More than just a rep—the modern customer service job
Last updated September 21, 2021
Today’s companies understand how customer service plays a critical role in their efforts to be “customer-centric”—it’s why many of them invest heavily in the various functions of customer support. By adding an element of customer-centricity to different facets of a business, these companies are changing what a customer service job can be.
Modern customer service jobs go far beyond the old responsibilities of customer service representatives; in fact, even those front line roles are far more engaging and dynamic than they once were. In the era of the customer, the customer service job has evolved beyond its tired clichés and become a full-fledged (and promising) career.
What is a modern customer service job?
The basic definition of a job in customer service is “a role that supports a customer’s issue with a company’s product or service.” In the past, the role of a customer service representative involved routine formulaic processes and an insistence towards “sticking to the script”. It wasn’t exactly a role that was known for its flexibility.
But with today’s products and services being more inherently complex and geared towards customer convenience, there are a variety of technical details that require customer service representatives to be willingly savvy and capable of dynamic tasks. That may include quickly collaborating across departments, researching the technology that powers their products, and finding solutions that neither the business nor the customer were prepared for. A customer’s issue may go beyond the ability of front line support, calling for a level of expertise that requires specialization in proprietary systems and software development.
“We’re in this new economy where your experience and interaction with the business can be more important than the actual product or service that the company offers,” says Erin Hampe, Senior Manager for Customer Advocacy at Zendesk. “We’re fighting against a pretty long-standing reputation that customer service is a dead-end job, that you’re stuck in cubicles, wearing headsets, following call scripts. It’s so much more than that—as products get better and smarter, the conversations, and the support agents, become more important because the issues are growing more complex and customers have higher expectations.”
What makes customer service jobs more modern?
More channels for customer outreach: While email and phone channels are always viable channels for support outreach, customers are growing increasingly comfortable with newer methods to resolve their issues. Businesses now have to accommodate customer who choose live chat, social media, community forums, text messaging, and in-app messaging as their preference for customer service. It tasks customer service representatives to knows the best ways to engage and resolve issues via these channels, and challenges administrators to offer efficient omnichannel support.
More tools and features to play with: Customer service representatives have more tools than ever before for enhancing both the agent experience and the customer experience. They can utilize AI assistants that automatically provide better context into customer issues, and they can take advantage of external applications to speed up their workflows. These tools and features allow businesses to customize their approach to customer service—when their connected to a support platform, agent experiences can be really tailored to business processes that further personalize customer experiences.
More measurement and analytics: Like most jobs that are becoming more digital, customer service has lots of important metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and analyze. Those interested in data science can easily develop a career in support that specializes in the various interactions between a business and its customers. Customer analytics brings a crucial amount context to the success and shortcomings of a business—to build strategies from loads of digital data is a true marker of a modernized profession.
Examples of customer service jobs
Below are some examples and descriptions of the types of customer service jobs that exist in modern companies; that is, businesses that invest in providing optimal customer experiences.
The front lines
Front line support is the first level of defense in customer service. Agents in these positions need to know the channels that their customers engage with: email, chat, phone, community forums, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Covering these channels enables the front lines to resolve a majority of customer inquiries; for example, Zendesk’s front line advocates solve a whopping 80% of inbound support requests.
The front lines are where titles like “customer service representative” live—it’s truly one of the best opportunities to become acquainted with everything that makes a real impact on the customer experience. These agents have the most frequent and intimate relationships with customers, giving them a fuller understanding of the details surrounding how their products are used, the expectations being set by sales and marketing, and the business as a whole. They also get detailed experience into specific use cases, feedback, and educational opportunities. The information sourced by the front lines is invaluable to a company, and having constant access to it can really accelerate one’s career.
Being a product specialist in customer support involves a combination of both technical savviness and empathy. Not only do specialists need to be product experts and prepared to handle anything escalated from the front lines, but they also must be well-attuned to the impact they’ll have on the customer experience. Their roles often involve more critical situations for customers, hence why it’s often higher paying.
Specialists are often knowledgeable in the technical aspects support platforms, CRM systems, and/or data tools—each may or may not require some level of developer experience or certification. It isn’t uncommon for front line agents to recognize an area they’d like to specialize in and learn how to become a product specialists in that area (it’s also common for a company to pay for that agent’s certification training, since it’s ultimately to their benefit).
Support architects deal with issues that are incredibly complex, so much so that they can’t follow standard service level agreements (SLAs) because it’s unclear how the issue will take to fix. Not only do support architects need to love a good challenge (they’re probably great at escape rooms), they need to know the highly technical components that power their products and the external tools that may or may not resolve their issues. They might even need to research and choose the external tools they’ll need, meaning they’ve got a big budget for their big responsibilities.
A support architect position generally can’t be a remote job or capable of being outsourced, since they have to know the ins and outs of how the business functions. They’re also very engineering-focused—many of the decisions they make immediately shape their business’s customer service, and therefore a major part of the customer experience.
More opportunities for modern jobs in customer service include:
- Onboarding (i.e. customer success): introducing new clients to your product(s) or service(s)
- Self-service support management: managing community forums and help guide content that enable customers to solve issues on their own (without interacting with customer service representatives)
- “White glove” support: dedicated support for specific clients with an emphasis on specialization and the relationship (often established during the sales process)
- Training and QA: Create training materials to be used for onboarding and other parts of customer service