Customer Service Representatives


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma is required for most customer service representative positions. High school courses that emphasize communication, such as English and speech, will help you learn to communicate clearly. Any courses that require collaboration with others will also help to teach diplomacy and tact—two important aspects of customer service. Business courses will help you get a good overview of the business world, one that is dependent on customers and customer service. Computer skills are also very important.

Postsecondary Training

While a college degree is not necessary to become a customer service representative, certain areas of postsecondary training are helpful. Courses in business and organizational leadership will help to give you a better feel for the business world. Just as in high school, communication classes are helpful in learning to effectively talk with and meet the needs of other people.

These courses can be taken during a college curriculum or may be offered at a variety of customer service workshops or classes. A small number of colleges and universities offer degrees in customer service management or customer service. Bachelor's degrees in business and communications are increasingly required for managerial positions.

Customer service representatives are usually trained while on the job. More senior-level and management positions in customer service require a minimum of several years of related work experience. On-the-job training may last two to four weeks or take two to three months. Customer service representatives are trained in the company's products and services, code of practice, customers' frequently asked questions, and computer and telephone systems that are used in the job. The training may be in a classroom and/or through shadowing another customer service representative.

Other Education or Training

The Association of Support Professionals, Customer Care Institute, HDI, National Customer Service Association, SOCAP International, and other associations at the national, state, and local levels offer webinars, in-person classes, and other learning opportunities that help customer service professionals keep their skills up to date. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Customer Service Association offers the certified customer service professional credential to those who have worked in the field for at least two years, have completed an educational program, and passed an examination (that covers the following topical areas: Foundations of Service, Human Dynamics, Customer Interaction, Employer Development). The International Customer Service Association, HDI, and the Customer Service Institute of America also offer certification. Certification may be required if customer service representatives work in financial services or the insurance industry. Most industries, however, don't require certification, but becoming certified can give customer service representatives an advantage in the job market. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No experience is needed to work as a customer service representative, but those with prior work experience in customer service positions will increase their chances of landing a job, getting promoted, and possibly earning higher pay.

Companies seek customer service representatives with strong communication skills who are able to interact with customers by telephone, e-mail, and live chat. Individuals with good people skills, patience, diplomacy, and problem-solving abilities do well in this field.

A successful customer service representative will most likely have an outgoing personality and enjoy working with people and assisting them with their questions and problems. Because many customer service representatives work in offices and on the telephone, people with physical disabilities may find this career to be both accessible and enjoyable.