Customer Service Representative Careers: Job Description & Salary

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The average income of a customer service representative is about $33,890. Is that salary worth the training requirements? Take a look at some real job descriptions to get the truth about career prospects and learn if becoming a customer service representative is right for you.
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Pros and Cons: Customer Service Representative

A customer service representative must process phone calls, facilitate daily business transactions and take product orders. Take a look at some of the other ups and downs to being a customer service representative.

PROS: Customer Service Representative
Minimal educational requirements*
Job training is usually provided*
Good job prospects due to the need to replace workers*
Potential telecommuting opportunities*

CONS: Customer Service Representative
Work can be repetitive (representatives might need to practice the same sales pitch all day)*
Upset customers can be rude towards customer service representatives*
Work environment can sometimes be loud and distracting*
Usually need to stay seated at a computer for the entire shift*
Evening, night and weekend shifts may be required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Occupation Information

Job Description

As a customer service representative, you're often the first person a customer talks to when a problem arises with a purchased product or service. It's your job to provide a resolution to the problem, along with answering any questions that the customer might have. You can do this in-person, but most customer service representatives work at call centers or interact via faxes or e-mails.

Some complaints might be as simple as changing an address for shipping purposes, while other problems might require some research. In the case that you can't help a customer, you must redirect them to an expert working for your employer that can handle the problem better. While you're talking to a customer, you can offer information on other services and products available from your employer.

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2014, customer service representatives made an average hourly wage of about $16.29 an hour, which resulted in an average annual salary of about $33,890 (www.bls.gov). If you manage to make it into the top ten percent of wage earners, you could make an annual income of about $51,630 or more.

If you're willing to relocate, the top-paying locations for customer service representatives were New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and the District of Columbia. The top-paying industries for customer service representatives were railroad rolling stock manufacturers, natural gas distributors, trusts and funds vehicles, natural gas transportation, and automobile manufacturing.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

A high school diploma or a GED is typically the minimum amount of education a customer service representative needs to have. In some cases, employers are looking for customer service representatives with an associate or bachelor's degree. Classes that can help prepare you for a career in customer service include basic business, computer science and communications topics.

Training

Upon being hired, most employers offer company training for customer service representatives. This job training is aimed at familiarizing you with the company and its services. You'll also learn how to operate telephone and computer systems and adopt special company policies. Many employers make sure customer service representatives know about commonly asked questions before they encounter their first customer. The BLS reported that training can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete. In some cases, you'll need to update your knowledge when new policies are enacted.

What Do Employers Want?

Employers want customer service representatives with strong interpersonal skills. Companies depend on customers for repeat business, so it's important for employers to maintain a good relationship with the public. If you're friendly and engaging, then you'll have traits that many employers are looking for. Take a look at what some employers wanted from customer service representative applicants in March 2012.

  • A manufacturing business in Florida seeks a customer service representative to process orders for parts and resolve service questions. Applicants must have excellent phone skills, good attention to detail and the ability to calmly resolve conflicts.
  • In Denver, Colorado, a company that offers dog training services needs a customer service representative with a love of pets and a typing speed of at least 45 words per minute. Applicants can work from home, but must provide their own basic equipment. Individuals need to also work one weekend per month.
  • A customer service representative position in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wants applicants with good mathematical and data entry skills, who can take product orders from customers over the phone. Job candidates must pass a drug screening.
  • A Pennsylvania staffing company is looking for a customer service representative with experience working in fast-paced call centers. Applicants must have a high school diploma and a typing speed of at least 30 words per minute.

How Can I Stand Out?

Working on your communication skills is an excellent way to stand out among your peers in the customer service industry. You can practice working on your speaking voice to make it sound pleasant. It's also important to many employers that you speak clearly, so other people can understand you over the phone. If you're planning to work with computers, you'll want to ensure that you have good grammar and spelling. By possessing excellent phone etiquette and typing skills, you can set yourself apart from inexperienced workers. Finally, customer service representatives who take the time to research and test a company's products beforehand are often better equipped for a position than other applicants.

Other Careers to Consider

Computer Support Specialist

If you're interested in working with computers, you can use your customer service skills in a computer support specialist position. In this field, you would offer advice and assistance by phone, e-mail and in person to co-workers and clients who are having trouble with their computers. By asking the right questions, you can help identify common computer problems and offer solutions to resolve the issue. According to the BLS, you may need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in computer or information science, depending on your work specialty. As of May 2011, the BLS found that computer support specialists made around $52,000 on average annually.

Retail Salesperson

If you like customer service, you can apply those skills towards a career in sales. Retail sales workers recommend and assist customers in finding products. You must be knowledgeable about your employer's products so you can help make informed recommendations for customers. When you're not directly speaking to customers and helping them find an item, you usually must perform stocking duties or run cash registers. You don't generally need any postsecondary education to work as a salesperson. The BLS reported that retail salespeople generated a yearly salary of $25,000 or so on average as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • AASBA in Customer Service
  • Associate: Business Admin.

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • Business Administration, BA - Management
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • BS in Applied Management

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
  • MBA - Strategic Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Seton Hall University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?