What does a Customer Service Associate do?

B. Miller

A customer service associate works directly with customers, typically in a retail, hospitality, or restaurant establishment to ensure they have a positive experience and to resolve any problems as quickly and painlessly as possible. He or she must remain pleasant and professional even under stressful situations, or when dealing with angry customers, though most businesses have certain rules stating that service associates do not have to deal with customers if they become belligerent or abusive. This type of job is often defined as a mid level position, above cashiers and other associates, but below supervisors or management positions.

Large businesses often have dedicated customer service call centers.
Large businesses often have dedicated customer service call centers.

Large corporations often use the title, customer service associate, for employees who work in a call center. These individuals may never interact with customers face to face, but will provide help over the phone such as by answering questions, setting appointments or reservations, or setting customers up for services such as home utilities. Generally, though, the associate is one who works directly with customers, and may often be found behind a returns desk, a courtesy counter, or behind the front desk at a hotel or an airport, for example.

Customer service representatives have to treat customers well, even if they're having a bad day themselves.
Customer service representatives have to treat customers well, even if they're having a bad day themselves.

Clientele may approach the customer service associate when they have an issue that needs to be resolved. Some common issues include an item ringing up at the wrong price, or the need to return an item that was purchased for a refund. In the hospitality industry, such an associate may assist guests if they need to be moved to another room, or need assistance understanding charges on the bill. Sometimes an associate in customer service will offer an additional benefit to the customer as an apology for a problem, such as an additional percentage off the bill. The customer is then more likely to remember the experience positively and to return to the establishment again.

Customer service associates in retail will interact face-to-face with customers and assist them in anyway possible.
Customer service associates in retail will interact face-to-face with customers and assist them in anyway possible.

It is important for any customer service associate to listen closely to the customer and determine exactly what the problem is, and then explain how he or she will solve the problem. This should generally be done as quickly as possible, since customers tend to become annoyed very quickly if they have an issue, particularly if it is is the fault of the company. Even if it is the customer's fault, however, the service associate should remain friendly and polite, and explain what the customer's options are to fix the problem to his or her satisfaction.

Customer service associates often resolve customer complaints.
Customer service associates often resolve customer complaints.

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Discussion Comments


Sometimes it irritates me that my company has free gift with purchase. Gifts are limited and for other shoppers, as well. You also have to buy a certain brand for the certain gifts. Oh I don't want that. Can I have this instead? Can I have two? No! One per person while quantities last and no substitutions!

Customers are always complaining because they didn't get what they wanted. Then they take customer surveys and do nothing but complain and stray away from the subject.


@Moldova -I agree and I have to say that one of the most important customer service duties is greeting the customer. I have been to a few stores in which a greeting was not even offered. Usually there is no eye contact either when that happens. It is really an easy thing to do, and this is why a lot of companies hire mystery shopping companies to check up on the customer service levels of their employees.

If a report comes back negative then there is usually a level of coaching that goes on, but if the report is negative for a second time there is usually a termination. The good thing about using a mystery shopping company is that it is a third party that can be objective in their reporting.


@Sunny27 - That is really great that you cared about the customers that much. I do think that it is a great idea to ask behavioral questions in an interview for a customer service position because this position is really the last one that the customer has to deal with so a store should really make sure that they have the best people in this position.

Asking how they would handle hypothetical questions really tells you if the person has the right temperament to be a customer service representative.

They say that a customer will tell about eight to twenty people about a bad experience which is why I think that stores should screen better for these positions because a bad experience can lead a lasting impression.


@GreenWeaver -I think that some people at these customer service counters really act like they don’t like their job at all. I don’t know what it is, but I sometimes find people that are a little on the rude side working behind the customer service counter.

I know that a lot of them must get endless customer service complaints, and that must wear on them a little, but that is the nature of the job. I think that more companies should ask customer service interview questions when hiring for these positions.

Having a behavioral interview with questions and answers might point out people that are best suited for this type of job. You really have to like people and have a sense of compassion for the average customer.

I remember when I worked as a customer service associate in a call center, many of the customer complaints were based on sale items being out of stock on the first day that our ad hit.

I can understand their frustration because this was usually an hour or two after the stores were open and I know that the ad says while supplies last, but this is really not acceptable in my book.

We were authorized to fix the customer problem and although I could not sell them something that we did not have in stock, I was able to send them a courtesy coupon for their troubles. I did have coworkers that would get upset with the customers, but the customers were right to be upset and we really had a great opportunity to help them and change their perception of our company.


I just wanted to say that I used to have a customer service associate job while in college. I worked in a grocery store at the customer service counter,and I really enjoyed the work because we were always so busy that time went by really fast.

We would cash customer’s payroll checks, handle lottery ticket and cigarette purchases as well as customer returns. We also dealt with a lot of customer complaints about a product that did not work for the them or a problem with a sale price not ringing up correctly.

Once in a while it was a problem with a cashier. We were always instructed to diffuse the situation as much as possible, but if the request was outside the scope of our policies then we would have to page a manager to help us. I think that these were typical customer service duties that you find at most counters.

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