Customer Service Career Path: Personality, Jobs, and Salary

Customer Service Career Path

Take a moment and recall a time when you were the client in a customer service call. Was the representative on the other end courteous? Did they listen actively and know the details about the product or service at issue? And most important, was your issue resolved? If you’re considering a customer service career path, it’s a good idea to understand the qualifications needed to succeed in this sometimes challenging job.

To be sure, being a so-called “people person” is a great attribute to have if you’re exploring customer service jobs. But being “good with people” is a fairly generic description. To seriously embark on a customer service career path, there are a few specifics to consider in weighing whether the profession is a good fit for you.

While many customer service interactions can be pleasant, customer service professionals can also encounter more potentially contentious scenarios that require a cool head and, let’s face it, thick skin. In assessing whether you want to be a customer service representative, knowing your threshold for dealing with people who may be upset or dissatisfied with a product or service is fundamental.

A customer career path can be a fantastic way to work from home and enjoy a steady income and better work-life integration. If you’re just beginning your career in customer service, take inspiration from these uplifting testimonials from FlexJobs members who found great jobs in customer service.

Personality Characteristics for Customer Service Jobs

Emotional intelligence can play a huge part in determining whether you’re cut out to be a customer service professional. A high EQ (emotional intelligence) capability is a reliable predictor of success. People with high emotional intelligence often stay calm under pressure and are good at conflict resolution. The good news about EQ (as compared to IQ) is that you can control and develop your emotional responses to situations in a customer care setting.

More specifically, there are a bunch of other personality qualities that can define a high-performing customer service professional. Here are a few:

  • Communicative. The ability to interact on a case-by-case basis and articulate thoughtfully is the basis of fruitful communication in a customer service setting.
  • Empathic. Empathy can be a byproduct of good communication, and can make the customer feel that their issues are truly being heard.
  • Patient. Customer service representatives often work under specific time constraints, but the more you can exercise patience to work through each interaction, the better for both parties.
  • Active Listener. Active listening skills require being “in the moment” and truly listening to (or reading about, in email interactions) a customer’s issues and concerns.
  • Detailed. Since customer service often involves correcting mistakes and making things right, an ability to sweat the details is key.
  • Problem Solver. Thinking proactively, and often creatively, can make clients feel you’re on their side in helping them reach a happy resolution.
  • Upbeat. It can be easy to feel discouraged, especially after any encounters that test your mettle; try to hit the refresh button and maintain a positive attitude going into each interaction.
  • Adaptable. If you have a facility for staying open to changing circumstances and can find ways to adapt your skills to the task at hand, you may be a good fit for a customer service career.

Gaining a Foothold on the Customer Service Career Path

Many customer service jobs require only a high school diploma or the equivalent. Once you’re hired, most companies will provide some on-the-job training to bring you onboard with the company’s procedures and policies. You’ll also be expected to have some computer skills—basic for entry-level positions and more advanced as you move up the ladder.

If you’re hired to work in a call center, you’ll likely be provided with the workspace and equipment needed to do the job. For many remote customer service workers, employers will require specific equipment that you must supply yourself. Depending on the job, remote equipment requirements might include a quiet home office or workspace; a newer, up-to-date computer; reliable high-speed Internet; and noise-canceling headphones.

Career Levels for Customer Service Professionals

Common customer service career paths often follow a route that begins at the entry level and can advance to supervisory roles at the manager or senior manager level.

Customer Service Representative. Entry-level customer service jobs are available across virtually all industries, and can include positions in healthcare, technology, retail, and financial services (i.e., debt collection).

Customer Support Manager. Mid- and senior-level customer service professionals often oversee a staff of “direct reports.” The role may include coaching and training, and in some cases a college degree may be preferable to qualify.

Technical Support Specialist. The specialized role of technical support professional will typically require IT-related knowledge in order to help customers troubleshoot and resolve issues.

Customer Service Salary

According to PayScale, the average hourly pay for customer service representatives is $15.19, which amounts to about $32,000 a year. However, pay can increase in some cases due to commissions and other sources. For those who receive them (and that can vary from employer to employer), the average annual bonus is $1,631; the average annual commission is $6,500; and average profit sharing earnings are $1,179.

Types of Customer Service Jobs

If you’re on a customer service career path, you’ll be happy to hear that just about all companies hire for customer service jobs to some degree, from receptionist jobs answering phone calls, to technical jobs that require a high degree of technological knowledge. The biggest market segments for customer service jobs, according to federal figures, are:

  • Retail
  • Insurance
  • Business support
  • Wholesale trade
  • Professional, scientific, and technical

The FlexJobs database offers two primary categories for jobs in the customer service sector. If you’re just beginning to explorer a customer service career, it’s helpful to have some general job titles to help narrow your search. The job titles below offer work flexility, including remote, part-time, and alternative schedule options:

Customer Service Jobs

Some recent job titles in this category include customer service representative; field call specialist; technical support representative; customer solutions manager; sales and service consultant; account services representative; and manager, customer experience.

Call Center Jobs

This category includes inbound call jobs (taking incoming calls from customers either online or via an internal calling system) and outbound call jobs (generating outgoing customer calls on behalf of clients or businesses).

A few recent job titles in the call center category include call center representative; bilingual call center associate; sales and service associate; outreach specialist; foreign language interpreters; client care representative; and benefits associate.

Growing Your Customer Service Career

Those on a customer service career path should know that the job outlook is solid overall, with a projected growth of 5% over a 10-year period ending in 2026, federal figures show. By comparison, jobs at call centers have a significantly higher projected growth—a 36% increase for the same 10-year period.

Experience and a successful track record are primary requirements for advancement in a customer service career path. Once you’ve proven your value as a first point of contact for customers, you’ll have the foundation to build a successful career in customer service.


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