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

Duties

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 customer accounts and make changes, if necessary
  • 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, by email or text, via live chat, and through social media.

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 telecommunications 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. Although selling a product or service is not their main job, representatives may help generate sales while providing information.

Customer service representatives typically use a telephone, computer, and other office equipment. For example, representatives who work in call centers answer the phone and use computers to explore solutions for customers.

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Work Environment

Customer service representatives held about 3.0 million jobs in 2018. The largest employers of customer service representatives were as follows:

Retail trade 14%
Insurance carriers and related activities 12
Business support services 11
Wholesale trade 7
Professional, scientific, and technical services                                    6

Customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry. Representatives in offices may work in a large room alongside other employees, so the area can be noisy. Working from home is also possible in some companies. Representatives may be under pressure to answer a designated number of calls while supervisors monitor them for quality assurance. In addition, the work may be stressful when representatives must 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, some work part time. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, which may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Jobs in call centers may require representatives to work shifts early in the morning or late at night because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Education and Training

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 should be adept at 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, which typically lasts 2 to 4 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 receive guidance from an experienced worker for the first few weeks of employment.

In certain industries, such as finance and insurance, customer service representatives must stay 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 provide training for these exams.

Advancement

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

Personality and Interests

Customer service representatives typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a customer service representative, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Customer service representatives should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Customer service representatives need strong communication skills to answer customers clearly. They must understand and communicate information effectively in writing, by phone, or in person.

Customer-service skills. Companies rely on representatives to help retain customers by answering customer questions and complaints in a helpful and professional manner.

Interpersonal skills. Creating positive interactions with customers is an essential part of a representative’s job.

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

Patience. Workers should be patient and polite, especially when interacting with difficult or irate customers.

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

Pay

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives was $16.69 in May 2019. 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 $11.05, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.11.

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for customer service representatives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $18.94
Insurance carriers and related activities 18.28
Professional, scientific, and technical services                            17.86
Business support services 14.19
Retail trade 13.65

Although most customer service representatives work full time, some work part time. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, which may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Jobs in call centers may require representatives to work shifts early in the morning or late at night because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Job Outlook

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to decline 2 percent from 2018 to 2028.

There will be less demand for customer service representatives as more of their tasks become automated. Internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems, social media, and mobile applications are increasingly popular because they enable customers to perform simple tasks without speaking to a representative. Improvements in technology will gradually allow these automated systems to perform even more advanced tasks. Some companies will continue to use in-house service centers to differentiate themselves from competitors, particularly for complex inquiries such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.

However, jobs for customer service representatives are projected to be added in business support services, which includes telephone call centers. Some businesses will contract out their customer service operations to telephone call centers because the call centers provide consolidated sales and customer service functions.

Job Prospects

Despite the projected decline in employment, job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

For More Information

For more information about customer service representatives, visit

International Customer Management Institute          

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.