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What Customer Service Representatives Do

Customer service representatives interact with customers on behalf of an organization. They provide information about the organization’s products and services and respond to customer complaints. Some also take orders and process returns.


Customer service representatives typically do the following:

Customer service representatives answer questions and resolve problems. When the customer has an account with the company, a representative will usually open the customer’s file in the company’s computer system. Representatives use this information to solve problems and may make changes to customer accounts, such as to update an address on file or cancel an order.

They also have access to responses for the most commonly asked questions and to specific guidelines for dealing with requests or complaints. In the event that the representative does not know the answer to a question or is unable to solve a specific problem, a supervisor or other experienced worker may help.

Many customer service representatives answer incoming calls in telephone call centers, which are increasingly called customer contact centers. Others interact with customers face to face or by email, live chat, or other methods.

Some workers specialize in a particular mode of communication, such as voice, email, or chat, but others communicate with customers through more than one contact channel. For example, voice agents, who primarily deal with customers over the phone, may respond to email questions when there is downtime between calls.

Customer service representatives work in almost every industry, and their job tasks can vary depending on where they work. For instance, representatives who work in banks may answer customers’ questions about their accounts, whereas representatives who work for utility and communication companies may help customers with service problems, such as outages. Representatives who work in retail stores often handle returns and help customers find items in their stores. Some representatives may help to generate sales leads, sometimes making outbound calls in addition to answering inbound ones, although selling is not their main job.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition