Summary

customer service representatives image
Customer service representatives provide information to customers about products and services.
Quick Facts: Customer Service Representatives
2016 Median Pay $32,300 per year
$15.53 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 2,784,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 136,000

What Customer Service Representatives Do

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

Work Environment

Although customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry, many work in telephone call centers, credit and insurance agencies, banks, and retail stores. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016.

How to Become a Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma and are trained on the job. They should be good at communicating with people and have some experience using computers.

Pay

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives was $15.53 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Overall job opportunities should be good. Candidates with good customer-service skills and who have experience using computer software applications should have the best job prospects.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for customer service representatives.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of customer service representatives with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about customer service representatives by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Customer Service Representatives Do About this section

Customer service representatives
Customer service representatives listen and respond to customers' questions.

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

Duties

Customer service representatives typically do the following:

  • Listen to customers’ questions and concerns, and provide answers or responses
  • Provide information about products and services
  • Take orders, calculate charges, and process billing or payments
  • Review or make changes to customer accounts
  • Handle returns or complaints
  • Record details of customer contacts and actions taken
  • Refer customers to supervisors or more experienced employees

Customer service representatives answer questions or requests from customers or the public. They typically provide services by phone, but some also interact with customers face to face, or by email or live chat.

The specific duties of customer service representatives vary by industry. For example, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts. Representatives who work for utility and telecommunication companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Those who work in retail stores often handle returns, process refunds, and help customers locate items. Some representatives make changes to customers’ accounts, such as updating addresses or canceling orders. Although selling is not their main job, some representatives may help generate sales while providing information about a product or service.

Customer service representatives typically use a telephone, computer, and other office equipment. For example, representatives who work in call centers answer phone calls and use computers to explore available solutions for customers. Those employed in retail stores may use registers to process returns or orders.

Work Environment About this section

Customer service representatives
Many customer service representatives work in call centers.

Customer service representatives held about 2.8 million jobs in 2016. The largest employers of customer service representatives were as follows:

Retail trade 14%
Insurance carriers and related activities 12
Telephone call centers 9
Wholesale trade 8
Professional, scientific, and technical services 6

Customer service representatives are employed in nearly every industry. Representatives usually work in an office setting, but working from home is also possible in some companies. In offices, representatives may work in a large room alongside other employees, so the work area can be noisy. Some workers may be under pressure to answer a designated number of calls while supervisors monitor them for quality assurance. In addition, the work can sometimes be stressful when they interact with dissatisfied customers.

In retail stores, representatives may spend hours on their feet assisting customers in person.

Work Schedules

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

How to Become a Customer Service Representative About this section

Customer service representatives
Customer service representatives should be good at communicating and interacting with people and have some experience using computers.

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn the specific skills needed for the job. They should be good at communicating and interacting with people and have some experience using computers.

Education

Customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Customer service representatives usually receive short-term on-the-job training, typically lasting 2 to 3 weeks. Those who work in finance and insurance may need several months of training to learn complicated financial regulations.

General customer-service training may focus on procedures for answering questions, information about a company’s products and services, and computer and telephone use. Trainees often work under the guidance of an experienced worker for the first few weeks of employment.

In certain industries, such as finance and insurance, customer service representatives must remain current with changing regulations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Customer service representatives who provide information about finance and insurance may need a state license. Although licensing requirements vary by state, they usually include passing an exam. Some employers and organizations may provide training for these exams.

Advancement

With experience, customer service representatives may advance to supervisory roles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Customer service representatives must be able to provide clear information in writing, by phone, or in person so that customers can understand them.

Customer-service skills. Representatives help companies retain customers by answering their questions and responding to complaints in a helpful and professional manner.

Interpersonal skills. Representatives should be able to create positive interactions with customers.

Listening skills. Representatives must listen carefully and understand a customer’s situation in order to assist them.

Patience. Representatives should be patient and polite, especially when interacting with dissatisfied customers.

Problem-solving skills. Representatives must determine solutions to a customer’s problem. By resolving issues effectively, representatives contribute to customer loyalty and retention.

Pay About this section

Customer Service Representatives

Median hourly wages, May 2016

Total, all occupations

$17.81

Customer service representatives

$15.53

Information and record clerks

$15.24

 

The median hourly wage for customer service representatives was $15.53 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.01, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.83.

In May 2016, the median hourly wages for customer service representatives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $17.89
Insurance carriers and related activities 17.38
Professional, scientific, and technical services 17.33
Telephone call centers 12.98
Retail trade 12.13

Although most customer service representatives work full time, about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Customer service representatives often need to work during busy times, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Positions in call centers may require early morning or late night shifts because some call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Job Outlook About this section

Customer Service Representatives

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Information and record clerks

5%

Customer service representatives

5%

 

Employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Overall employment growth should result from growth in industries that specialize in handling customer service. Specifically, telephone call centers, also known as customer contact centers, are expected to add the most new jobs for customer service representatives. Employment of representatives in these centers is projected to grow 36 percent from 2016 to 2026. Some businesses are increasingly contracting out their customer service operations to telephone call centers because the call centers provide consolidated sales and customer service functions.

Employment growth of customer service representatives in all other industries will be driven by growth of those industries, as well as consumers’ demand for products and services that require customer support. Some companies will continue to use in-house service centers to differentiate themselves from competitors, particularly for inquiries that are more complex, such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.

However, some companies are increasingly using Internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems that enable customers to perform simple tasks, such as changing addresses or reviewing account billing, without speaking to a representative. Improvements in technology will gradually allow these automated systems to perform more advanced tasks.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for customer service representatives, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Customer service representatives

43-4051 2,784,500 2,920,500 5 136,000 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of customer service representatives.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Computer support specialists

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. These specialists either support computer networks or they provide technical assistance directly to computer users.

See How to Become One $52,160
Financial clerks

Financial Clerks

Financial clerks do administrative work for many types of organizations. They keep records, help customers, and carry out financial transactions.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,080
Information clerks

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers.

See How to Become One $32,920
Insurance sales agents

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

High school diploma or equivalent $49,990
Receptionists

Receptionists

Receptionists perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing general information about their organization to the public and customers.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,920
Retail sales workers

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments. There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.

No formal educational credential $22,900
Tellers

Tellers

Tellers are responsible for accurately processing routine transactions at a bank. These transactions include cashing checks, depositing money, and collecting loan payments.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,260
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.

See How to Become One $60,530
General office clerks

General Office Clerks

General office clerks perform a variety of clerical tasks, including answering telephones, typing documents, and filing records.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,580
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Customer Service Representatives,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm (visited November 24, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.