Customer Service Representatives


Customer service representatives work with customers to resolve complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

Duties

Customer service representatives typically do the following:

  • Listen to customers’ questions and concerns and provide answers or responses
  • Provide information about products and services
  • Take orders, calculate charges, and process billing or payments
  • Review customer accounts and make changes, if necessary
  • Handle returns or complaints
  • Record details of customer contacts and actions taken
  • Refer customers to supervisors or more experienced employees

Customer service representatives answer questions or requests from customers or the public. They typically provide services by phone, but some also interact with customers face to face, by email or text, via live chat, and through social media.

The specific duties of customer service representatives vary by industry. For example, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts. Representatives who work for utility and telecommunications companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Those who work in retail stores often handle returns, process refunds, and help customers locate items. Although selling a product or service is not their main job, representatives may help generate sales while providing information.

Customer service representatives typically use a telephone, computer, and other office equipment. For example, representatives who work in call centers answer the phone and use computers to explore solutions for customers.

Customer service representatives held about 3.0 million jobs in 2018. The largest employers of customer service representatives were as follows:

Retail trade 14%
Insurance carriers and related activities 12
Business support services 11
Wholesale trade 7
Professional, scientific, and technical services 6

Customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry. Representatives in offices may work in a large room alongside other employees, so the area can be noisy. Working from home is also possible in some companies. Representatives may be under pressure to answer a designated number of calls while supervisors monitor them for quality assurance. In addition, the work may be stressful when representatives must interact with dissatisfied customers

In retail stores, representatives may spend hours on their feet assisting customers in person.

Work Schedules

Although most customer service representatives work full time, some work part time. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, which may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Jobs in call centers may require representatives to work shifts early in the morning or late at night because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn the specific skills needed for the job. They should be good at communicating and interacting with people and should be adept at using computers.

Education

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Customer service representatives usually receive short-term on-the-job training, which typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks. Those who work in finance and insurance may need several months of training to learn complicated financial regulations.

General customer-service training may focus on procedures for answering questions, information about a company’s products and services, and computer and telephone use. Trainees often receive guidance from an experienced worker for the first few weeks of employment.

In certain industries, such as finance and insurance, customer service representatives must stay current with changing regulations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Customer service representatives who provide information about finance and insurance may need a state license. Although licensing requirements vary by state, they usually include passing an exam. Some employers and organizations provide training for these exams.

Advancement

With experience, customer service representatives may advance to supervisory roles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Customer service representatives must be able to provide clear information in writing, by phone, or in person.

Computer skills. Customer service representatives must be adept at using computers.  

Customer-service skills. Representatives help companies retain customers by professionally answering questions and helping to resolve complaints.

Interpersonal skills. Representatives should be able to create positive interactions with customers.

Listening skills. Representatives must listen carefully to ensure that they understand customers in order to assist them.

Patience. Representatives should be patient and polite, especially when interacting with dissatisfied customers.

Problem-solving skills. Representatives must determine solutions to customers’ problems. By doing so, representatives contribute to customer loyalty and retention.

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives was $16.23 in May 2018.

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 percent earned less than $10.65, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $26.59.

In May 2018, the median hourly wages for customer service representatives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $18.47
Insurance carriers and related activities 17.88
Professional, scientific, and technical services 17.74
Business support services 13.78
Retail trade 12.93

Although most customer service representatives work full time, some work part time. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, which may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Jobs in call centers may require representatives to work shifts early in the morning or late at night because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Customer Service Representatives

Median hourly wages, May 2018

Total, all occupations

$18.58

Customer service representatives

$16.23

Information and record clerks

$15.91

 

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to decline 2 percent from 2018 to 2028.

There will be less demand for customer service representatives as more of their tasks become automated. Internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems, social media, and mobile applications are increasingly popular because they enable customers to perform simple tasks without speaking to a representative. Improvements in technology will gradually allow these automated systems to perform even more advanced tasks. Some companies will continue to use in-house service centers to differentiate themselves from competitors, particularly for complex inquiries such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.

However, jobs for customer service representatives are projected to be added in business support services, which includes telephone call centers. Some businesses will contract out their customer service operations to telephone call centers because the call centers provide consolidated sales and customer service functions.

Job Prospects

Despite the projected decline in employment, job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for customer service representatives, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Customer service representatives

43-4051 2,972,600 2,921,000 -2 -51,600 Get data

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of customer service representatives.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2018

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations.

See How to Become One $53,470

Financial Clerks

Financial clerks do administrative work, keep records, help customers, and carry out financial transactions.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,570

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties, maintain records, collect data, and provide information to customers.

See How to Become One $34,520

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,600

Receptionists

Receptionists do tasks such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing information about their organization to the public.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,140

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments.

No formal educational credential $24,340

Tellers

Tellers are responsible for accurately processing routine transactions at a bank.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,450

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.

See How to Become One $61,660

General Office Clerks

General office clerks perform a variety of clerical tasks, including answering telephones, typing documents, and filing records.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,730

The Handbook does not have contacts for more information for this occupation.

Related BLS articles

Career Outlook: Customer service skills: Occupational employment, outlook, and wages

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Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Customer Service Representatives,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm (visited ).


 

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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