Learn About Being a Customer Service Representative

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

What does a customer service representative do?

Customer service representatives support clients by answering questions, solving problems and handling orders. They talk with customers in person and over the phone, and they also provide digital support. Customer service representatives are responsible for the following tasks:

Sharing information about products and services

Customer service representatives provide clients with details about the company’s products and services. They share information like pricing, specifications and available options. They might also discuss how to use available services or demonstrate the right way to operate a product. Depending on their employer, customer service representatives might provide details verbally or in writing. They often follow pre-written scripts to ensure they follow workflows and provide accurate information.

Answering customer questions

These support professionals also respond to customer inquiries, either 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.

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. In their efforts to satisfy customers, they might offer replacement items or provide discounts on future purchases. In some cases, customer support representatives might refer clients to supervisors, especially when handling complex complaints.

Processing orders and returns

Many customer service professionals also process client orders and returns in person, over the phone or online. They total purchase amounts and process credit cards or cash payments, and they also reimburse customers for returned items or canceled services.

Documenting customer interactions

Customer service representatives document their exchanges with clients, 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 follow-up by supervisors.

Average salary

Customer service representatives can have full-time or part-time employment. Factors like experience level, industry and location typically affect customer service representative salaries.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $12.83 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to 27.20 per hour.

Customer service representative requirements

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

Education

Customer service representatives generally need a high school diploma or a GED. High school education provides customer service professionals with the basic communication and interpersonal skills they need to work in this field.

Training

Most customer service representative jobs 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 generally include basic customer service skills and teach support staff how to use computer software and CRM applications. During these training programs, customer service representatives also learn the company’s workflow and methods for documenting interactions with customers.

Some organizations require support professionals to complete standard industry training programs. Many of these programs result in earning one of the customer service certifications below.

Certifications

Certifications are not required for this job, but many customer service representatives pursue optional credentials to improve their skills and increase their earning potential. Two 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 must pass a 160-question exam to earn this credential.

Customer Service Representative

Available from HDI, this program is designed to teach professionals the basics of customer service along with soft skills like critical thinking and active listening. Candidates must complete a four-unit training program and pass an exam to earn this certification.

Skills

To excel in this field, customer service representatives need the following:

Communication skills

Since customer service representatives spend most of their working hours talking with or writing to clients, excellent communication skills are essential. These support professionals must read, write, speak and listen well.

Computer skills

To retrieve product and service information, process orders and communicate with clients by phone or email, customer service representatives need computer skills. Most need to know how to use file management, word processing, spreadsheet, and email or phone applications.

CRM mastery

To document client interactions and track tickets, customer service representatives have to know how to use CRM software. They generally need to 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 dissatisfied with a product or service, they must be 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 how to resolve issues in a way that is satisfactory for the customer and the company.

Customer service representative work environment

Customer service representatives generally work in retail stores or call centers. In stores, they often work at desks and speak directly with customers. In call centers, they typically work at 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, where they use computers to call, email and chat with customers.

How to become a customer service representative

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

1. Complete your high school education

First, earn your high school diploma or GED and master foundational language, math and reasoning skills.

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.

3. Consider a professional certification

Finally, think about earning a professional certification to demonstrate your skills and distinguish yourself as a highly qualified candidate. The National Customer Service Association’s Certified Customer Service Professional credential, the Customer Service Institute of America’s Certified Customer Experience Professional designation and HDI‘s Customer Service Representative training are three of the most common field credentials.

Customer service representative job description example

National Customer Support Center is seeking a customer service representative to support our growing client base. The ideal candidate will have strong communication skills and the ability to answer questions and anticipate customer needs. The successful candidate should also have basic computer skills and the capacity to stay focused in a busy work environment. If you are a positive and self-motivated professional, National Customer Support Center would like to hear from you.

Related careers

If you have an interest in customer service, you can consider one of the following similar professions:

  • Customer service manager

  • Receptionist

  • Call center representative

  • Telemarketer

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