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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that approximately 2.2 million people held customer service positions in 2006. Customer service representatives take the front line for their company. They're the first to interact with the customer, as well as the employees that customers remember when they leave. Customer service representatives take on a wide variety of tasks, all of which involve supporting the company’s operations and products.
All customer service representatives are required to assist their customers. They do this by providing answers to questions and inquiries, addressing customer concerns and resolving immediate customer issues. These representatives provide assistance in person and via telephone, fax, email, standard mail, internet chat and instant messenger.
Although customer service representatives are usually the first to interact with a customer, they may not be able to address all of the customer’s concerns. In this case, the representative speaks with the customer to obtain the information needed to direct them to the proper department or representative. This brief conversation allows the representative to identity the customer’s concerns, determine the appropriate person or department that can assist, and instruct the customer on his next steps.
Many situations may require a customer service representative to sell or upgrade a product or service. If the customer requests additional information on a product or service and shows interest, the customer service representative takes the initiative to assist that customer with the upgrade. During a representative’s efforts to resolve a customer’s issue, the representative may be required to sell an additional product or warranty. These "soft sales" skills enable the representative to better meet the customer’s needs.
Record keeping forms an essential part of effective business interactions and servicing. A customer service representative often has responsibility for noting accounts, documenting records, processing orders and recording inquiries. These detailed records should be processed concisely and organized as the company requires. In turn, a customer service representative should also be able to communicate the information effectively and clearly.
Since customer service representatives serve on the front line of the business, they're often the first individuals to face irate customers, vendors and suppliers. These representatives must have patience as well as the ability to effectively defuse upset customers in a professional manner. The most effective resolution specialists also have a strong knowledge of the company’s products and services and a clear understanding of how to use their resources to assist the customer.
Today’s businesses use an array of office equipment and computers. Customer service representatives use this equipment to complete tasks, service customers and record information. Representatives should be comfortable with the use of this equipment and may be required to instruct their customers, vendors and suppliers on how to use the equipment, as well.
Writing professionally since 2004, Charmayne Smith focuses on corporate materials such as training manuals, business plans, grant applications and technical manuals. Smith's articles have appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and on various websites, drawing on her extensive experience in corporate management and property/casualty insurance.