Customer service is a crucial function for all companies. It can often make the difference between success and failure in the highly competitive business world. If you are patient and have communication and problem-solving skills, this may be perfect career for you. Expect to stay busy throughout the day and take your breaks when you can. The calls and influx of customers tends to be constant.
Customer service representatives answer questions and resolve problems about products and services. Some take orders or make changes to existing orders. Others contact customers to collect outstanding bills. You may work with customers by phone, e-mail or in person at a retail or grocery store. Highly experienced reps, or technical support personnel, handle more complicated issues, such as helping someone download software to a laptop. Your priority in customer service is providing quick and accurate service in a professional manner. Questions you cannot answer must be directed to a supervisor.
A customer service rep also has administrative duties, such as coordinating the fulfillment of orders with other departments. Some provide insight on workflow efficiency or manage the databases of customers. You may also prepare customer activity reports for your boss, or train new customer service reps. Counting and reconciling cash register drawers for accuracy are responsibilities of customer service representatives in retail and stores.
Customer service reps work peak hours for businesses, including days, evenings and weekends. You may even work the graveyard shift if your firm provides 24-hour customer service. About 20 percent of customer service reps work part-time as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which often allows them to work when they want. Some reps even work from home. The job can be stressful because customers are demanding. Your supervisor may also have expectations regarding the average length of your calls, which forces you to reduce small talk with customers and immediately address their issues.
Education and Training
Most customer service reps have high school diplomas. More companies expect their reps to have some college, or even associate's or bachelor's degrees. Training usually takes place on the job and lasts two to three weeks. You may learn how to use a computer database and input orders in training. Customer service reps in the financial and insurance industries usually need state licenses, which requires them to pass written exams.
Average Salary and Job Outlook
The average annual salary for customer service reps was $33,120 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent earned over $49,800 per year. Customer service reps in the oil and gas extraction industry earned the highest annual salaries at $50,800, followed by those in the aerospace and petroleum/coal industries -- $48,610 and $48,220 per year, respectively. The states where they earned the most were the District of Columbia, California and Connecticut -- $41,160, $38,740 and $38,670 per year, respectively. The BLS reported that jobs for customer service representatives are expected to increase 15 percent between 2010 and 2020, which compares with the national average of 14 percent for all occupations.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Customer Service Representatives
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Customer Service Representatives
- Best-Job-Interview.com: Customer Service Job Description
- Inc.: Customer Service Representative Job Description
- GreatSampleResume.com: Customer Service Representative Responsibilities and Duties
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