No matter if online or in person, businesses from data providers to car rentals to hospitals have a need for customer service roles. Some of these positions are seasonal such as universities handling incoming students and their financial aid packages while others are project-driven like when a software company launches a new product. And, some are always needed like utilities and service providers.
If you are considering a customer service role, whether as a carryover career move during unemployment or a long-term opportunity, there are several things to consider, including:
Location and Set-up
Traditionally, customer service roles might be in a “call center,” surrounded by other CS reps doing the same or similar job as you. However, more and more companies are turning to work-from-home or remote call centers, which allows them to more easily provide support across multiple time zones. Email and online chat support are increasing as well versus pure phone support. Through the pandemic, we have learned the hard way that many jobs CAN be done remotely, and customer service is certainly one of them.
Customer service roles often have high turnover because the work can be draining and cause serious burnout. Many companies provide 24/7 support, making for challenging hours and shifts. The tasks can be repetitive and monotonous and you are often dealing with difficult customers. Additionally, many companies have call quotas which are an added stressor.
Customer service roles can be extremely rewarding. After all, you are helping someone find an answer or a resolution. (Think back to a positive experience you’ve had with a CS rep and how grateful you were when you got the help you needed.) Customer service roles can also have a solid career track. You can grow into a supervisor position, and then a call center or CS manager position, which can pay upwards of a 6-figure salary depending on where you live. No matter where your career takes you, the interpersonal and problem-solving skills you develop from a customer service role are invaluable and will serve you well on any career path.
Depending on the industry, breaking into the customer service field has a relatively low barrier to entry. Some of the most important qualities for a successful CS rep are a friendly, service-oriented disposition, and a calm demeanor to navigate challenging conversations without losing your cool. Another trait that will serve you well in customer service: the ability to not take things personally when you become the recipient of a customer’s frustrations.
This role is all about the right personality. Higher education is less important, but always a plus. A lot of employers realize that having a Bachelor’s degree won’t necessarily make you any better at customer service then someone with a GED. Experience isn’t always required, although it is naturally preferred. Many companies will consider candidates that only have face-to-face CS experience however, such as out of a retail environment or restaurant.
A Knack for Technology and Language
Customer service roles often require someone who is systems-savvy and comfortable picking up new software programs quickly. While you are providing assistance, you are simultaneously pulling information and documenting the support you’ve provided. If you are multilingual, that can be a huge asset. Many organizations have a strong desire for representatives that can speak more than one language and this trait may give you a leg up on your competition. No matter what, you must be able to speak and write clearly and use proper grammar.
Evaluating an Opportunity
If you’re new to the world of customer service, here are some general questions to consider when evaluating an opportunity:
- What do you enjoy in a work environment? Can you envision yourself working remotely or at a call center?
- Do loud coworkers or constant activity frustrate or distract you? If so, a call center environment might not be for you, but a remote role may be.
- How would you respond to a customer who was blaming you for a problem?
- Do you enjoy problem solving and talking to, or chatting online with, lots of different people?
- Do you like a fast pace?
- How do you handle conflict resolution? And, how will you handle a tough customer?
- What was the best customer service you’ve ever personally received and why? Can you picture yourself in their shoes?
- What bothers you about customer service in general and will this drive you to be better?
If you’re interviewing for a customer service role, consider asking your interviewer specific questions such as:
- What is the average call volume in a day?
- Are calls / inquiries inbound, outbound or both?
- Is technology provided?
- What kind of call monitoring is done to ensure quality control?
- For on-boarding, what does training look like, and do you provide ongoing training?
- What daily / weekly quotas will you have to meet?
- Is this role also responsible for upselling or customer retention?
Good customer service is critical to every industry and customer service roles are always in demand. The skills you learn working with the public and helping solve problems is a wonderful foundation for all future careers. If you’re someone that enjoys a challenge, relishes talking to new people and is unflappable, then a career in customer service could be the perfect next career step for you.
photo credit: CanvaContracting | Finding a job | Interviewing tips for job seekers | Working remotely