A customer service representative is a professional who works either directly with or directly for the customers and prospective customers of a given company. Representatives are often seen as the outward “face” of their company because they are usually the first people customers talk to when they have a question or concern. Sometimes they are problem solvers, and other times they are trying to initiate sales; they may also simply help clients find information. They may work in many different kinds of companies, and their job descriptions can be quite varied. All have one thing in common, though, which is helping connect outside people with inside information.
Types of Work
Any company or service that depends on customer support typically has a dedicated customer service or customer care department. This includes retailers, land management companies, and public service and utilities providers. Job descriptions can vary to such an extent that it may be helpful to think of customer service representatives by other job titles they might alternately be called, including the following:
- Customer Assistant
- Bank Teller
- Administrative Assistant
- Sales support staff
- Customer support personnel
- Consumer intake operator
- Service specialist
No matter the title, this person’s primary job is customer happiness and satisfaction. He or she is usually the first one to answer the phones at a company’s headquarters, for instance, and is usually also the person behind a service desk at a store or business branch office.
What the Work Requires
Job requirements to be a customer service representative vary tremendously. People who tend to be most successful at their work have excellent manners, can handle problem customers, and usually possess excellent telephone skills. Many of these workers also have basic to advanced computer skills, and a number of them possess high-level office skills.
Representatives often have multiple means of communicating with customers. They must usually be able to field requests for information over the telephone, through fax, and in writing in either standard mail or e-mail. In large e-commerce companies, customer care representatives may do little more than respond to customer e-mail. They may also facilitate in-person meetings through various conferencing or messaging methods, some of which may happen over the Internet.
In many cases, the representative is essentially a sales person. Companies in the retail sector, whether in traditional shops or online, typically hire these employees to help customers navigate the merchandise that is available. This often involves help over the phone or advice and recommendations given on the sales floor. People in these roles take orders for purchases; answer questions about products, prices, or shipping; and listen to any complaints or concerns the buyer might have.
Unsolicited advertising or marketing may also fall under the customer service representative’s job description. Many companies build their customer bases by directly reaching out to potential buyers, usually over the phone. The people who execute these calls are frequently referred to as telemarketers, but their function is essentially one of customer service.
Service representatives may also be called on to handle disagreements or settle disputes between customers and the parent company. Calls placed to most service-oriented businesses, like utilities companies, insurance companies, or banks, are usually first routed to a customer service representative. If that person is unable to resolve the problem or does not have the expertise or power to come up with a solution, the call is often transferred to a manager. Representatives don’t make the rules and are usually limited by their company in terms of what they can do.
Training and Education
Most of the time, customer service staff members are considered entry-level employees. This means that they do not need a lot of training or expertise to get started in the work. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required, but more advanced training is usually optional. Depending on the company, though, there may be exceptions: computer software manufacturers may require support staff to have basic computer training, for instance, or assistants at a legal firm may need to have some college coursework that is relevant to the sorts of questions they will be answering. A lot of what the job requires depends on the specifics of the given situation.