The exact nature of your role as a Customer Service Professional will depend on the business you are employed in, but the attributes that make you good at this job are common across all industries. You must enjoy working with people, have great communication in writing, face to face transactions, and telephone handling, and you must be able to handle a certain amount of stress.
As a CSR you could work in a store, a bank, in the public transport sector, or in a contact centre. There are plenty of opportunities and good CSRs do tend to be able to move easily from one job to another because while it seems like a simple job at face value, there are very specific qualities that make a valuable team member.
It’s important to keep in mind that while there are lots of great opportunities, the turnover for CSRs is often very high. A lot of people desire these roles, so the employers are in a strong position, if you are great at your job, you can progress to a specialist, team leader, etc. If you are not great, you are easily replaced.
Qualifications are not set in stone, although most companies will be looking for a good high school education and an NVQ in Customer Service, Business Administration or similar will certainly give you an advantage. However, it is your resume and your cover letter that will really set you apart from the competition (and the competition is fierce in customer services)!
First your resume and cover letter must be free of all errors. You may be required to correspond with customers in writing as a part of this role and spelling or grammar mistakes will eliminate you at the first hurdle. Second, you need to show a genuine passion for working with people.
Wherever there is a need for a customer service representative, you can assume that there is a need to deal with customers that have experienced problems or are making a complaint; conflict resolution skills, confident problem solving and the ability to think outside of the box are highly valued.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for Customer Service Representatives in 2016 was just over $31,000 a year. Job aggregator site Payscale, on the other hand, puts that median figure slightly higher at just over $36,000 per year. Hourly rates for both sources are around $13-$16 USD/hour. The greatest opportunity to earn higher yearly compensation is either working over-time at an average of $20-25/hour or by finding a company that offers commission boosted salaries.
CSR’s working with companies that have profit sharing and commission payment structures on average earn much more than their hourly counterparts, however actual figures vary greatly from industry to industry in which the customer service is being provided.
Job outlook for skilled Customer Service Representatives is quite robust through the year 2024. While some related occupations such as Cashiers are suffering minimal, nearly stagnant growth due to automation and advancements in technology, the CSR field is actually projected to grow at over 10% between the years 2014 and 2024. This exceeds both more specialized roles such as Cashier as well as other CSR related fields like Information and Record Clerk positions.
To put CSR’s impressive projected growth into perspective, the national average for all occupations combined is just 7%. This means CSR professionals have a solid 3 percentage point lead over most job-seeking Americans.
Part of the reason for such strong growth is the ever increasing demand for qualified telephone support. While some companies continue to outsource, more and more are bringing back CSR jobs to the United States because of the quality native speakers bring to their companies. Managing call centers overseas is becoming more and more ineffective as training, management, and troubleshooting costs quickly pile up. The growing trend of bringing telephone support roles back to the United States is reflected in the projected 39% growth rate for telephone customer support roles between 2014 and 2024, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Also, more and more companies are choosing to bring customer service functions in-house instead of outsourcing them. The mantra that the company should manage it’s own client base is becoming more and more popular as business owners realize the benefits of highly trained and knowledgable in-house professionals bring to the table in terms of their ability to think critically, problem solve, and ultimately assist in retaining customers and keeping them happy.
Types of Customer Care
Note the title of this section is “Customer Care”, which is the umbrella category for all types of professional roles involving the “caring for” of clients/customers. Most commonly, these type of professionals are called Customer Support Representatives, referred to as just CSR. Anyone who has worked in the industry however will know that there is a whole variety of specialities that fall under the category of “customer care”.
Sometimes companies, particularly small-medium sized businesses, want to hire a “do-all” CSR to manage all the various aspects of customer support and care. For larger corporations, however, with big product or service lines, this just is not practical and they thus create a variety of more specialized roles.
Some of the more specialized roles that include customer support but focus on more minute aspects include:
Technical Support Specialists: These people usually work in the tech industry and often have a deep understanding of software/technology long before becoming support specialists as the process for learning the ins-and-outs of complex products like computers and software can take quite a long time. Because of the steep learning curve, this is rarely a position obtained by entry level CSR’s and is usually filled with people with engineering backgrounds or intimate knowledge of the product/technology being sold.
