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Customer Service Representative Job Description, Career as a Customer Service Representative, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Median—$27,020 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Customer service representatives are employed by all types of companies to field questions and concerns from customers. They typically work at the front desk of a local office branch or at a cubicle in a corporation's call center. They may communicate with customers over the phone, by e-mail, fax, or regular mail correspondence.

Companies hire customer service representatives to be the first point of contact for customers who have problems or questions about a product or service. Customer service representatives are usually provided with the means to answer the most basic questions. At a phone service company, for instance, a customer service representative is typically stationed in front of a computer that allows him or her to see a customer's account. When a customer calls, the representative is able to answer basic questions about the customer's balance, update the customer's information, or sign the customer up for new services. If a customer calls with a more complicated question, perhaps involving erroneous charges, the representative will route the customer's call to a specialist who can help them.

Customer service representatives respond to customer inquiries and problems by providing information or directing requests to others who can supply the necessary information or service. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Those customer service representatives who work in phone banks are typically monitored by supervisors to ensure that the representatives are helpful and answer questions quickly. Those representatives who work in branch offices and stores may be required to perform other duties, such as make photocopies or keep the office or store clean. Customer service representatives can be found in just about any business, including electronics manufacturers, clothing stores, hospitals, and even produce suppliers. Wherever they work, customer service agents are required to be polite and maintain their poise even when confronted with an irate customer.

Education and Training Requirements

Many companies prefer applicants who are high school graduates. Applicants should have basic computer skills and be able to type. Companies will usually train customer service representatives on how to deal with customer questions and how to use the computer and phone systems. Training typically lasts several weeks. In some instances, such as with an electronics store, the customer service representative has an advantage in landing the job if they know something about the products being sold.

Intelligence, a pleasant personality, and a neat appearance can be more important for the job than a formal education. A customer service agent must be patient and enjoy working with people.

Getting the Job

A student's high school placement office may be able to help him or her find a position as a customer service representative. Jobs may be listed with state and private employment agencies, on Internet job sites, and in the classified ads of local newspapers. If prospective workers are interested in a government job, they should apply to take the necessary civil service test.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Customer service representatives can go on to become supervisors of customer service. In a branch office or store, they can often go on to become a store manager. With a college degree they may even rise to a job in product development or human resources.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.1 million people were employed as customer service representatives in the United States in 2004. One quarter of all customer service representatives were employed in the finance and insurance industries. Employment of customer service agents was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Because of the expansion of the professional and information service industries in the United States, many new jobs will be created. The high turnover rate of customer service representatives will also ensure ample job opportunities. Because people like to voice their concerns and questions to other people, office automation will not likely have too negative of an impact on the field.

Working Conditions

Customer service representatives usually stand or sit behind a counter in stores or office branches, and conditions can vary depending on the store. Customer service representatives who work in phone banks usually sit in clean, well-lit office spaces at a desk or a cubicle. Phone banks that receive a high volume of calls can be noisy. Because customer service representatives typically spend all day at a computer, they are susceptible to eye strain, back problems, and injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome.

Where to Go for More Information

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348

Earnings and Benefits

The size and location of the customer service representative's employer affects earnings. Customer service representatives earned a median salary of $27,020 per year in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who worked for an insurance carrier earned a median salary of $29,790 per year, and those who worked for a business support service earned a median salary of $21,390 per year. Most customer service representatives receive benefits that include paid vacations and holidays as well as health insurance.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness