Customer Service Agents
In almost every industry, customer service agents act as intermediaries between companies and customers. They answer questions and resolve issues with a company's products or services, and they are often the only communication a customer has with a company.
Patience and tact are often required when dealing with difficult or demanding customers. Many companies offer customer service around the clock, and some agents work late night, early morning, holiday and weekend hours. However, work is available on a full- and part-time basis.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent; undergraduate degree preferred by some employers|
|Degree Field||Communications, business, customer service|
|Experience||Six months to one year of experience|
|Key Skills||In-bound and out-bound phone, general office, and sales experience; verbal/written communication and problem-solving skills; proficiency with Microsoft Office, Windows, contact center, customer relationship management (CRM), online chat, and e-mail software; ability to operate an Automatic Call Distribution Phone System (ACD), caller ID, and autodialing systems|
|Additional Requirements||Bilingual skills could be an asset|
|Salary (2015)||$17.40 per hour (median hourly wage for customer service agents)|
Sources: O*Net Online, Monster.com job postings (October 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Various community colleges
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required to work as a customer service agent, though an associate or bachelor's degree in communications, business, or customer service could be preferred by some employers. Six months to one year of experience is often required. Inbound and outbound phone experience, general office experience, verbal and written communication skills, problem solving skills, and sales experience are helpful.
Additionally, interested individuals should have proficiency with Microsoft Office, Windows, contact center software, customer relationship management software, CRM, online chat software, and email. They should also have the ability to operate an Automatic Call Distribution Phone System (ACD), caller ID, and autodialing systems. Bilingual skills could be an asset.
According to 2015 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly wage for customer service agents was $17.40
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Become a Customer Service Agent
Step 1: Finish High School
Most companies prefer to hire customer service agents who possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. By completing a high school education, individuals can develop foundational skills for these positions, such as writing and oral communication skills, mathematics training and basic computer skills.
Step 2: Complete Postsecondary Training
Although a high school diploma or its equivalent is the typical minimum requirement to obtain a customer service position, completing postsecondary training could help individuals advance to higher-level positions. Success as a customer service agent begins with a solid education in active listening and interpersonal communication skills, paired with excellent computer skills and a solid command of the English language. Bilingual skills may also be a valuable asset. Enrolling in courses, certificate programs or associate degree programs at community colleges can help aspiring customer service agents develop these skills.
Step 3: Find Employment
Customer service agents are crucial to companies in virtually every industry. Some customer service jobs, such as those in the retail industry, require face-to-face interaction with customers. Other industries, such as financial and investment companies, handle customer service inquiries over the phone from a call center or through email and Web chat services. According to the BLS, employment prospects for customer service representatives were predicted to increase 10% from 2014-2024, which is around the national average.
Locating a job in customer service requires a foundation in education and communication skills, but specific procedures and company policies are usually learned through on-the-job training. Although customer service agents fulfill the same essential position within a company, each department may ask their employees to adhere to specific guidelines and procedures when interacting with customers. Training typically varies in length depending on the company. For example, a company with a standard product, such as a retailer, may only have training for new hires, while a company with continuously changing products, such as a bank, may require ongoing training.
Step 4: Enhance your Career
Career advancement as a customer service agent may include a promotion to a managerial role. The experience gained as an agent becomes crucial to ensuring customer satisfaction and the effective operations of the department.
Enhancing your career may come easier if you keep your technological skills up-to-date. Servicing customers via chat lines, e-mail, social media and on-line tools is another way to become more marketable as a customer service agent. Take advantage of any training offered by an employer in these areas or explore classes offered by vocational schools, colleges or online training programs.
Additionally, customer service agents looking to advance their careers should consider joining professional organizations, such as the National Customer Service Association (NCSA). Benefits include continued education as well as leadership and management training.
Aspiring customer service agents should have at least a high school diploma or GED, though an associate or a bachelor's degree could be preferred by employers or helpful for pursuing advanced positions in the field.