Activation Specialist: These professionals help users set up and troubleshoot new accounts created either online, in cloud services or even for concierge type services offered by a variety of industries from advanced manufacturing automation tools to consumer luxury cars. These specialists often work with companies, but occasionally work with consumers, as well, and need a balance of technical knowledge as well as customer service skills.
Sales Product Support Specialist: These specialists help customers resolve any issues they have when considering purchasing a product or service as well as helping troubleshoot problems after purchase. A good example of a solid Sales Product Support Specialist would be a technician at an Apple store’s Genius Bar.
Business and Corporate Relation Management Specialists: This one is indeed a mouthful and can be titled many different ways. These professionals work primarily in B2B and often specialize in particular industries such software, management and consulting. These roles are usually promoted from within a company from a pool of professionals who have demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the products/services being sold. Often times these are Sales and/or Engineers professionals who have spent 5+ years working with a particular product/service.
Customer Service Resume to Download
Below is a professional written example of a Customer Service resume that you can download, print out and save for reference when crafting your own CSR related resume.View Large Version
How To Write Your Own
Demonstrate Deep Industry Knowledge
A hallmark of a good CSR professional is someone who is able to communicate a knowledge indicative of an intimate understanding of the industry they work in. This means having a strong understanding of industry terminology and requirements as well as an understanding of common issues clients/consumers encounter in a given industry.
This extends beyond just understanding the products and services offered by one company, but understanding the products/services offered by competing companies and the pros/cons each have over one another.
To dig even more deeply, besides having a clear overlay of the industry and the competitive landscape, a good CSR will have an even more intimate knowledge of the product or service they are supporting. At the end of the day, a highly skilled CSR should sound like he or she owned the product himself for years.
This is not just a matter of perceived confidence, it is the ability to help resolve a wide variety of issues customers may present on a daily basis.
A balance between broad industry knowledge and very specific focused experience is required to competently resolve problems of all sizes.
Highlight People Skills
Sales support is something that is often priced into the product or service being sold, but it does not meant the need for active and thoughtful sales efforts ceases. A skilled CSR will be able to sell customers not just on the product they are purchasing, but the brand behind it.
This requires an immense amount of what are often referred to as “people skills”. What this actually means is one must possess a combination of communication skills, critical thinking skills and most of all, interpersonal skills like solution-oriented mindsets, as well as immense levels of patience.
Managing clients is not just about communicating technical information and problem solving, It is also about managing customer emotions and maintaining a positive brand image. You can do this by highlighting approval ratings, personal commendations received from previous supervisors, or now that many types of software offer the ability for customer ratings on their experiences, consumer ratings given after you have successfully resolved their issues.
Highlight Sales Skills
A company will want a CSR who not only works to maintain their current customer, base but someone who can actively work to help grow their existing customer base. This can be done through sheer excellent service, which in turn leads to referral sales, or by simply upselling products and services when appropriate.
Quality customer service is not just about solving immediate problems, but also looking to the future to help build a long-lasting, sustainable business with healthy annual growth. This requires at least some basic sales knowledge. You can communicate this on your resume by indicating sales you were responsible for in percentage or dollar terms.
At the end of the day, CSR positions are white collared roles that required multiple levels of organization. These professionals not only need to be fluent with the CRM (client relationship management) tools that they must use on a daily basis, but also have organization skills, time management skills, and if they wish to advance, people management skills as well.
Hiring talent is a form of investing. If a company can choose between investing in someone with good CSR skills and that is it, that applicant’s total value will be limited to the present. However, an applicant who exhibits the ability to proactively problem solve, train and even manage others in a team has much more potential for growth and thus will be seen as a better investment and probably get the job over the first candidate.
If you have managed a team, even if it was overseas, mention it on your resume because management skills are very impressive to employers who are looking for a candidate they can nurture and help grow within their organization.
