The customer service industry consists of in-house customer service departments in large and small companies. It also includes outsourced customer service organizations that companies retain to provide customer service and other types of business functions, such as sales and marketing. Many companies have a traditional organizational structure with senior managers at the top overseeing supervisors and other middle managers and customer service representatives and associates at the bottom of the hierarchy.
In small companies customer service representatives may handle various tasks, from fielding customers’ general questions to making phone calls to collecting payments. In large companies, customer service jobs may be more specialized, dedicated to just one or two of these functions. Some examples of the different types of customer service roles include: customer service engineer or desktop support technician, who handles problems with technical products such as computer systems; front-desk agent, a physical role in which the agent sits at the front desk of the business and is the first, in-person, point of contact for customers and guests; customer service specialist, who has experience in certain products or services and has a track record in successfully helping customers.
Customers base their impressions of companies and products on they way they are treated by customer service, the efficiency of the customer service process, and the successful resolution of their problems and complaints. Various industries have customer service representatives on site to interact with customers in person as well as by telephone and online via e-mail and live chat. Customer service representatives may work in large offices with many other employees, and the work environment may be loud and distracting. They usually work at computer stations and wear headsets. Customer service representatives may also work remotely from other locations; in some cases, they may work from home.
Customer service employees are typically trained while on the job, and training may last from two to four weeks or longer, depending on the industry. Customer service representatives who work in finance or insurance, for example, receive training that can last up to several months because of the need to understand complex financial and insurance regulations, services, and products. Finance and insurance customer service employees may be required to pass a state licensing exam, depending upon the state in which they work. The general customer service training covers how to use the telephone and computer, as well as the company’s procedures for fielding questions and sharing information about its services and products. Customer service representatives report to customer service supervisors, who, in large companies, may report to department managers.
Customer service work can be stressful at times due to long hours working on computers and on the telephone. It can also be challenging for customer service employees who must deal with disgruntled or irate customers. Customer service jobs requires clear communication skills in writing, speaking, and in person, as well as strong computer knowledge, patience, good listening and problem-solving skills, and professionalism and diplomacy.
According to IBISWorld, the customer care centers industry was expected to generate upwards of $12 billion in revenue in 2019, with a total of 2,862 businesses and nearly 270,000 employees in the United States. From 2014 to 2019, the industry grew by nearly 6 percent. Customer call centers handle inbound call services that include customer service, assistance, and advice, and technical support in relation to products and services. The companies with the largest market share in the U.S. customer care centers industry include Alorica Inc., Concentrix, Sykes Enterprises Inc., and Teleperformance.
Customer care centers include customer care and management services, inbound customer complaints, inbound technical support, cross-selling, up-selling and service renewals, outbound debt, collections and payment inquiries, and other services, as described in the IBISWorld report. As the U.S. economy strengthens, consumers have more expendable income and are spending more money on discretionary items and durable goods. To meet increased consumer demand for various products and services, companies are investing in customer management and customer call center solutions.