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Customer Service Representative: Career Information

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Job Description:

A customer service representative spends his or her day 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.

Employment Facts:

There were 2,187,000 customer service representatives employed in 2010. Most work in telephone call centers, insurance agencies, banks and stores. A few work from the comfort of their own homes, but we can expect to see the number of telecommuting representatives increase.

Jobs are usually full-time, but there are some part-time positions available. Given the "24/7" culture of many of the industries that employ customer service representatives, schedules often include early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays. This can benefit those who need to work flexible hours.

Although solving people's problems can be gratifying, dealing with dissatisfied customers can be very stressful. Customers who aren't happy with the product or service they received may take it out on the person whose job it is to make things right.

Educational Requirements:

One needs at least a high school diploma to work as a customer service representative. Some employers will hire only candidates who have earned an associate or bachelor's degree. New employees get on-the-job training from their employers. They learn about the company and its products and how to resolve common issues customers have. They receive instruction in using the company's computers and telephone systems.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Some states require customer service representives who work for insurance agencies or financial institutions to be licensed. To become licensed one must pass a written examination.

Certain character traits will serve you well in this occupation. It will not come as a surprise to learn that one needs good communication and interpersonal skills. You must be able to understand customers' concerns and respond to them effectively. You must speak clearly when talking to consumers either on the phone or in person and you need good writing skills if you interact with them by email, live chat or via social media. As they say "patience is a virtue" and it is particularly true for customer service represents who are dealing with disgruntled people.

Job Outlook:

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for customer service representatives will be as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020. The agency places it at the top of a list of occupations that will have the most job openings during this time.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

Customer service representatives earned a median annual salary of $30,610 and median hourly earnings of $14.72 in 2011 (US).

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a customer service representative currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Customer Service Representative's Life:

On a typical day a customer service representative's tasks might include:

  • interacting with customers by phone, email, live chat or in person
  • answering questions, suggesting solutions to problems, providing information and giving instructions
  • making changes to customers' accounts
  • arranging for product returns and refunds
  • keeping records of calls and other interactions
  • doing research in order to find solutions to problems
  • taking orders for products or services

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Customer Service Representatives, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm (visited December 11, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Customer Service Representatives, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/43-4051.00 (visited December 11, 2012).

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