How do you communicate you have experience with the above highly sought after attributes of a good CSR? You numerically quantify whenever possible throughout your resume. This means adding numbers in bullet points and always writing achievements in $ or % terms.
This could include the daily number of calls you took (100+ daily customer calls) or customer approval ratings (95% customer satisfaction rating) or even the amount of money saved in retaining or upselling clients (increased department sales by $10,000 year-on-year through various upsell techniques).
Adding numbers not only helps draw the reader’s eye through the page and grabs their attention, but also serves to add scope to your responsibilities and achievements at your previous places of employment. Business minds think in numbers; give them some to chew on when applying for that dream job!
Sample Bullet Points
Below is a selection of professionally written sample bullet points that are particularly useful to those working in the customer service sector. Do not just copy these, but instead customize them to accurately reflect your own unique experiences.
Useful Customer Service Bullet Points
|Confer with customers by telephone or in person to provide information about products or services, take or enter orders, cancel accounts, or obtain details of complaints.|
|Check to ensure that appropriate changes were made to resolve customers' problems.|
|Keep records of customer interactions or transactions, recording details of inquiries, complaints, or comments, as well as actions taken.|
|Resolve customers' service or billing complaints by performing activities such as exchanging merchandise, refunding money, or adjusting bills.|
|Complete contract forms, prepare change of address records, or issue service discontinuance orders, using computers.|
|Refer unresolved customer grievances to designated departments for further investigation.|
|Determine charges for services requested, collect deposits or payments, or arrange for billing.|
|Contact customers to respond to inquiries or to notify them of claim investigation results or any planned adjustments.|
|Solicit sales of new or additional services or products.|
|Order tests that could determine the causes of product malfunctions.|
|Obtain and examine all relevant information to assess validity of complaints and to determine possible causes, such as extreme weather conditions that could increase utility bills.|
|Review claims adjustments with dealers, examining parts claimed to be defective, and approving or disapproving dealers' claims.|
|Review insurance policy terms to determine whether a particular loss is covered by insurance.|
|Compare disputed merchandise with original requisitions and information from invoices and prepare invoices for returned goods.|
|Recommend improvements in products, packaging, shipping, service, or billing methods and procedures to prevent future problems.|
In just one or two sentences, state how many years of experience you have in the CSR industry, what specific talents you have, and the position you are seeking.
You want to state the years of experience you have to immediately qualify your application to the reader. You then want to specify any focus you have had, like Activation Specialist or Sales Support Specialist, if you are applying to a position seeking that type of candidate.
The more of a unique “puzzle piece” you can make your application seem to the employer, the better your chance at landing an interview. It is always best to be as specific as possible in regards to what type of service role you performed. You will also want to be direct in stating the position you intend to fill and how that will benefit the company being applied to.
A solid career objective for a Customer Service Representative might read something like:
Seasoned Technical Support Specialist with Intimate Knowledge with both PC and Apple operating systems, seeking a challenging position at the Genius Desk at Computer Geeks NYC flagship support outlet.
Note in the above how specificity was used in terms of the applicant’s previous experience, how a unique skill set may be advantageous to an employer, as well as specifying the position and location of the position being sought.
Additional Skills & Certifications
Additional skills will be divided primarily between communication skills and software skills.
On the communication front, you will want to indicate strong interpersonal skills including problem resolution, anger management, and the ability to follow up with clients and coworkers alike to find winning solutions for everyone.
On the software side, you will want to indicate all of the CRM tools you are familiar with, from Salesforce to Livechat, Zendesk, C-Desk, as well as project management tools like Asana, Wrike and Trello. Also, knowledge of different types of computer hardware and operating systems will be highly prized for the flexibility they bring to the organization being applied to.
Finally, include any other language skills you may have, as America is a diverse nation, not to mention that many companies operate globally, and the ability to communicate with as many demographics as possible will not only earn you more in salary but save the company from having to hire two of you.
Spanish and Chinese are two of the most valuable language skills to have, so if you have time, it may be worth pursuing language studies in these areas to inject a bit of competitiveness into your resume.