Customer Service Salary Survey

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Name: Heather Johnson
Job Title: Customer Service
Where: Rocklin, CA (Soon to be Wasilla, Alaska)
Employer: Sportsman's Warehouse
Years of Experience: 4 months
Education: Masters Degree in Kinesiology, California State University
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the results of our customer service salary survey

Customer Service Salary Survey

Are you the helpful type with a friendly personality? Do you have a definition of customer service or feel strongly about providing customers with the best service? If so, you may want to check out a customer service job. In this Salary Story, Heather Johnson told us about her customer service representative job description, her own definition of customer service and the outlook for customer service jobs.

There are many definitions of customer service and ideas about how to create customer satisfaction. But all customer service representatives have to practice patience, problem-solving, and treating customers with respect. If you're a match for becoming a customer service representative and want to know more about the typical customer service job or salary, then keep reading - the info in this interview is a real bargain!

Customer Service Representative Job Description:

I handle all customer returns and exchanges of merchandise, putting merchandise on layaway, and the selling of hunting and fishing licenses in a large retail outdoor sporting goods store. This company specializes in hunting, fishing, and camping, but also has footwear, clothing, and gift departments.

How did you get your customer service representative job?

I started out as a part-time cashier when the new store was first hiring. A few days into store set, I was promoted to customer service for having an outgoing and friendly personality. After three months, I took another job working at home, but my husband remained with the company. Six months later, my husband and I were both offered management positions for the new store in Alaska.

This would be considered unusual because they usually like to hire within the company and I was no longer with the company at this point. But I had worked with the man who was to be the new store manager and he asked me to be the Office Manager at the same time that he was offering a position to my husband.

Now I am in training for Office Manager, Assistant to the Store Manager, Head of the Customer Service and Front End Departments for the Sportsman's Warehouse opening in Wasilla, Alaska this fall.

Can you recall any memorable moments during your customer service representative job?

There was an older gentleman who brought out pictures of his daughter and we discovered how many similarities his daughter and I had. It was almost uncanny!

Some customers get very testy that they can't return ammunition. They weren't careful when purchasing the ammunition (to get the right kind) and then won't accept my explanations as to why it's unsafe for stores to take returns of ammunition.

One gentleman wanted to return a pair of shoes he had bought using one of our coupons. In that case, we return the coupon as well as the item so that he gets back what he paid for and we give him a new coupon to use later so he wouldn't waste it. He kept insisting I was shortchanging him and not giving him back enough money.

I finally pulled the Store Manager into it, who also got confused until he pointed out to the customer that he had bought several other items as well and was only returning one. The gentleman gracefully acknowledged that he had made a mistake, but got out of there fast; I still felt bad about the whole thing.

Any advice for those seeking a customer service representative job?

If you want to advance, be prepared to work hard all the time while on the clock. That's what gets recognized; the ones who don't have to be told to do something, don't need constant reminders to get back to work. Having an outgoing and friendly personality helps too, especially in the face of difficult customers. And even when you don't think you're ever going to be promoted, sometimes it can happen really fast when you're not expecting it, so always behave like the manager is watching you!

What is the employment outlook for customer service jobs?

Retail companies are growing very fast these days, so promotions happen much more quickly. When new stores within a company open, they usually want to hire people already within the company. Sportsman's Warehouse is one such company that plans to open many new stores in different states over the next few years and people often get promoted to management after working only a few months.

Also, the turnover rate amongst employees is high. Not everyone is cut out for customer service. You have to very polite and be able to make the customer happy, even if you feel like tearing his arm off and beating him over the head with it.

You also have to be willing to be constantly work when you're there. Customer service has its periods of insanity as well, such as after-holiday returns and the hunting and fishing seasons. If you're tenacious and a hard worker, it should stand out and pay off as the ones who can't hack it, or don't like it, drop out.

What factors can affect a customer service salary?

Where the store opens is likely to affect salaries. My offered starting salary was lower for Alaska than what it would have been for a store in California because the cost of living is less expensive there.

It seems to me that bigger companies are more worried about their bottom lines and always have a larger supply of people willing to work for them, which keeps the salaries for those companies low. But bigger companies can usually offer more and better benefits than smaller ones.

How does your salary compare to a customer service salary?  The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.

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