|Number of Jobs:||338,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Business Jobs||#19|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#77|
Customer service representatives work at that critical point where corporate rubber meets the consumer road. They essentially connect a company to its customers, answering consumer questions and helping to resolve difficulties with the firm's product or service. They often field fairly simple questions, like the status of an order. Other questions might require research or the help of an expert. Customer service reps must have diplomatic skills, such as tact and patience—they often deal with angry or frustrated customers—and they must handle complaints within the constraints of company policy. If the bad news is that it can be a difficult job (what job can't be?), the good news is that there are lots of customer rep jobs out there, and more on the way. Just about every industry needs them.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment within the customer service representative profession will grow 15.5 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. An additional 338,400 jobs will need to be filled within that time period.
According to the Department of Labor, the median annual salary for a customer service representative was $30,610 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent earned about $49,800, and the lowest-paid made approximately $19,620. The best-compensated customer service representatives usually work for industrial companies focused on oil and gas extraction, aerospace manufacturing, and energy-related parts manufacturing. By region, the highest-paid customer reps work San Jose, Calif., San Francisco, and Bridgeport, Conn.
Customer service representatives have traditionally been expected to have a high-school diploma, but with employers seeking more-skilled personnel, some customer service positions require an associate or bachelor's degree. High-school or college-level courses in business, computers, and English also come in handy. Most customer service reps undergo training prior to starting work, but the level of training varies by company. Generally, training focuses on the company and its products, but it will also include basic people skills, learning to answer commonly asked questions, and familiarization with phone and computer systems.
According to Don Yager, senior director of Afni, Inc. (which specializes in helping organizations improve their customer care) and member of the International Customer Service Organization board of directors, being in customer service is about building relationships. "You have to want to help people and become the advocate for that customer," he says. "You need to ask: How do I repair the relationship, and how do I provide the best experience possible?" Although customer service positions vary depending on the company, Yager says companies hire applicants based on strong communication and listening skills, the ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently, and a strong understanding of the work environment. "The toughest thing for a company is finding the right fit," he says. "You need to know what type of customer service you're interested in and what type of industry you're getting into."
|Upward Mobility||Above Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|