Customer Service Representatives


Quick Facts: Customer Service Representatives
2017 Median Pay $32,890 per year 
$15.81 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 2,784,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 136,300

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Customer Service Representative Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Customer Service Representatives Do

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

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Customer Service representatives

Duties of customer service representatives

Customer service representatives typically do the following:

  • Listen to customers’ questions and concerns, and provide answers or responses

  • Provide information about products and services

  • Take orders, calculate charges, and process billing or payments

  • Review or make changes to customer accounts

  • Handle returns or complaints

  • Record details of customer contacts and actions taken

  • Refer customers to supervisors or more experienced employees

Customer service representatives answer questions or requests from customers or the public. They typically provide services by phone, but some also interact with customers face to face, or by email or live chat.

The specific duties of customer service representatives vary by industry. For example, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts. Representatives who work for utility and telecommunication companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Those who work in retail stores often handle returns, process refunds, and help customers locate items. Some representatives make changes to customers’ accounts, such as updating addresses or canceling orders. Although selling is not their main job, some representatives may help generate sales while providing information about a product or service.

Customer service representatives typically use a telephone, computer, and other office equipment. For example, representatives who work in call centers answer phone calls and use computers to explore available solutions for customers. Those employed in retail stores may use registers to process returns or orders.


Work Environment for Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives held about 2.8 million jobs in 2016. The largest employers of customer service representatives were as follows:

Retail trade: 14%

Insurance carriers and related activities: 12%

Business support services: 10%

Wholesale trade: 8%

Professional, scientific, and technical services: 6%

Customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry. Representatives usually work in an office setting, but working from home is also possible in some companies. In offices, representatives may work in a large room alongside other employees, so the work area can be noisy. Some workers may be under pressure to answer a designated number of calls while supervisors monitor them for quality assurance. In addition, the work can sometimes be stressful when they interact with dissatisfied customers.

In retail stores, representatives may spend hours on their feet assisting customers in person.

Work Schedules

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.


How to Become a Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn the specific skills needed for the job. They should be good at communicating and interacting with people and have some experience using computers.

Education

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Customer service representatives usually receive short-term on-the-job training, typically lasting 2 to 3 weeks. Those who work in finance and insurance may need several months of training to learn complicated financial regulations.

General customer-service training may focus on procedures for answering questions, information about a company’s products and services, and computer and telephone use. Trainees often work under the guidance of an experienced worker for the first few weeks of employment.

In certain industries, such as finance and insurance, customer service representatives must remain current with changing regulations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Customer service representatives who provide information about finance and insurance may need a state license. Although licensing requirements vary by state, they usually include passing an exam. Some employers and organizations may provide training for these exams.

Advancement

With experience, customer service representatives may advance to supervisory roles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Customer service representatives must be able to provide clear information in writing, by phone, or in person so that customers can understand them.

Customer-service skills. Representatives help companies retain customers by answering their questions and responding to complaints in a helpful and professional manner.

Interpersonal skills. Representatives should be able to create positive interactions with customers.

Listening skills. Representatives must listen carefully and understand a customer’s situation in order to assist them.

Patience. Representatives should be patient and polite, especially when interacting with dissatisfied customers.

Problem-solving skills. Representatives must determine solutions to a customer’s problem. By resolving issues effectively, representatives contribute to customer loyalty and retention.


salaries for Customer Service Representatives

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives was $15.81 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.27, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $26.12.

In May 2017, the median hourly wages for customer service representatives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade: $18.06

Insurance carriers and related activities: $17.57

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $17.31

Business support services: $13.45

Retail trade: $12.37

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.


Job Outlook for Customer Service Representatives

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Overall employment growth should result from growth in industries that specialize in handling customer service. Specifically, telephone call centers, also known as customer contact centers, are expected to add the most new jobs for customer service representatives. Employment of representatives in these centers is projected to grow 36 percent from 2016 to 2026. Some businesses are increasingly contracting out their customer service operations to telephone call centers because the call centers provide consolidated sales and customer service functions.

Employment growth of customer service representatives in all other industries will be driven by growth of those industries, as well as consumers’ demand for products and services that require customer support. Some companies will continue to use in-house service centers to differentiate themselves from competitors, particularly for inquiries that are more complex, such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.

However, some companies are increasingly using Internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems that enable customers to perform simple tasks, such as changing addresses or reviewing account billing, without speaking to a representative. Improvements in technology will gradually allow these automated systems to perform more advanced tasks.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for Customer Service Representatives, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 2,784,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 2,920,800

Change, 2016-2026: +5%, +136,300


Careers Related to Customer Service Representatives

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. These specialists either support computer networks or they provide technical assistance directly to computer users.

Financial Clerks

Financial clerks do administrative work for many types of organizations. They keep records, help customers, and carry out financial transactions.

General Office Clerks

General office clerks perform a variety of clerical tasks, including answering telephones, typing documents, and filing records.

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers.

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

Receptionists

Receptionists perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing general information about their organization to the public and customers.

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments. There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.

Tellers

Tellers are responsible for accurately processing routine transactions at a bank. These transactions include cashing checks, depositing money, and collecting loan payments.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Computer Support Specialists$52,810
Financial ClerksHigh school diploma or equivalent$38,680
Information Clerks$33,680
Insurance Sales AgentsHigh school diploma or equivalent$49,710
ReceptionistsHigh school diploma or equivalent$28,390
Retail Sales WorkersNo formal educational credential$23,370
TellersHigh school diploma or equivalent$28,110
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives$60,340
General Office ClerksHigh school diploma or equivalent$31,500

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Customer Service Representatives,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm