,202,000
  • Employment 2016:  2,747,000
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