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Learn About Being a Customer Service Associate

What does a customer service associate do?

Customer service associates provide online chat support or answer incoming calls from customers. They strive to deliver the best customer experiences possible. Nearly every industry employs customer service associates, but exact job titles will vary. For example, companies may refer to this position or one similar to it as a customer service representative, customer experience associate or customer support specialist.

Your duties as a customer service associate will depend on the particular business, but responsibilities in this role typically include:

  • Processing orders for products/services
  • Calculating charges and process payments
  • Making changes to customer accounts
  • Handling returns
  • Resolving complaints
  • Monitoring customer satisfaction levels
  • Keeping detailed records of actions taken
  • Referring customers to supervisors or other departments
  • Interacting with customers through email, live chat or social media

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Average salary

Many customer service associates are full-time employees, although some may work part-time or as temporary employees. Salaries for customer service associates vary depending on their level of education and relevant work experience, as well as the employer’s industry, company size and geographical location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $11.03 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.83 to $18.87 per hour.

Customer service associate requirements

To excel as a customer service associate, you should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Certain levels of training can also help prepare you for a more advanced role. 

Education

Typically, a customer service associate will need to obtain their high school diploma or GED. While not usually required, many companies prefer candidates with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. To be a successful candidate, consider obtaining prior experience in a related role. This could be in a retail role, a restaurant or a similar customer service-oriented or public-facing position. 

Training

The training for a customer service associate position usually occurs on the job. Training for this job may last around two to four weeks. There may be a take-home component, such as reviewing an employee manual.

Certifications

Generally, no certifications or licenses are needed for customer service associate jobs, unless one is working in the finance or insurance agencies. Then, the state licensure requirements will vary on a state-by-state basis.

Skills

Each customer service associate job will require slightly different skills, as different products, services and industries have different needs. However, a customer service associate should develop certain general skills, no matter which industry they are in. To be a strong job candidate, you may want to acquire the following skills: 

  • Communication: Customer service requires strong communication skills. Associates will be expected to communicate throughout their shifts, from talking on the phone to typing emails and chatting online. You should demonstrate clear, direct and cordial messages to maintain strong relationships with coworkers and customers. 
  • Listening: While customer service associates do a significant amount of speaking and writing, they also must be able to listen to customers and fellow team members. Customers may describe complex problems, share detailed timelines and otherwise communicate information that you will need to listen to carefully. 
  • Patience: As a customer service associate, you will encounter some customers who are frustrated or difficult to communicate with. Demonstrating patience with every customer will help make both their experience and yours more enjoyable. It can also help you resolve a customer’s issue quicker. 
  • Problem-solving: A customer service associate will need to solve problems daily. Sometimes these are small issues, such as connecting a customer to another department. Other times, they are larger issues that may take a longer time to resolve. A strong associate will be able to quickly understand the customer’s problem and propose the best solution.
  • Computer skills: You will likely conduct most of your work at a computer. Associates record information, search databases and access customer accounts. General computer knowledge is a strong skill set in this industry, as is a working understanding of common office programs.

Customer service associate work environment

Work environments for customer service associates vary. They may work in offices, retail outlets or at home.

As a customer service associate, your team lead or manager may encourage you to meet certain quotas. You might be required to answer a certain number of calls, or you may receive a grade based on customer satisfaction feedback. Sometimes supervisors monitor customer service associates for quality assurance. To ensure you receive better ratings and feedback, consider continually developing your communication and problem-solving skills.

Customer service associates may work full- or part-time. Shifts are often scheduled during evenings, weekends and holidays to accommodate customers, but 24-hour call centers may have shifts available overnight or during early-morning hours.

How to become a customer service associate

Those who love to talk to people and help others might want to consider becoming a customer service associate. These jobs are available in many different industries. If you’ve decided to become a customer service associate, you should take the following steps:

  1. Pursue education. First, earn a high school diploma or GED. If you plan to reach a more advanced position in this field, consider also obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. While a degree is not usually required for customer service associate jobs, it will make you a more attractive candidate. Be sure to take a variety of classes, including those that improve your communication, public speaking, and computer skills.
  2. Gain customer service experience. The easiest way to gain experience is through a job or internship. Most customer service associate job postings will look for candidates that have at least two years of customer service experience. Try to find a job as a receptionist, retail associate, sports team manager or even as a teaching assistant or intern. These positions will give you the experience you need to become a qualified associate. 
  3. Build your resume. Highlight your education and your experience working with the public. In your cover letter, write about the skills you have that will make you a strong candidate. 
  4. Search for customer service associate jobs. You can do this online and/or in person. Apply to those that match your skill set, education level and schedule. 

Customer service associate job description example

Our telecommunications company is searching for an experienced Customer Service Associate who can communicate with effectiveness, patience and kindness. A strong candidate is self-motivated will be able to work efficiently to speak with as many customers as possible. The Associate will be responsible for taking incoming calls and answering questions via our online form. Candidates will be trained in the company’s policies and products and must be able to retain this information to provide the best possible experience for customers. 

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