7 Paths to Grow Your Customer Service Career

Paths to Grow Your Customer Service Career

While customer service often gets a bad rap for being an entry-level, high churn field, the increasingly customer-centric business landscape presents a wide array of career opportunities for customer service professionals. If you’re someone who loves engaging with clients and helping others get the most out of your products and services, there are many ways to grow your career in the field of customer service.

Knowing what to prioritize is how you ensure a strong career path in customer service. The courses or certifications you pursue will affect what jobs you can get with customer service experience. We’ve identified the necessary fields of expertise and job functions you’ll need to support your personal and organizational goals. Should you grow the critical thinking used to resolve customer issues? Or the tech-savvy used in digital interactions?

We’ve outlined seven career paths for customer service professionals to help you map out your potential future.

7 Customer Service Career Paths to Help You Grow

1. Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives go by many names––agents, customer experience managers, or even white glove support specialists. But at their core, the role of these front-line individuals is to resolve any customer issues. Customer service representatives are the face of the company as they help answer customer questions, resolve complaints, process and modify orders, and provide instructional information about products and services.

Qualifications for Customer Service Representative

  1. High school diploma or higher
  2. Strong communication skills (especially patience, empathy, and problem-solving)
  3. Basic computer skills
  4. Experience in customer service preferred, but not required

Responsibilities for Customer Service Representative

  1. Represent the brand in every interaction
  2. Deliver best-in-class service with professionalism and empathy
  3. Provide support for customer inquiries on a variety of topics and channels
  4. Respond efficiently and thoroughly to customer requests
  5. Remain calm and professional in stressful situations

Average Salary for Customer Service Representative

$35,980 (Source: Glassdoor)

2. Quality Assurance Manager

Customer service quality assurance managers are the key to ensuring that customer service representatives adhere to a set of quality standards and deliver a great customer experience. Quality standards can include everything from tone to problem-solving ability, and are often specific to an individual company. Depending on the structure of the organization, quality assurance managers may be responsible for establishing and iterating on quality standards, evaluating agent performance, leading calibration sessions, and working with team leads to ensure they are coaching their agents effectively.

Qualifications for Quality Assurance Manager

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  2. Ability to analyze existing processes and propose solutions
  3. Detail oriented with excellent communication skills
  4. Experience in customer service management
  5. Deep understanding of industry standards
  6. Quality assurance certification preferred, but not required

Responsibilities for Quality Assurance Manager

  1. Establish and iterate on quality assurance standards
  2. Facilitate quality training and development
  3. Analyze data to identify trends in agent performance
  4. Work with team leads to identify coaching opportunities
  5. Lead calibration sessions to ensure QA is consistent across the organization

Average Salary for Quality Assurance Manager

$107,294 (Source: Glassdoor)

3. Product Support Specialist

Product support specialists are subject matter experts on the product or services offered by a company. Where a customer service representative can field basic questions around orders or complaints, a product support specialist knows the ins and outs of how the product works, and can answer more complicated questions, troubleshoot problems, and serve as an educational resource on product functionality.

Qualifications for Product Support Specialist

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  2. Excellent communication skills
  3. Technical certification (depending on the industry)
  4. Prior experience in product-specific customer support

Responsibilities for Product Support Specialist

  1. Troubleshoot customer product issues
  2. Explain new functionality to customers
  3. Update customers on long-term fixes
  4. Share customer feedback with product team
  5. Support contact center agents in resolving product-related service requests
  6. Record common customer problems for product documentation, internal knowledge bases, and agent response templates

Average Salary for Product Support Specialist

$54,656 (Source: Glassdoor)

Get our guide to Creating a Customer Service Career Path for Your Team for everything you need to know about hiring, coaching, and leveling up your service team as you scale

4. Customer Service Training Manager

Customer service training managers create learning and development programs for new and existing customer service representatives, implement new training processes, and iterate as needed. This includes everything from new hire training to management training and beyond. This role requires ongoing maintenance of training materials and innovation around the best training methods. Training managers are responsible for understanding all customer service processes from basic problem solving to technical product troubleshooting.

