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How to Get a Job in Customer Support

In More Posts... — by Dave Anderson

customer-support-job

Today’s customer support is not what it used to be. You probably remember the long automated menus and disinterested operators that were common when calling an 800 number. Or maybe you experienced emailing a business and receiving a response weeks later after you moved on with your life.

Companies have smartened up and realized that quality customer support matters. In the age of social media, one person’s negative experience can go viral and become an embarrassing PR nightmare for a brand. There are also sites like Yelp and Amazon reviews where customers can share what they think about a business in great detail.

From a glass-half-full perspective, customer support is more than just a way to deal with complaints. Great customer support is a business advantage. Happy customers are advocates who share their positive experiences online and recommend the company to others.

Since it has become apparent customer support influences the bottom line, companies are now investing in it more than ever. That means there is an increasing number of employment options in the field, across a variety of industries. But what do these companies look for when hiring and how can you show them you’re the person for the job?

Modern customer support jobs

The evolution of support has led to companies employing teams of different specialists. Let’s start by going through typical customer support jobs so you can decide which one might be right for you:

  • Customer service – A common role for many companies, especially online and subscription-based businesses. Customer questions are often related to a specific purchase or account (e.g. billing and shipping questions) and require quick and straightforward answers.
  • Technical support – Technical support is found in any company that offers a complicated product/service, like a software or electronics business. Customer questions are often related to technical difficulties (e.g. product instructions and reporting bugs/downtime).
  • Pre-sales – Pre-sales support is common when potential customers are faced with major buying decisions. Knowledgeable support specialists provide answers that help close the sale. Customer questions are often related to functionality, pricing and service/contract terms.
  • Account management – This role is also found in subscription or contracted-based businesses. Dedicated managers or teams work closely with specific customers to ensure they’re taken care of. This method of support is more proactive than others since it involves frequent check-ins, rather than waiting for questions to be asked.

Skills for customer support jobs

Some people are more cut out for customer support than others. Most hiring managers figure they can teach anyone the company’s support processes. But people who excel in the profession tend to have a combination of the following soft skills:

  • Empathy – You’ll need to listen to a customer’s problem, understand how it’s affecting them and show that you care about resolving it.
  • Patience – Unfortunately, people aren’t always so friendly to support specialists. But it’s important to take the high road and remain helpful, regardless of how irritated the customer is.
  • Communication – Strong verbal or written communication skills are a must, depending on the company’s support channels. It’s important to articulate solutions to problems, using positive words that demonstrate you care.
  • Time management – You’ll need to take care of every customer in need without getting in the weeds with one specific person. The ability to manage priorities is key.
  • Friendly demeanor – The ability to build a rapport with customers sets great support specialists apart. Be conversational instead of robotically giving instructions.
  • Assertiveness – Empathy and patience are important but you’ll need to take control of conversations so the customer’s problem gets resolved.

Get your resume in order

If you’re applying for your first support job, you’re probably wondering what to include on your resume. Your previous jobs are likely in an entirely different field so how can you make your work experience stand out in the sea of applications employers get?

Most jobs have some component of customer support so craft your resume to summarize how you excelled at helping people. For example, if you’re transitioning from a sales position, lead with how you listened to people and understood their needs rather than how you met your quota.

Even if you’ve never worked in a corporate environment, sharing volunteer experience shows you’re a compassionate person. You can also demonstrate you’re a strong communicator if you’ve ever had a blog or done other writing.

Resumes should always be tailored for the job you’re applying to. It’s easy when you already have experience in the field and can simply summarize your accomplishments and responsibilities in past jobs. But when you’re starting a new profession, you need to consider every angle. Think about what made you realize customer support is the right job for you and highlight those traits.

Research the companies you apply to

We get it, applying for jobs is a numbers game. Most of the applications you complete won’t result in a callback so it doesn’t make sense to invest too much time in any one opportunity until it looks like it could lead somewhere.

But once you have the opportunity to be interviewed, you need to come prepared. Be sure to spend time researching the company and how their support team operates. Try to figure out who their typical customers are and the questions those people likely have. Read the company blog and resource section so you get familiar with their tone, style and business advantages.

Remember, the people you interview with won’t ask you much about your previous jobs and education. They’ll focus on if you have the intangible qualities to keep their customers satisfied and follow their support process. The more you know about who they are, what they value and how they work, the better you’ll be able to present yourself as the ideal person for the job.

Come prepared with a story

While an interviewer is going to ask you questions pertaining to the role, they’re also going to want to know what will make you a great support professional. You’ve already highlighted your qualifications on your resume but you’re going to need to elaborate on those points during the interview.

In all likelihood, they’ll ask you to share a story that demonstrates you’re a helpful person. You don’t want to get off guard by this question since a great anecdote will stand out in the interviewer’s mind.

Referencing a time you helped a customer in a past job is ideal, especially if they were upset and you did something to put a smile on their face. You can also talk about a time you assisted someone in everyday life, if it demonstrates you have empathy, patience, problem-solving skills or other qualities the employer is seeking.   

Good luck with your job search

The rise of customer support roles provides new employment opportunities for people with the right personality. If you’re the type of person who likes helping others, you’ll definitely excel in the customer support profession.