Customer service representatives interact with customers on behalf of an organization. They provide information about products and services and respond to customer complaints. Some also take orders and process returns.
Many customer service representatives work in customer contact centers. Others work in insurance agencies, banks, stores, or other places that have contact with customers. Most work full time, although part-time and variable schedules are also common.
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Customer service representatives typically do the following:
Customer service representatives answer questions and resolve problems. When the customer has an account with the company, a representative will usually open the customer’s file in the company’s computer system. Representatives use this information to solve problems and may make changes to customer accounts, such as to update an address on file or cancel an order.
They also have access to responses for the most commonly asked questions and to specific guidelines for dealing with requests or complaints. In the event that the representative does not know the answer to a question or is unable to solve a specific problem, a supervisor or other experienced worker may help.
Many customer service representatives answer incoming calls in telephone call centers, which are increasingly called customer contact centers. Others interact with customers face to face or by email, live chat, or other methods. Some workers specialize in a particular mode of communication, such as voice, email, or chat, but others communicate with customers through more than one contact channel. For example, voice agents, who primarily deal with customers over the phone, may respond to email questions when there is downtime between calls.
Customer service representatives work in almost every industry, and their job tasks can vary depending on where they work. For instance, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts, whereas representatives who work for utility and communication companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Representatives who work in retail stores often handle returns and help customers find items in their stores. Some representatives may help to generate sales leads, sometimes making outbound calls in addition to answering inbound ones, although selling is not their main job.
Customer service representatives typically have at least a high school diploma and are usually trained on the job. They must be good at communicating and interacting with people. They also need basic computer and phone skills.
Customer service representatives are typically trained on the job. Training usually lasts about two to three weeks, although it can last as long as several months. This training generally focuses on the company and its products, customers’ most commonly asked questions, and the computer and telephone systems the representatives will be using. New workers may handle easier questions or complaints and receive extra supervision and support.
An increasing number of customer service representatives receive training in a classroom setting and also through shadowing another customer service representative.
Some customer service representatives are expected to update their training regularly. This is particularly true of workers in industries such as banking, in which regulations and products are continually changing.
Some customer service representatives may need some college education or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, as employers increasingly demand a more skilled workforce. Those who answer questions about insurance or financial services often need a license. Licensure requirements vary, but usually include passing a written exam. Some employers may provide training for these exams.
Customer service representatives need strong listening and speaking skills to clearly and accurately respond to customer inquiries and concerns. They must listen carefully to customers to understand their needs and concerns to be able to resolve the call as efficiently and effectively as possible. Workers who interact with customers by email, live chat, or other non-voice contact channels must write well, using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They must respond to questions and complaints in a friendly and professional manner.
Customer service representatives interact with many different people. Creating and maintaining positive relationships is an essential part of a customer service representative’s job. Workers must be patient and polite, especially when dealing with difficult or angry customers. When addressing customer issues, customer service representatives need to analyze situations, investigate problems, and determine solutions.
Many customer service representatives work in telephone call or customer contact centers. Others work in insurance agencies, banks, stores, or other organizations that interact with customers. Some work from home. Although the number of at-home agents is still relatively small, their numbers are growing.
Customer contact center workers usually sit at a workstation with a telephone, headset, and computer. These centers may be crowded and noisy, and the work can be repetitive or stressful, with little time between calls.
Customer service representatives who work in retail stores may interact in person with customers. Whether they interact by phone, chat, or in-person, they may have to deal with difficult or angry customers, which can be challenging.
The median hourly wage of customer service representatives was $14.64 in May 2010. (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% earned less than $9.40, and the top 10% earned more than $23.71.