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Nearly all industries have some sort of customer service component to them, making a career in customer service an excellent choice in terms of the potential range of employers. While customer service representatives should possess good "soft skills," taking an online program in customer service to further hone those skills can help representatives learn how to handle customer inquiries in an even more clear,compassionate, and efficient way.
High school graduates and busy working adults or parents may find it easier to schedule educational responsibilities around family and life commitments by earning a degree online.
What do customer service representatives do?
Duties for customer service professionals vary by industry. For example, the tasks carried out by a mobile phone rep would be fairly different from those who work in a bank or insurance office.However, all of those employed in this field should possess good communication skills and a sincere desire to help both the customer and their company.
Customer service representatives may work with customers face to face, or by telephone, email or live chat. In general, their responsibilities include:
- Responding to customers' enquiries and concerns and providing solutions
- Handling any customer complaints or referring them to their supervisors as necessary
- Recording customer details and their interactions with the company
- Making changes or updating customer accounts as required
- Providing information about products and services
- Placing orders and processing payments
They may also work closely with their supervisors to help improve customer service procedures or systems in the company.
Prospective students who can adapt to an omni-channel approach using channels (like social media, email, voice, etc.) and are willing to change with the industry are more likely to succeed in this evolving field.
Is technology reducing the demand for customer service representatives?
Technology is transforming the role of a customer service representative but is not likely to replace it. The primary role of technology- such as artificial intelligence, (aka "AI"), chatbots and automated helplines — in the field of customer service is to free agents from repetitive tasks and empower them with the knowledge they need to improve customer service outcomes. The right balance of customer service and technology can free customer service agents to focus on more complex inquiries and transactions that are of higher value, possibly leading to higher revenue.
An article in the Harvard Business Review looks at parts of customer service that technology is not likely to replace. This includes a sympathetic understanding of customer emotions and their problems and ease of transaction. For example, in some cases, more technology often translates to more work for customers.
Potential occupations and career outlook
Here are some popular customer service occupations you may find in a variety of industries with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Real Estate Sales Agents||147,960||$59,630||6.2%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for many entry-level roles. Customer service representatives looking to move up the ranks may want to consider completing an online degree program in customer service management.
Note on specializations: Specializations may not always be available or necessary to complete a degree in the field. However, if you want to choose a particular career path, you may want to enroll in a program that offers a specialization in an area of interest that may be best suited for your future career.
Online Certificate Programs in Customer Service
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
A certificate program in customer service can prepare students for entry-level employment.
Typical duration: About 100 hours of study
General Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
- Computer skills for customer service
- Customer contact skills
- Personal effectiveness
- Time management
- Telephone etiquette
- Communication skills
- Document processing
- Conflict resolutions
What can I do after earning a certificate?
Potential careers with a certificate in customer service include:
- Customer service representative
- Information clerk
- Retail sales
Online Associate Degree Programs in Customer Service
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Associate degree programs typically blend business topics with the leadership and customer service skills needed to be successful in the field.
Typical duration: About two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: A specialized degree program would include subjects based on your chosen field. Some core course topics may include:
- Introduction to accounting
- Service operations management
- Principles of finance
- Software applications such as spreadsheets and databases
- Sales and service principles
- Interpersonal communication, management, business law, and marketing
Additionally, you may be required to complete a short internship as a part of your program a long with a final examination.
Possible electives: Small business management, retail management, information processing, entrepreneurship
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An associate degree in degree in customer service management can open up entry-level roles in larger enterprises or management-level roles in smaller ones. A few potential careers are:
- Retail manager
- Bank teller
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Customer Service
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Students seeking management-level opportunities may find that a bachelor's program can help them advance their careers — particularly in industries such as hospitality, finance, and insurance. Bachelor's degrees purely in customer service are rare but you may be able to choose a degree in another field with customer service as a concentration. For example, a bachelor's degree in retail management would have a customer-centric component with a focus on the retail industry.
Typical duration: About four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, associate degree
Typical coursework: While your online bachelor's degree program may have industry-specific topics, many online customer service-oriented degree programs would include the following core classes:
- Human resources management
- Systems management
- Marketing fundamentals
- Introduction to accounting
- Service operations management
- Principles of finance
Additionally, you may be required to complete an internship and/or a bachelor's thesis as a part of your program.
Possible electives: Environmental ethics, gender and communication, marketing management, event planning
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
Earning a degree in customer service can lead to many different opportunities in the customer service, hospitality management, and sales industries. A bachelor's degree is often the minimum barrier for entry-level jobs in industries like hospitality and healthcare. Some potential careers are:
- Hotel manager
- Gaming manager
- Restaurant manager
- Healthcare administrator
- Lodging manager
Online Master's and Doctoral Degree Programs in Customer Service
It is rare to find a master's level program that is purely focused on customer service. Prospective students who are interested in further study for management positions in this field may consider a master's degree in hospitality management or business administration with a focus on customer relationship management or services. Such programs generally include courses in customer service operations, analysis, or customer relationship management technologies.
A master's level program can lead to potential careers in research, public relations and higher managerial roles.
A doctoral program may open up higher-paying career opportunities in customer service, including those of educators.
Enrolling in — and graduating from — an accredited institution is important. Not only does it help make sure you receive an education that is on par with quality standards, credits earned from an accredited institute may be counted when you seek higher studies.
The accrediting bodies may vary according to specialization or program. Customer service degree programs under the umbrella of business might be accredited by business and management-related accrediting bodies. Online customer service degree programs related to hospitality administration might be accredited by the Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration.
Here are a few examples of professional bodies offering industry-specific accreditation:
- Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Accreditation Commission for Programs In Hospitality Administration
Professional Certifications and Licensure
Certifications show an overall competency in the discipline of customer service to future employers and can set you apart to your future employers. The following are a few of the institutes that offer certifications for professionals in customer service:
- Certified Customer Service Professional (CCSP)
- International Customer Service Association (ICSA)
- Customer Service Institute of America
Depending on the industry in which they work, some customer service representatives may be required to have a license. For example, holding a license may be needed by those who provide information on finance and insurance products. Licensing requirements vary by state, so check the local regulations for your particular industry.
Top-paying industries, states and metropolitan areas
Customer Service Representatives
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
Scholarships and financial aid programs
As the field of customer service encompasses a broad range of industries, we have included some industry-specific scholarships in the list below:
- San Francisco Insurance Professionals (SFIP) Scholarship
- Eula Mae Jett Scholarship Plan
- Ron Garikes Scholarship
Other resources for aspiring customer service representatives
- National Customer Service Association
- Customer Service Institute of America
- North American Customer Service Management Association
- International Customer Service Association
- Customer Service Manager