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Telephone Service Representative Job Description, Career as a Telephone 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: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Telephone service representatives work for telephone companies. They deal directly with the public, handling requests for new telephone services and answering questions about bills or payments. Customers typically contact them through a toll-free telephone number.

During the course of their conversations with customers, telephone service representatives try to sell the latest services available. They may arrange to have new service installed for customers who have moved. They tell customers about monthly charges and installation fees. When customers decide what kinds of services they want, the service representative records this information and gives it to the telephone installers. In addition, the information is fed into a computer system that handles billing and directory listings.

Service representatives also check mistakes in billing. When necessary, they adjust the charges and issue credits to customers. They are trained to check customer accounts quickly and keep them in proper order.

Business telephone service is more complicated than residential service. The service representative who deals with businesses is generally called a sales representative. These representatives must be familiar with the wide range of services available and know the rates for these services. When a customer's needs for services and equipment are very complex, the representative will call in a specialist to design a system for that business. That specialist is known as an account executive.

Service and sales representatives usually take many calls per hour from different people and businesses. They must have all the information they need at their fingertips and convey it clearly and quickly. Most of the information is computerized, so representatives spend the bulk of their working hours in front of a computer. Telephone service representatives must be courteous and patient at all times, regardless of the pressures of their job.

A telephone service representative receives on-the-job training to learn how to sell telephone services to customers. (© Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc. Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

Telephone service representatives need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. High school courses such as English, typing, speech, and business are helpful. Some employers may also require an associate's degree from a community college plus two years of sales experience. Candidates will probably have to pass a sales aptitude test to get the job.

Most telephone companies train new employees both in the classroom and on the job. New service representatives learn about company policy and the kinds of services offered. They learn how to apply rates, taxes, and tariffs. They also study customer relations and sales techniques. Sales representatives generally receive additional training in business services and equipment.

Getting the Job

Most telephone companies use tests as one way of finding out if candidates are well suited for the job of service representative. Interested individuals should apply directly to their local telephone company. School placement offices also may have some useful job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

The opportunity to advance in telephone companies is good. Service representatives, for example, can become service analysts, group supervisors, or business office supervisors.

The proliferation of telecommunication services and companies has provided a steady demand for knowledgeable, courteous service representatives. Despite outsourcing of some jobs to foreign countries, employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest a faster than average growth in this field through the year 2012.

Working Conditions

Telephone service representatives usually work in large, well-lighted offices. The offices are crowded places, and representatives work closely with their coworkers and supervisors. Some sit at desks; others stand most of the day. The pressure and standards are high.

Service representatives work forty hours per week. They sometimes work evenings and weekends. When service representatives work overtime, they are usually paid time and a half. Many telephone service representatives belong to unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Wages for service representatives vary according to regional pay scales. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a service representative is $27,020 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

Communications Workers of America
501 3rd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2797
(202) 434-1100

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
900 7th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 833-7000

United States Telecom Association
607 14th St. NW, Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 326-7300

Many service representatives belong to a union. The union contract covers benefits, wage progression, and internal placement. Service representatives receive pension plans, sick leave, and paid vacations and holidays.

Additional topics

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