The Customer Service Industry: Careers, Skills and Job Outlook
Customer Service is a very important part of many companies and businesses.Any company that sells a product or provides a service - and that therefore relies upon its customers to keep its business going - needs to have an efficient and professional customer service department or function.
Customer service workers’ principal tasks are to answer customers’ questions and provide them with support in the event of problems or difficulties. Their ultimate aim is to ensure that a company’s customers have the best possible customer experience.
There are a wide variety of roles in the Customer Service sector, including call center operator, customer relations agent, switchboard operator, information desk assistant, host/hostess (e.g. the person who welcomes guests upon arrival in a restaurant, bar or club) and help desk technician. The aim of each of these roles is to ensure that customers have a positive experience and, by so doing, to increase customer loyalty.
To fill their Customer Service vacancies, companies look for professional and courteous candidates who are always ready and willing to assist customers with any issues or problems they might be experiencing.
Working hours in the customer service sector are often flexible. For example, workers may be required to work daily and/or weekly shifts, including evenings and weekends, to ensure that customer assistance is available seven days a week.
Depending on their role and the type of company, some customer service workers may work remotely or from home. This may be the case, for example, for operators who provide customer assistance or technical support by telephone, email or chat.
Other customer service personnel, such as those working in shops, hotels, hospitals and offices, interact directly with customers or clients and deal face-to-face with requests for assistance.
What types of businesses operate in the Customer Service industry?
There are job openings for Customer Services workers in practically all sectors.
The principal recruiters in the sector include shops, shopping centres and retail chains, e-commerce businesses, banks and insurance companies, credit card issuers and payment processors, telephone service providers, shipping and logistics companies, companies supplying utilities such as water, electricity and gas, and software application providers.
There are also companies that specialize in providing customer support services to large companies on an outsourced basis. These include call centers, in which inbound operators assist customers calling on freephone numbers.
These are not the only job opportunities available for those looking for work in the Customer Service sector, however. In the tourism, hospitality and events sectors, customer assistance personnel are needed to work in hotels, resorts, theme parks, trade fairs, as well as events of various types.
Finally, almost all healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, surgeries and nursing homes, have some kind of patient reception or front desk that essentially provides a form of customer service.
Companies hiring in the Customer Service industry:
Customer Service Industry - Trends and Job Outlook
Pursuing a career in Customer Services makes good sense at the current time, with job numbers in the sector set to grow over the next few years in contact centres and help desks.
By now there is a widespread awareness among companies and businesses that a high level of customer service can have a very strong positive impact on consumer experience and play a decisive role in turning an occasional customer into a loyal one.
Customer service can also enhance brand awareness and reduce the risk of negative reviews and feedback - which are often due to a level of customer service that is below expectations. Essentially, being a successful company is not just about having a good product, but is also a question of providing strong customer service.
Customers expect to receive support before, during and after a purchase and need efficient, reliable assistance from support staff capable of providing satisfactory answers and solutions to whatever problem or issue they may be experiencing - e.g. a return and exchange, a defective product, delay in delivery or some other issue.
Companies therefore aim to recruit customer service workers capable of ensuring that customers’ needs are met quickly and professionally.
What skills are required in the Customer Service industry?
In many cases, those starting out in the Customer Service sector are not required to have a high level of education and training; the only essential characteristic is a passion for helping others.
In addition, whether their work involves direct face-to-face contact with customers or providing assistance by telephone, email or chat, Customer Service employees also need a number of other soft skills, including:
Listening and communication skills
Working in any kind of customer service role requires an ability to communicate clearly and a talent for anticipating customers’ needs and issues. It also means being able to listen carefully to customers’ requests for assistance in order to understand exactly what customers need and how best to help them.
Empathy and positivity
Customer care workers need an ability to put themselves in the customer’s shoes in order to understand what they need and how to resolve the issues or problems they may be experiencing. Empathy enhances customer service, making it more effective and giving it a personal touch and - combined with an ability to remain positive in the face of difficulties - enables customer service workers to deal with even the most challenging situations: for example, responding calmly to an angry and unsatisfied customer shouting down the telephone.
A passion for helping others and an ability to listen are all well and good, but they are useless if a customer service worker is not able to answer questions effectively or deal with problems because of a lack of technical knowledge. In order to understand customers’ problems and work out how to resolve them, it is therefore essential for customer service workers and (especially) help desk technicians to be familiar with the characteristics and functions of the products and services provided by the company they work for.