What A Customer Service Representative Does
There are many titles for people who work in customer service, such as customer service representative (CSR), customer service agent, customer service associate, or customer care specialist, though the job duties are the same. The primary focus of the customer service professional is to help troubleshoot issues the customer has with a product, service, or brand. Most work in large call centers, while others work in smaller offices, in branches, or even from home. Historically, customer service representatives worked on phones all day, but with advancing tech, many companies now offer a multitude of ways for customers to get in touch with a representative, such as via online chat, e-mail, or on social media. Some are responsible for monitoring review sites and reaching out to customers who leave reviews too. A customer service rep may specialize in one specific mode of communication, as is common with large corporations, or may be expected to cover multiple areas.
It’s also worth noting that many companies also give their CSRs sales goals or requirements to meet, so the job is not purely about enhancing the customer experience, but also has components related to profitability for the company.
Who would enjoy a career in Customer Service?
Naturally, good customer service reps are adept listeners. They listen to what the customer is saying and have enough insight to understand what the person truly means as well. The role is good for quick thinkers and problem solvers; those who feel compassion and genuine ownership for the customer’s experience. It’s also a good fit for those who feel intrinsically rewarded by a job well done.
Who mightn't like the career?
Customer service representatives can wind up on the receiving end of verbal abuse frequently, purely because those they’re generally in contact with are upset about something the company they represent has done. Because of this, the field may not be ideal for people who are tender-hearted and will take comments personally or those who are quick-tempered. Pay also tends to be modest and career growth opportunities somewhat limited, so it may not be a good fit for someone looking for a lifelong career. Lastly, CSRs are often expected to work odd shifts and holidays, so it may not be a good fit for someone who needs a specific schedule. That being said, this can also be seen as a positive for those who have other obligations who prevent them from working standard hours; work is available during most hours, depending on the company.
Most positions do not require a formal education, though individuals are expected to be good communicators, comfortable with technology, skilled at conflict resolution, and detail-oriented. Although experience in the field is helpful, most companies provide training for their representatives.
Interviews typically surround behavioral questions to help identify whether the candidate will be cool under pressure and offer solutions. It’s helpful to research the company in advance, as additional questions will likely be asked that relate to personality and knowledge fitness for the role.
Moving into Customer Service from another career
Because no formal degree is needed to get into most customer service jobs, and most companies train their representatives, it’s easy to transition from virtually any other career.
Customer Service Representative
Role: Customer service reps are on the frontline. They interact with customers and help solve challenges the customer is facing with the company. In some cases, they may be responsible for soothing issues over service outages, inaccurate billing, or product malfunctions. They may also work in customer loyalty and retention. These individuals are typically the company’s last line of defense when customer is prepared to leave over issues or pricing. In addition to communicating with the customer and resolving issues, CSRs are responsible for documenting communication and may have sales goals, such as getting a specific number of customers to upgrade or purchase additional products services.
Hours: It’s rare for CSRs to top 40 hours per week. Many work part-time.
Customer Service Manager
Role: Although there are no steadfast rules on promotions, top-performing CSRs may be able to move into a leadership role within 1-2 years of working in the field. In some cases, the first step is to work as a lead, meaning the individual simply helps less seasoned employees or manages a small group. For example, a call center floor may have more than 100 CSRs working at any given moment. The floor would then be broken down into smaller groups of 5-10 employees each, all overseen by a lead or low-level manager. Depending on the size of the customer service department, groups of leads may have a manager, there may be one manager covering the floor per shift, or there may be one manager for the whole facility.
Managers typically work in the background. They train the CSRs and give them advice on how to improve their performance or solve specific issues as they come up. When a customer is not satisfied by the solutions being offered by a CSR, the manager is brought in to help resolve the issue too.
Hours: Approximately 40
Director/ VP of Customer Service
Role: Those who enjoy the field and pursue degrees in business or a related area may advance to an executive role such as director or vice president. The director focuses on developing and implementing processes that enhance the customer experience, create a better environment for employees, and/or improves efficiency and profitability. It’s worth noting that those who don’t qualify to move into an executive role may still advance. Many shift into general manager roles and operations management positions too.
Customer service reps don’t usually travel for work. However, as remote positions have grown, many appreciate the fact that they can work anywhere in the world.
Customer Service Representative: According to PayScale, CSRs earn an average of USD $37,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average is £18,000, whereas salaries are CAD$39,000 and AU$50,000 in Canada and Australia, respectively. It’s worth noting that years of experience has only a modest impact on salary and, at most, may increase wages by about 14%.
Customer Service Manager: USD$54,655, £27,761, CAD$56,471, AU$60,554
Director of Customer Service: USD$91,489, £62,448, CAD$83,114, AU$135,127
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission can add a few thousand per year to a CSR’s take-home pay. At the upper levels, such as director, additional pay in these areas can add tens of thousands annually.
Why a Customer Service Representative moves on
Job satisfaction for CSRs runs the gamut, with some sources saying just 2% are happy in their jobs and others reporting 80% are highly satisfied. There are many reasons for this, such as poor work environments, a feeling of being micromanaged, and feeling beat up by customers, paired with a lack of support and respect from management. Regardless, PayScale data concludes just one-third of the field has ten or more years of experience, meaning quite a few move on to other careers within a matter of years of starting.
The most common career transition is to administrative assisting. Many CSRs use their industry-specific knowledge to move to another career as well. Following that, there are many jobs which can put customer service skills to work and offer a change of pace.