Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Guide 2 Careers Series: Customer Service Representative

In conjunction to our Employment Guide to Careers and with the help of the Department of Labor's Career Guide, I'll be doing a blog post series on different careers that are popular on This hopefully will give you insight as to what a particular job will entail, the types of qualifications and skills that you'll need to get the job and any other relevant information. Please feel free to comment or email suggestions as to what you'd like to see in this series.

Customer Service Jobs: Customer Service Representatives

As a Customer service representative you'll have an opportunity to work for all different types of companies to serve as the point of contact for customers. These customers will call you to assist them in help with their questions and concerns. These customers may be individuals or other companies, and their service needs can vary considerably.

On the Job
Customer Service Reps communicate with customers through telephone, e-mail, fax, regular mail; or in person. So the ability to use all types of equipment, sometimes at the same time, is important. Some handle general questions and complaints, whereas others specialize in a particular area.

The ability to multitask will help you a lot in this career field as often, companies have large amounts of data, such as account information, that is pulled up on a computer screen while you'd be talking to a customer so that you can better answer specific questions. A lot of times, Customer service representatives also usually have pre-scripted answers to the most common customer questions, or guidelines for dealing with complaints.

Benefits and Salary
Depending on your area and the job market, Customer Service Representatives can make anywhere from about $9.00 to $17.00 per hour according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Sometimes if you work nights, weekends and holidays you'll receive extra compensation for your time and shifts. Because a lot of call centers operate 24 hours a day, customer service hours might not always conform to the traditional 9-5 office hours. Other benefits can include life and health insurance, pensions, bonuses, employer-provided training, and discounts on the products and services the company offers.

Customer Interaction
As portrayed in the job title, you'll have a lot of customer interaction. Many customer inquiries involve routine questions and requests. For example, you may be asked to provide a customer with their credit card balance, or to check on the status of an order. However, other questions are more involved, and may require additional research or further explanation on your part.
In handling customers’ complaints, customer service representatives must attempt to resolve the problem according to guidelines established by the company. This may involve asking questions to determine the validity of a complaint; offering possible solutions; or providing customers with refunds, exchanges, or other offers, like discounts or coupons. In some cases, customer service representatives are required to follow up with an individual customer until a question is answered or an issue is resolved.

Some customer service representatives help people decide what types of products or services would best suit their needs. This requires good listening skills and the ability to problem solve in matching products to their needs. They may even aid customers in completing purchases or transactions. Although the primary function of customer service representatives is not sales, some may spend time encouraging customers to purchase additional products or services.

Daily Routine & Work Environment
In some organizations, customer service representatives spend their entire day on the telephone. In others, you may spend part of their day answering e-mails and the remainder of the day taking calls. For some, most of the contact with the customer is face to face.
As a Customer service representative, you'll need to use some time management skills and remain aware of the amount of time spent with each customer so that they can fairly distribute your time among the people who require their assistance. This is particularly important for those whose primary activities are answering telephone calls and whose conversations are required to be kept within a set time limit.

For those working in call centers, there is usually very little time between telephone calls. When working in call centers, customer service representatives are likely to be under close supervision. Telephone calls may be taped and reviewed by supervisors to ensure that company policies and procedures are being followed.

Experience & Required Education
Most customer service representative jobs require only a high school diploma. However, because employers are demanding a higher skilled workforce, many customer service jobs now require an associate or bachelor’s degree. High school and college level courses in computers, English, or business are helpful in preparing for a job in customer service.

Personality & Compatibility
People who would probably enjoy working as a customer service representative are people who love to talk on the phone and problem solve. Also, those who don't like to have much down time on their job and stay busy would like the high call volumes and the busy shifts during the day. Those who work hard can usually advance pretty quickly in management as well.

Read more about Customer Service Representatives.

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