Written by Ian Landsman on Jul 12, 2016 in

Should I Take a Customer Service Job?

You graduated. Congratulations!

You got laid off. That's the worst.

You’re looking for a change. We totally understand.

No matter why you’re here, you find yourself standing at a crossroads. There are two paths in front of you and one of them leads straight to a job in the field of customer service.

But you’re not sure whether or not to proceed.

If you’re asking yourself “Should I take a customer service job?” here are a few things to consider before you decide.

Your Day to Day

Customer service jobs vary widely between industries. For instance, retail work is a distinct form of customer service that requires face-to-face interactions, being on your feet and probably operating a point of sale system. Meanwhile, working for a software company may involve being on the phone, responding to emails or using online chat functions.

For most people the term “customer service” is synonymous with angry customers and problems. So let’s be real, there might be some of that. But talking to customers doesn't have to equate to being yelled at all day.

Customer service is often simply answering questions or providing assistance as part of the purchase or ongoing service process. Many interactions will involve more “How do I do X?” or “I have a question” issues than expletive-filled rages.

Naturally, this all depends on where you are considering a role. That’s where a little due diligence goes a long way. Employee reviews sites, and even existing online customer complaints for the company can give you a strong sense of what you’re walking into.

Do the research before making assumptions, though. If you take pleasure in helping people and resolving issues, or have any of these other prime customer service qualities there is an excellent chance you can derive a strong sense of personal satisfaction from working directly with customers to resolve problems and restore balance to the force. Well, at least balance to their relationship with your company.

Expectations

While it’s impossible to speak on the granular expectations of every employer, things like professionalism, punctuality, a positive attitude and a strong work ethic are typically required. In customer service, patience and tact are also of the utmost importance.

While a short fuse may be accepted on a skilled developer, it’s tolerated less from a client-facing technical support rep. Even if you did have to explain that the “Download” button is in the top right corner of the product page three times today.

Speaking of which, it’s also likely your company and your customers will expect detailed record keeping and proactive internal communications. Your customers know they may not talk to the same representative every time they call, but they probably expect that their previous interactions will be recorded. For them this means not starting at square one each time they call, for the company that means a seamless transition between staff whether an issue is advanced upward or handled laterally.

Internally facing, the fact that you had to explain to several customers how to download an upgrade, or make a purchase is useful information to help your business address what could be a much bigger user experience issue.

Here’s the thing; quality customer service is one of the major differentiators between competing companies. It can make the difference between a loyal, long term, customer base and costly attrition. In fact, 67% of consumers cite bad experiences as reason for churn. On the front lines you are the one with the ability to impact whether a customer experience is positive or negative. That is a lot of influence.

That also means, you are an invaluable asset to the company and a deep respect for the crucial nature of that function should be respected and appreciated reciprocally between the representative and the business.

Succeeding in a Customer Service Role

There are many people who excel at customer service, and are happy doing it. Being happy in this role, means that a genuine “thank you” from someone you helped will make you smile. If any part of you strives to be someone’s hero, or you are a born “fixer” then customer service can be your happy place. The better you get, the more you begin to challenge yourself to take the harder customers. To turn dissatisfaction into delight.

From an employer's perspective, if you are willing to exceed expectations, go above and beyond to “make things right” without exorbitant business expense or short changing a customer, then you, my friend, are magical and they will love you.

Being able to do that means putting in the time, learning the ropes, listening more than you talk and learning to read people and show empathy. Working in this field for any duration of time can help sharpen your ability to perceive mood and personality types allowing you to better anticipate people’s needs and reactions to various circumstances. That skill is game changing.

The capacities you’ll develop in customer service won’t just help you climb the corporate ladder though, they will often make you better at life. There are few jobs like customer service in that way. The soft skills you hone while you make a living, may actually help improve your personal relationships and your ability to get resolutions as a customer.

Career Growth Opportunities

Beyond the opportunities for personal growth, the road to and through customer service can lead to career advancement.

Some next step roles may include:

Management/Supervisory Roles

The logical progression for many customer facing professionals is to become a manager or supervisor of other representatives. This often means serving as a point of escalation and helping to train, retain and strengthen newer staff.

Product Development/Marketing Department

Experience in customer service may provide unique insights into the wants and needs of customers and what resonates with them. This perspective can often be parlayed into positions within marketing or new product development.

Sales Positions

Serving customers and closing leads have a lot in common from an interpersonal communication standpoint. Once you’ve mastered the skills needed to troubleshoot and assist clients you may have the opportunity to move into a position to focus on new customer acquisition as opposed to customer retention. This applies to a huge range of opportunities from inside sales to a transition into real estate or other forms of sales.

Administrative Support/Clerical

Working in customer service can prepare you to be the voice or face of a company. It can also build your organizational, communication and multitasking abilities. This development can ready you for other administrative roles, from managing an office to becoming an executive assistant.

In all of these career paths, whether it is a logical ascension from an entry level role or a foray into a brand new field, a successful background in serving customers can be a major asset now and for the duration of your professional life.

Entrepreneurship

A background in customer service is also an excellent foundation for entrepreneurs. Those with the will and ambition to launch their own companies can benefit from time spent working on the front lines. The ability to learn conflict resolution, negotiate and truly understand the nature of customer needs are all invaluable when it comes to the success of a new venture. In addition, customer service jobs provide direct exposure to user behaviors which can offer inspiration and essential experience for those with entrepreneurial aspirations.

Which Road Do You Choose?

A background serving customers on a resume proves an aptitude for social interactions which can be difficult to quantify. In some ways, think of customer service like New York City. “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

So, to answer your question ,should you or shouldn't you take the job? No one can answer that for you. But instead of asking about the position, try asking yourself who you are and where you want to go. For the right people, a start in customer service may be only the beginning of a long and rewarding journey.

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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