Job guides

How to get an entry-level Customer Service or Customer Support job

Role Basics: What is Customer Service / Customer Support?

The customer service team is responsible for responding to customer questions and complaints, creating tickets for other parts of the organization to resolve, and gathering front-line data from customers. 

Flavors of Customer Service roles:

Customer service roles can range from being rote, call center jobs to great opportunities to learn customer needs and generate product ideas, or to streamline processes by writing self-service customer support guides and documentation that saves team time. Typically, working at startups or fast-growing companies will provide more opportunities, or companies like Backcountry that are known for great customer experience.

Example customer support projects:

In larger companies, most customer service reps spend time responding to customers. Managers (or startup team members) may also: 

  • Synthesize feedback into reports for product, engineering, sales, marketing and management teams
  • Document and share common responses 
  • Train other CS reps or other customer-facing teams
  • Create self-service guides and documentation to address customer needs
  • Analyze and implement projects to improve efficiency of CS team

Common activities in customer service:

  • Responding to customer questions, managing  support tickets, and reading documentation to find answers to questions.
  • Entering data from calls into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software 
  • (For managers) Managing direct CS reports 
  • (For managers) Writing documentation and training CS team members

Customer Service / Support metrics:

  • CSAT
  • Call time / efficiency

Customer Service compensation:

Entry CS reps pay $20-40K. CS managers pay $40-60K, though you typically need prior CS or operations experience to get a management role. Also, if you’re working in a technology company or startup that requires a lot of domain expertise or problem solving and independence, compensation can be significantly higher.

Customer Service career path: 

This depends largely on the company. At many startups, customer service can offer a lot of opportunities: it’s a great way to learn about the product and customers, and it can create opportunities to move into marketing, ops or product. In larger companies, it is a lower-status role and usually harder to make career progress.

How accessible are Customer Service jobs?

  • Time to learn. Many customer service roles are accessible with no prior work experience, though the more attractive ones — at customer-focused or high growth companies require deep domain expertise and more operational experience, respectively. 
  • Selectivity. This is one of the less selective jobs at larger companies. Startups, where there tend to be more opportunities, also tend to require more experience or are more selective, as they see initial customer service hires as future leaders of the customer service team. 
  • Ease of working remote. Relatively easy. JetBlue and other companies pioneered fully-remote customer service teams. 

Job Requirements: What you need to be competitive for Customer Service and Customer Support roles?

Key skills for Customer Support:  

  • Experience in the sector
  • Multi-tasking ability
  • Familiarity with call center and data systems used on CS teams
  • Product knowledge
  • Problem solving
  • Listening skills 
  • Customer service
  • Verbal communication

Professional background for Customer Service: 

  • Any customer service experience is a plus — retail and hospitality are two common ways of demonstrating this
  • Domain experience — especially for premium or customer-focused brands, a deep understanding of the products and customers from prior work or personal experience is helpful
  • For high-growth or management roles, prior customer service experience, operations, or biz ops experience is helpful — or any of the experience required to get a biz ops job, as this role is effectively a combination of customer service and biz ops

Prior accomplishments to be competitive for Customer Service: 

If you’re applying to a management or high-growth role, you can use any of the projects below or the projects listed in biz ops. You can also talk about accomplishments or experiences in the product domain (as in your outdoor experience and gear knowledge at Backcountry).

Personal characteristics to succeed in for Customer Service:

  • Customer focused — you really like solving problems for other people
  • Resilient — you’re going to spend a lot of time on the phone, and often you’ll be dealing with people who are angry or frustrated

How to prepare for and get a job in Customer Support and Customer Service?

Projects to learn and prove yourself:

  • Manage customer experience for a local business or online brand to deliver some result: 
    • Fewer calls / queries
    • Higher CSAT 
    • Faster resolution time
    • Increased retention
    • Increased referral
  • Develop documentation / FAQ page for an online business
  • Manage volunteer and donor experience for a nonprofit or political campaign
  • Conduct informational interviews with 5-10 customer service reps and managers in the sector you’re interested in
  • Immerse yourself in the domain learn about customer needs, the company’s product, FAQs and responses

Key concepts and resources for Customer Service and Customer Success

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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