There are currently approximately 2.4 million customer service representatives working in the United States. While nearly all companies offer some type of on-the-job training, most also require a high school education. Job growth, projected at 18% over the next decade, is better than average with 400,000 new positions anticipated.
Customer service representatives are the conduit between customers and the company. They can be responsible for resolving customer dissatisfaction, fielding questions, accepting returns, helping customers locate merchandise, and otherwise ensuring the customer’s needs are being met.
The largest percentage of customer service representatives work in call centers. A lesser proportion may use private postal services, the United States Postal Service, fax, or email. In the case of retail, a customer service representative may work with customers face to face.
A customer service representative will address a wide range of questions during the course of a workday. For example, a customer may need to change an address, ask how packages can be shipped, check the status of an order, or inquire about special orders. In some instances, a customer may have an issue that is not as easily resolved. In this case the customer service representative will do the research necessary or consult with a supervisor and then call the customer back with an answer.
Most companies have strict policies regarding how customers with complaints should be addressed. Customer service representatives may be authorized to reverse certain fees, replace malfunctioning or unacceptable products, or otherwise resolve minor issues. In the event that the customer’s problem is major, the customer service representative will be responsible for determining which supervisor or specially trained representative should receive the call.
Customer service representatives must have experience with computers, telephone systems, and related technology, as these things are central to their work. Representatives are able to open account information on the computer in order to resolve certain types of issues. Most companies also provide representatives with a FAQ sheet as well as guidelines for resolving a variety of complaints.
Supervisors may monitor calls between a customer and his or her customer service representative in order to determine if the employee needs further training, retraining, or is providing quality service. There is a significant range of duties representatives assume depending upon the particular industry in which they work. For example, representatives working for insurance companies might be required to have familiarity for policies or be able to do paperwork for renewals. Retail store representatives might be responsible for accepting returns or helping customers locate an item. While the work environment is widely various, most customer service representatives work in clean, bright settings. Call center representatives are often provided with a workstation containing a telephone, headset, and computer. Customer service representatives can work day or evening shifts, weekends, and even holidays. Split shifts are common, as is part- time employment. This is because more representatives are required at peak hours, which do not necessarily coincide with an eight hour shift. Another option in some companies is to work from home.
Customer service jobs can be demanding, with little time permitted between calls. Eye strain and headache is common, as well as muscular pain from repetitive movement.
There will be times when a customer service representative must try to resolve an angry customer’s problems. While this can be stressful, it can also be quite rewarding. The ability to communicate well and problem solve are essential.
At the least, most employers require a high school degree. Additional training is typically provided prior to the new hire’s initial contact with the public. Many companies also require further training throughout the year, especially in industries where regulations and rules change with greater frequency. In certain cases, an associate or bachelor’s degree may be necessary. Business, computer, and English classes will put some customer service representative job applicants at an advantage.
In addition to experience and company training, many employers are looking for representatives who speak clearly, use grammatically correct English, and are easy to understand. A customer service representative reflects the company’s ethic, therefore having a professional demeanor, such as the ability to remain polite in the face of customer outrage, is an essential skill.
Customer service representatives have numerous opportunities for advancement to a supervisor’s or manager’s position. Representatives often accept this work as a foot in the door, with the intention of moving into another department.
The median pay for a customer service representative is a little more than $15 per hour. At the low end, it is below $10 per hour, and at the high end, around $25 per hour. Pay is dependent upon skill level, location, experience, company size, and education. Those working less desirable shifts may be given differential pay. Many customer service representatives receive additional benefit packages containing life and health insurance, retirement funds, bonuses, training, and discounts.