Customer Service Representatives

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Customer Service Representatives Do[About this section] [To Top]

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

Duties of Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives typically do the following:

  • Listen to customers’ questions and concerns, and provide answers or responses
  • Provide information about products and services
  • Take orders, calculate charges, and process billing or payments
  • Review or make changes to customer accounts
  • Handle returns or complaints
  • Record details of customer contacts and actions taken
  • Refer customers to supervisors or more experienced employees

Customer service representatives answer questions or requests from customers or the public. They typically provide services by phone, but some also interact with customers face to face, by email, or live chat.

The specific duties of customer service representatives vary by industry. For example, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts. Representatives who work for utility and communication companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Those who work in retail stores often handle returns, process refunds, and help customers locate items. Some representatives make changes to customers’ accounts, such as updating addresses or canceling orders. Although selling is not their main job, some representatives may help generate sales while providing information about a product or service.

Customer service representatives typically use a telephone, computer, and other office equipment. For example, representatives who work in call centers answer phone calls and use computers to review and select standard responses from a list of options. Those employed in retail stores use registers to process returns or orders.

Work Environment for Customer Service Representatives[About this section] [To Top]

Customer service representatives hold about 2.6 million jobs. The industries that employ the most customer service representatives are as follows:

Administrative and support services 18%
Retail trade 12
Insurance carriers and related activities 12
Monetary authorities, credit intermediation, and related activities 9

Customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry. Many work in telephone call centers, credit and insurance agencies, banks, and retail stores.

Representatives usually work in an office setting, sharing a large room with other employees. As a result, the work area can be crowded and noisy. Some workers may be under pressure to answer a designated number of calls while supervisors monitor them for quality assurance. In addition, the work can sometimes be stressful when they interact with dissatisfied customers.

In retail stores, representatives may spend hours on their feet assisting customers in person.

Customer Service Representative Work Schedules

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 work part time.

Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts because some are open 24 hours a day. Weekend or holiday work is also common.

In retail stores, customer service representatives are often needed to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some companies hire additional workers during the holiday season when more customers are expected.

How to Become a Customer Service Representative[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Customer Service Representatives near you!

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training to learn the specific skills needed for the job. They should be good at communicating and interacting with people and have some experience using computers.

Customer Service Representative Education

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma.

Customer Service Representative Training

Customer service representatives usually receive short-term on-the-job training, lasting 2 to 3 weeks. Those who work in finance and insurance may need several months of training to learn more complicated financial regulations.

General customer-service training may focus on procedures for answering questions, information about a company’s products and services, and computer and telephone use. Trainees often work under the guidance of an experienced worker for the first few weeks of employment.

In certain industries, such as finance and insurance, customer service representatives must remain current with changing regulations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Customer service representatives who provide information about finance and insurance may need a state license. Although licensing requirements vary by state, they usually include passing a written exam. Some employers and organizations may provide training for these exams.

Important Qualities for Customer Service Representatives

Communication skills. Customer service representatives must be able to provide information in writing, by phone, or in person so that customers can understand them.

Customer-service skills. Representatives help companies retain customers by answering their questions and complaints in a helpful and professional manner.

Interpersonal skills. Representatives should be able to create positive interactions with customers.

Listening skills. Representatives must listen carefully and understand a customer’s situation in order to assist them.

Patience. Representatives should be patient and polite, especially when interacting with dissatisfied customers.

Problem-solving skills. Representatives must determine solutions to a customer’s problem. By resolving issues effectively, representatives contribute to customer loyalty and retention.

Customer Service Representative Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives is $15.25. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.74, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.49.

The median hourly wages for customer service representatives in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Insurance carriers and related activities $17.00
Monetary authorities, credit intermediation, and related activities 15.72
Administrative and support services 13.25
Retail trade 12.03

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 work part time. Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts since some are open 24 hours a day. Weekend or holiday work is also common.

In retail stores, customer service representatives are often needed to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some companies hire additional workers during the holiday season when more customers are expected.

Job Outlook for Customer Service Representatives[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 10 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Overall employment growth should result from growing industries that specialize in handling customer service. Specifically, telephone call centers, also known as customer contact centers, are expected to add the most new jobs for customer service representatives. Employment of representatives in these centers is projected to grow 39 percent through 2024. Some businesses are increasingly contracting out their customer service operations to telephone call centers because they provide consolidated sales and customer service functions.

Employment growth of customer service representatives in all other industries will be driven by growth of those industries, as well as consumers’ demand for products and services that require customer support. Some companies will continue to use in-house service centers to differentiate themselves from competitors, particularly for inquiries that are more complex, such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.

However, some companies are increasingly using Internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems that enable customers to resolve simple problems, such as changing addresses or reviewing account billing, without speaking to a representative.

In addition, some businesses are expected to move customer service functions to other countries in order to cut costs, a practice known as offshoring. However, demand for customer service representatives in the United States should continue as companies adjust to consumers’ preference for U.S.-based customer support.

Customer Service Representatives Job Prospects

Job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for Customer Service Representatives, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Customer service representatives 2,581,800 2,834,800 10 252,900


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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