Customer service typically has low entry requirements, and for that reason it can be appealing to high school graduates or people who have been out of the workforce for a while. A personable phone manner, basic office skills and a willingness to learn may be all you need to get a foot in the door. But candidates aiming to improve their chances (and advance in the industry over the long haul) might want to expand their skills to include some of the following.
1. Brush up on Microsoft Office. This one's a given, but it's worth mentioning since almost all job listings for customer service agents say that proficiency in MS Office is either desirable or required. So before you hit your next round of job interviews it might be a good idea to make sure you know the ins and outs of Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
2. Get hip to social networking. Most people hop on Facebook and Twitter for fun, but in-depth knowledge of these and other social networking sites is often important in the business world, too. Social networking is also becoming an increasingly important customer service tools, as several industry-watchers have pointed out. Customer1 and Forrester Research are among the research firms that predict that companies will continue to rely heavily on social networking for customer service solutions.
3. Harness the power of you mobile devices. It's not all that common yet, but many industry experts say that customer service is coming soon to a mobile device near you. Customer service representatives already good at using iPhones, iPads, Droids and other mobile devices may find it easier to segue into this emerging area.
4. Learn Spanish (or use the Spanish you already know). How many times have you called a customer service line and been asked to choose between English and Spanish? Bi-lingual workers with facility in both languages have a leg up in many careers, given the large number of Americans who speak the language. According to the U.S. Census, 12.4 percent of Americans spoke Spanish at home in 2009, with that number significantly larger in states with large populations of Hispanic immigrants. For example, the rate was 29 percent in Texas and California, 28 percent in New Mexico and 22 percent in Arizona. So it's not surprising that Spanish-language skills are required for many customer service positions.Get a college degree. Many entry-level customer service jobs require only a high school diploma. But the more challenging -- and better paying -- jobs often list a bachelor's degree as a qualification. For example, employers in banking and financial services increasingly prefer that customer service representatives have bachelor's degrees. In addition to company-sponsored training, their educational background can help them explain complex financial products and services. If they work for securities firms, they may be called upon to answer tough questions and in some cases can even become licensed to sell securities. A college degree may also be helpful for customer service reps who work at computer help desks, but a demonstrated technical proficiency often works just as well.