What Does a Customer Service Representative Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Customer service representatives play a key role in company success by directly helping customers. Find out if a customer service job is right for you.

[Featured image] A customer service representative in a blue and white striped shirt speaks with a customer on her laptop.

Customer service representatives work directly with customers to provide assistance, resolve complaints, answer questions, and process orders. If you enjoy helping people, a job as a customer service representative could be a good fit. In this role, you'll find career opportunities in almost every industry, ranging from brick-and-mortar retail stores to call centers to your own living room. 

Learn more about what customer service representatives do on a daily basis and how you can become one.

What does a customer service representative do?

As a customer service representative, your main job is to serve customers. Customer service reps work for most businesses that engage with customers, including retail stores, banks, and insurance companies. Their primary tasks may include greeting and communicating with customers in person, by phone, or by computer via chat or email. Specific duties will vary depending on the company and industry where you work, but they may include:

  • Answering customer questions about the company, products, or services

  • Resolving customer complaints

  • Directing customers to the right department or supervisor 

  • Taking orders or processing payments 

  • Making changes to customers' accounts

  • Handling returns and exchanges

  • Addressing billing concerns

  • Keeping records of customer interactions

  • Selling products and services

Where do customer service representatives work? 

Customer service representatives work in a variety of environments and across many industries. They may communicate with customers in person or via phone, chat programs, or email. The Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS) projects that there will be approximately 84,100 customer service representative jobs in financial institutions alone throughout the country by 2031, representing 67,900 existing jobs in 2021 and projected growth of 16,200 more job openings through 2031 [1]. Overall, the Canadian customer relationship management market was valued at $3.47 billion in 2022 [2].

One role within customer service that is expected to grow is a computer support specialist. Job Bank Canada reports a moderate to good job outlook for technical support analysts over the next three years [3]. Working in information technology (IT) support can lead to more job opportunities and higher pay. Retail customer service representatives across all industries make a median $20 hourly wage in Canada, while technical support specialists make a median wage of $29.08 per hour [4, 5]—nearly a $10 per hour increase.

9 tips for getting a job as a customer service representative

If you're ready to start exploring your career as a customer service rep, these tips can help you build the experience and education you need.

1. Develop your workplace skills.

Workplace skills are crucial to being an effective customer service representative. You’ll often be tasked with interacting with customers with a positive attitude and empathy to resolve their problems. Stay calm and diplomatic under pressure, and you’ll be better able to deal with difficult or stressed customers. Other important traits for customer service representatives include flexibility, an eye for detail, and the ability to learn and remember quickly.

2. Build your computer skills.

Customer service representatives can spend long hours at a computer. You'll likely need typing and data entry skills and familiarity with programs like Microsoft Word and Excel. 

Take courses through a local college or vocational school, or learn at your own pace with an online course. Here are some options to get you started:

3. Consider certification.  

Certification isn't necessary for many customer service jobs, but it may be required for some advanced positions. Earning an industry certification can also validate your skills to recruiters and hiring managers. Some common certifications in customer service include: 

  • Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP

  • Certified Client Service Specialist (CCSS)

  • Certified Client Service Professional (CCSP

4. Train for a particular industry.  

Many positions offer on-the-job training for new hires, which can entail working alongside a senior employee. Certain industries may require more intensive training. You may even encounter specific rules, depending on factors like the state or industry you work in. This is often the case in finance and insurance customer service careers. 

5. Take a communication course.

Communication is often a crucial aspect of the work. You can improve your written and verbal skills with courses like Improve Your English Communication Skills offered by Georgia Tech. 

6. Gain some customer service experience. 

Employers may like to see that you have experience working with people. Consider gaining some experience with other positions that entail working with the public. This could include working as a cashier, server, or sales associate in a store. Volunteering with your community can also bring you valuable customer service experience.

7. Learn a second language.

Being bilingual can be helpful in speaking with customers who may not speak English as their first language. Learning a second language can help your application stand out above the others. French is the most in-demand second language in Canada, while Mandarin and Punjabi are also common.

8. Finish your education.

A post-secondary degree isn't required for most customer service jobs. However, many employers may want you to have a secondary degree. Some more specialized positions may require a college diploma. Consider joining volunteer clubs or other activities that will allow you to gain customer service experience.

9. Practice for your interview. 

When you're ready to apply for a job, make sure you're prepared for the interview by reviewing questions you might encounter in an interview. These might include:

  • Describe a time when you successfully solved a problem for someone. 

  • How would you handle an upset customer? 

  • What would you do if you didn't know the answer to a customer's question?

  • Describe a situation where you had to remain calm during a chaotic situation. 

  • What would you do if you had to work with someone you didn't like?  

Next steps

Build essential skills to excel in a customer service role with a Professional Certificate from CVS on Coursera. Whether you're looking for a career in retail or remote customer service, learn at your own pace from industry experts while earning a credential for your resume.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Government of Canada COPS. "Customer services representatives - financial institutions (6551), https://occupations.esdc.gc.ca/sppc-cops/.4cc.5p.1t.3.4ns.5mm.1ryd.2t.1.3l@-eng.jsp?tid=191." Accessed March 7, 2024.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.