Many customer queries are simple questions or requests, however, some questions require additional help from experts or more research. In some setups, the customer service representative functions like a switchboard determining who will be best suited to give an answer to a client’s question. Customer service representatives also handle complaints for which there are usually strict policies on how to do.
Most customer service representatives interact with clients thru telephone from call centers, some communicate thru e-mail and fax. Some provide information that will help customers make purchasing decisions. In call centers, employers usually monitor the productivity of their customer service representatives which ensures that customers do not wait on hold for a long time and helps them maintain their call volume. Supervisors listen in or record calls to make sure customers get quality service.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for customer service employment. High school subjects in English, business, and computer are helpful preparation for a customer service occupation but increasingly more companies are requiring at least a bachelors or associate degree from their applicants. Employers usually provide some training before you can begin serving customers. This training is all about the company and the products or services it sells, the frequently asked questions (FAQ’s), the equipment they will be using and people skills and usually takes about 2 weeks. Some companies provide intermittent training so that their workers don’t lose their edge and are updated about new developments or revisions in their methods. This is especially true in the banking industry where regulations and products are constantly changing or being developed. Other important qualities for customer service careers are good problem solving and communication skills. Listening and verbal communications skills are most important and companies usually choose an applicant with a pleasant voice who is easily understood. Friendliness and professionalism are traits that employers are also looking for because they will at times encounter angry or difficult customers and you need to remain calm and courteous. For customer service reps who communicate with clients through e-mail or instant messaging you need to be a fast typist (at least 50 wpm), good in spelling and good grammar.
Employment outlook for customer service jobs is good with job growth expected at 18 percent between 2008 and 2018 which is faster than the average for all occupations. This is due to the fact that customer service is vital to almost any company and because companies are increasingly emphasizing building customer relationships. About 400,000 new jobs are expected to come from this sector in the coming decade. Customer service representatives are particularly numerous in insurance and finance. Recent advances in online technology have created many new opportunities for these jobs because companies that have websites provide customer service either through telephone or thru Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Previously, companies relocated their call centers to foreign third party providers resulting in numerous layoffs in local employment. Now, although many companies still choose to outsource their customer service departments this is starting to change because studies have shown that foreign customer service representatives lack the necessary cultural sensitivity. The chances of finding a job in the customer service industry is good because there are a lot of job openings and not many who have this as their primary choice for a job. Fast job growth together with the many workers who leave for other jobs every year result in numerous openings in this industry. As of 2008 the median hourly wage for customer service employment was $14.36. In addition to their regular hourly wage, customer service representatives also receive overtime pay as well as benefits like health insurance, bonuses, free training, and more.
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