Skip to Main Content

Customer Service

Overview

Customer service is an intrinsic part of consumer businesses. Since the early days of trade, sellers of products have recognized the importance of satisfying customers’ needs to ensure repeat business and attract new customers. Providing service to customers covers every step of the customers’ journey, from product research to purchase decision and to post transaction. Customers base their opinions of companies on how they are treated by customer service representatives and also by the efficiency and effectiveness of the customer service process. If they are treated well and their needs are satisfied, they will give good reviews, tell others of their positive experience, and continue to purchase products from the company.

There is no one set time during which the customer service industry originated. Technological innovations and developments have helped the customer service industry to reach more people than ever before and to address their specific needs in a timely manner. Customer service has evolved and improved in synch with developments such as the telephone, customer service call centers, and computers and the Internet, leading to e-mail and live chat with customer service representatives. The growth of social media has also turned a brighter light onto companies’ customer service practices; many people now share their good or bad customer service experiences by posting their comments on social media and Web sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp, and/or directly on the companies’ websites.

Many companies outsource their customer service, meaning their customer service is handled by a third-party company. In many instances the customer service department may be based in a different country from the companies’ location. Statista reports that in 2017 (the most recent data available), the global size of the outsourced customer service market was estimated to be nearly $72 billion and was projected to increase to nearly $83 billion by 2020.

Customer service representatives work in many different industries, including retail, hospitality, financial institutions, insurance, health care, medical offices, legal services, and professional, scientific, and technical companies. In small companies, there may be a customer service manager who oversees several customer service representatives. Large companies may have teams of managers responsible for managing groups of customer service and account representatives, entire call centers, and/or global customer service offices. There are also customer service representatives who cover specific territories of the country, such as the New York tri-state area or Southwestern United States. Companies that sell technical products require specialized customer service representatives to help answer technical questions, such as computer set-up and operation issues, assembly of technological products, and other related matters.

Customer service representatives may work in large offices in call centers, in small business offices, or from their homes. They work part time or full time, and they often work in shifts during the day or in the evenings and during weekends and holidays. There are also customer service departments in stores in which representatives may work for long hours on their feet. The Department of Labor reports that there are nearly 2.9 million customer service representatives working in the United States.