Looking to do something other than flipping burgers or working retail? Well, the holidays are approaching, and that means companies are hiring scores of customer service representatives (CSRs) to get through what is often the busiest season.
If you’ve ever wanted a corporate job, now’s your chance — no formal experience necessary.
Working in an entry-level CSR position, people of all ages can try a different type of job. And it’s a way to get your foot in the door in the corporate world. These seasonal postings can often be a gateway to a permanent gig — one with potential to turn into a rewarding career path.
Seeking advice for beginners, we spoke with Scott Burroughs, a senior account executive, and Megan Ward, an account recruiting manager, who both work for Aerotek in Portland, Oregon. Their team places more customer service reps with companies than anyone else in the state of Oregon.
Their message: In this job, you can succeed with nothing more than a willingness to work and a positive attitude.
“This is an industry where you don’t need to have any experience, and it’s one where you can grow without adding a lot of additional skills and schooling,” Burroughs said. “You can just do it through hard work.”
What kind of customer service jobs become available during the holiday season?
“Businesses are ramping up their customer support for the holidays,” Ward said. “We have opportunities for customer service agents to answer incoming phone calls, helping with customer orders and questions. Then we have customer service positions helping with email and chat support.”
“We bring in some people who maybe aren’t the best on the phone, but they can definitely speak over the chat line,” Burroughs said. “If somebody has a hard time talking over the phone, this is a great way for them to still help people,” Ward added.
What skills are employers looking for in CSRs?
It varies by client. Most positions require a high school diploma or GED, and preferably some sort of work experience — even an internship or volunteer work can suffice. Most employers conduct some baseline computer testing to make sure you can type and navigate a basic computer.
“You also have to have a willingness to learn,” Ward said. Most call centers do their own training, so you’ll be taking in a lot of information within the first month. “You just have to be a student of the job and absorb everything that you’re being taught.”
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to turn this seasonal opportunity into a long-term career?
“You have to be there and be on time,” Ward said. “Show up, day one, on time. Life happens, things happen, but you have to do your best to be there every single day, on time and ready to go.”
Seriously, she can’t stress it enough: “Attendance issues are the biggest reason why people are let go.”
She added a few more tips: “Have a positive attitude. Be a student — learn and develop and take feedback. That’s how you’ll be successful and ultimately considered for a full-time position.”
Can customer service be a stepping-stone to a new career?
“It’s a good window into what the corporate world is like,” Ward said. “It’s that first entry-level position to get your foot in the door with a company, and almost every type of company has a customer service department.”
You learn new computer systems and phone communication skills, and customer service can be a launchpad to other opportunities. When employers are looking to hire, they often do so internally from their customer service team because those employees already have a solid understanding of what the company does.
“We have these seasonal positions, and companies select the top performers to become full-time CSRs, or to work in other areas of the corporate environment,” Ward said.
Even staying in customer service, you could advance into leadership, or possibly training or billing support.
How much do customer service representatives make?
Pay has shot up as the labor market has tightened and it’s gotten harder for companies to find employees.
“I’ve been in this business for 21 years, and this is the tightest labor market I’ve seen in a long time,” Burroughs said.
In the Oregon market, Burroughs and Ward saw wages starting at $12 or $13 an hour. Now they’ve risen to$15 or $16. “It’s trending in the right direction,” Burroughs said.
While many corporations are outsourcing their customer service calls overseas, they prefer longer, more involved discussions to be handled on-shore, where nuances in language are more likely to be understood.
Are there any other reasons to consider working in customer service?
The jobs can enhance your people skills and your problem-solving abilities, Ward said.
“These are skills that you could use in any other job,” Ward said.
Check out our openings in customer service, and apply today.