What Does a Customer Service Representative Do? With Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A customer service representative is an individual who assists and supports customers on behalf of a company or organization. A career in customer service can be rewarding, especially if you have a talent for communicating and a passion for helping others. If you're interested in pursuing a career as a customer service representative, understanding the typical duties, requirements, skills and salary of the profession can provide helpful insight for deciding if the job is the right match for you. 

In this article, we explain what a customer service representative does, list typical requirements for the role, identify their beneficial skills, provide a step-by-step guide for starting a career as a customer service representative and explore their average annual salary. 

What does a customer service representative do?

Customer service representatives support clients by answering questions, solving problems and handling orders. They communicate with customers in person and over the phone, and they may also provide digital support over email or instant messaging. Here are some of the primary duties that you may experience as a customer service representative: 

Sharing information about products and services

Customer service representatives provide clients with details about the company's products and services. They share information related to pricing, product specifications and options.

They might also discuss how to use services or highlight the right way to operate a product. Customer service representatives might provide details verbally or in writing depending on their employer. They often follow previously written scripts to ensure they follow workflows and provide accurate information.

Related: 20 Customer Service Tips

Answering customer questions

These support professionals also respond to customer inquiries verbally or in writing. They help customers compare products and services and advise clients about which options meet their needs. Customer service representatives may also assist clients with calculating discounts or inform shoppers about sales.

Related: Customer Service Verbiage: Definition, When To Use and Examples

Responding to customer complaints

When customers experience problems with products and services, these support representatives handle complaints. They listen to or read about customer problems and suggest solutions. They might offer replacement items or discounts on future purchases to satisfy customers. Sometimes, customer support representatives might refer clients to supervisors, especially when handling complex complaints.

Read more: Learn About Being a Call Center Representative

Processing orders and returns

Many customer service professionals also process client orders and returns in person, over the phone or online. They add purchase amounts and process credit cards or cash payments. They also reimburse customers for the items they return or if they want to cancel their services. 

Documenting customer interactions

Customer service representatives document their client exchanges, often using customer relationship management software. They may create client records, manage digital support tickets and record issues and resolutions. When supporting existing customers, these professionals may retrieve and update client records or tag them for a follow-up by supervisors.

Related: What Is Customer Service Empowerment? (With Definition and Examples)

Customer service representative requirements

Customer service representatives need a high school education, on-the-job training, and soft skills.

Education

Customer service representatives can benefit from having a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) credential. While you won't need to have a secondary education to pursue a career as a customer service rep, having a high school diploma or equivalent is often a requirement to qualify for jobs in the field. High school education provides customer service professionals with the basic communication and interpersonal skills they need to work in this field.

Related: The Differences Between Customer Relations vs. Customer Service

Training

Customer service representative jobs may require candidates to complete on-the-job training. These training programs vary from employer to employer and may last between a week and a month.

They include basic customer service skills and teach support staff how to use computer software and customer relationship management (CRM) applications. During these training programs, customer service representatives also learn about the company's workflow and methods for documenting customer interactions.

Certifications

Certifications aren't a standard requirement for this job, but many customer service representatives pursue optional credentials to improve their skills and increase their earning potential. Three of the most common certifications for customer service representatives include:

  • Certified Customer Experience Professional: Available from the Customer Service Institute of America, this credential requires candidates to complete an eight-module program.

  • Certified Customer Service Professional: The National Customer Service Association offers this designation to committed, experienced professionals. Candidates need at least two years of relevant work experience and pass a 160-question exam to earn this credential.

  • HDI Customer Service Representative: This program teaches professionals the basics of customer service and soft skills like critical thinking and active listening. Candidates complete a four-unit training program and pass an exam to earn this certification.

Related: 4 Examples of Resume Summaries for Customer Service Professionals

Skills

Here are some skills that can help you succeed in your daily duties as a customer service representative: 

  • Communication skills: Since customer service representatives spend most of their working hours communicating with or writing to clients, excellent communication skills are important. These support representatives can benefit from knowing how to read, write, communicate and listen well.

  • Computer skills: Customer service representatives use computer skills to retrieve product and service information, process orders, and communicate with clients by phone or email. Helpful skills include file management, word processing, spreadsheet, and email or phone applications.

  • CRM mastery: Customer service representatives use CRM software to document client interactions and track tickets. They know how to create and update tickets and how to search for customer records.

  • Empathy: Since customer service representatives often communicate with clients who have limited knowledge of or are unhappy with a product or service, it's important that they're empathetic. Cultivating this sense can help support professionals understand client concerns and resolve them effectively.

  • Problem-solving skills: Customer service representatives who resolve client complaints need strong problem-solving skills. They need to assess concerns and determine how to resolve issues in a way that's satisfactory for the customer and the company.

Related: 9 Customer Service Tips To Improve Your Skills

How to become a customer service representative

To get a customer service representative job, consider these three steps:

1. Complete your education

To become a customer service representative, it's important to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent at the minimum. Complete your high school education and, if you plan to work towards a role in customer service management, consider earning an associate or bachelor's degree to further show employers your commitment to your field. Look into majors or courses discussing topics such as human resources or hospitality that can provide helpful training for a career in customer service.

Related: Levels of College Degrees: How To Decide Between Types

2. Develop your skills

To be a top candidate for customer service jobs, research and cultivate important skills, such as communication, listening and problem-solving. A popular way for people entering the workforce to develop their skills is by completing internships where they can work directly under a customer service representative. Internships and other entry-level work opportunities can provide you with various skills and training necessary for the role while expanding your experience level and career network.

Related: Customer Service Soft Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Consider earning certifications

Finally, consider earning professional certifications to show your skills and distinguish yourself as a highly qualified candidate. Research organizations within the customer service field and find certifications to help you grow your skills and confidence as a customer service representative. You can add these certifications to your resume, demonstrating to employers both your commitment to your field and providing you with a potential competitive edge over other applicants.

Salary and work environment 

The average salary of a customer service representative is approximately $56,440 per year. Experience level, industry and location can affect customer service representative salaries. Customer service representatives can have full- or part-time employment and work in retail stores or call centers.

In stores, they often work at desks and communicate directly with customers. In call centers, they typically work on computers in open-layout offices, where they communicate with customers over the phone, through email or via online chat. Some customer service representatives work from home, using computers to call, email and chat with customers.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles