Customer service jobs are often a foot in the door to higher-paying jobs in an industry. However, some customer service jobs require technical expertise, a college education and even certificates of proficiency. In most cases, knowledge of Microsoft Office, the ability to type at least 25 words per minute and, increasingly, the ability to speak multiple languages are helpful skills.
No matter what the position or industry, the most important customer service skills are patience, a pleasant personality and the ability to communicate well.
A career in customer service may span from an entry-level call-center job to customer service vice president. Below are descriptions of five growing customer service jobs.
Customer Service Representative
Also called customer care representatives, these workers are typically responsible for handling customer complaints and billing issues, basic troubleshooting and placing orders. This is typically the most entry-level of call-center jobs.
What’s Needed: Proficiency in data entry, computer programs and telephones. Patience, courtesy and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment are helpful. A high school diploma or GED is usually required.
Pay and Prospects: The median customer service representative salary was $30,460 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.
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Technical Support Representative
These customer service workers guide customers through solving technical problems. With some products, a tech support representative can remotely access the user’s computer or system and solve the problem directly. This is a more advanced type of call-center job, and weekend hours are often required.
What’s Needed: An associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and sometimes technical certificates. Strong analytical and problem-solving skills are required for resolving issues without having to refer customers to upper-level employees. Because customers are often frustrated, patience and interpersonal skills are even more critical in this job than in other customer service jobs.
Pay and Prospects: Technical support representative salaries range from $26,747 to $75,000, according to PayScale. If prospects follow general customer service representative jobs, growth should be better than average through 2018.
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Technical Support Analyst
These professionals make sure customers and end users receive clear instructions and guidance to resolve technical issues. They use in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of the company's products to evaluate customer feedback and adjust support programs to better serve the representatives.
What’s Needed: In addition to having a high school diploma (or equivalent) and usually an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, tech support analysts are expected to be proficient at analyzing problems and recommending solutions to management.
Pay and Prospects: According to PayScale, salaries for technical support analysts in the US range from $34,518 to $68,436. The BLS does not recognize technical support analyst as a separate job category, but the hiring outlook is likely to be similar to that of technical support representatives.
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Technical Sales Support Representative
These customer support workers -- also known as sales engineers -- translate what customers want into products their companies can produce. These specialists may work for specific companies or as consultants for various companies.
What’s Needed: An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in engineering or other technical field. Though these are not sales jobs, good communication and interpersonal skills are needed to convey technical information and persuade clients.
Pay and Prospects: The median sales engineer salary in 2010 was $87,390, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $146,000, according to the BLS. The BLS estimates the need for technical sales support workers to grow 9 percent from 2008 to 2018.
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Sales Product Support Representative
These customer service reps answer customers’ prepurchase and post-purchase questions. They must be highly educated on the products the company sells.
What’s Needed: Confidence, energy, organizational skills and resilience. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is usually required. Basic math skills are helpful if the job involves dealing with prices, deals and commissions.
Pay and Prospects: Sales product support representatives are often paid like salespeople, with a base salary plus commission. As with sales reps, wages vary greatly by industry and ability. Employment for sales representatives is expected to grow as fast as average from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS.
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Learn more about customer service careers.