Qualifications for Customer Service Training Manager

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  2. 5+ years of relevant experience
  3. Excellent communication skills
  4. Experience implementing successful training program
  5. Deep understanding of training tactics (ie. manager coaching, on-the-job vs in-classroom training, e-learning, etc.)

Responsibilities for Customer Service Training Manager

  1. Evaluate existing training programs
  2. Create new training materials and processes to optimize the customer service function
  3. Stay abreast of new learning and development tools and implement where relevant
  4. Maintain learning management systems and internal agent knowledgebase
  5. Work closely with product, sales, and marketing teams to ensure that agent training is aligned across the organization
  6. Measure and report on the success of training programs

Average Salary for Customer Service Training Manager

$62,307 (Source: Glassdoor)

5. Customer Implementation Manager

For customer service professionals interested in the business to business (B2B) technology space, implementation management might be the job for you. Similar to a product support specialist, you’ll be a subject matter expert on your company’s specific product or service. However, instead of troubleshooting problems, you’ll help new customers adopt and implement your product in their organization. This includes everything from data management to training, and is a key driver of customer adoption and retention.

Qualifications for Customer Implementation Manager

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  2. Relevant education or industry experience
  3. Excellent communication and project management skills

Responsibilities for Customer Implementation Manager

  1. Manage and own the customer relationship throughout the implementation process
  2. Work closely with customer to outline specific configuration requirements and timeline
  3. Understand customer objectives
  4. Work closely with sales, product, and support teams to ensure alignment around customer expectations and requirements
  5. Provide training and materials to set customers up for success and drive rapid adoption

Average Salary for Customer Implementation Manager

$83,263 (Source: Glassdoor)

6. Customer Retention Specialists

Rather than reactive troubleshooting, customer retention specialists provide proactive support to help customers get the most out of their product. This function is designed to help increase customer retention, loyalty, and drive upsells or repeat business over time. Customer retention specialists also handle contract renewal or cancellation requests. In this role, rather than solving a specific issue, specialists work to maximize the customer relationship.

Qualifications for Customer Retention Specialists

  1. High school diploma or higher
  2. Strong communication skills
  3. Basic computer skills
  4. Experience in customer service or sales preferred but not required

Responsibilities for Customer Retention Specialists

  1. Proactively look for opportunities to engage or delight customers
  2. Provide updates around new product features and tips to make the most out of the product
  3. Monitor usage and engagement activity to identify pre-churn
  4. Negotiate contracts and look for opportunities to upsell

Salary for Customer Retention Specialists

$51,090 (Source: Glassdoor)

7. Training and Development Specialist

With a foundation of technical support, problem-solving, and an understanding of customer needs, you can easily transition to a role as a training and development specialist. This involves designing and delivering tailored training programs to enhance the skills of customer service representatives. Your trainings not only provide the guidance and resources necessary to deliver an exceptional customer experience; they also empower customer service representatives to excel in their roles and ensure their career growth.

Qualifications for Training and Development Specialist

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  2. Strong knowledge of training methodologies and instructional design
  3. Proficiency in using training technology and software
  4. Relevant work experience in training or HR

Responsibilities for Training and Development Specialist

  1. Create and develop the curriculum, content, and materials for employee training
  2. Conduct training sessions, workshops, or online courses for employees
  3. Identify skill gaps and training needs within the organization
  4. Assess the effectiveness of training programs
  5. Ensure that training programs comply with relevant industry standards and regulations

Salary for Training and Development Specialist

$66,757 (Source: Glassdoor)

Customer service representatives have the unique advantage of being at the forefront of all business activities, and as a result can move in a wide variety of directions. Whether you hope to move to another department, grow into a specialized role, or climb the ranks to become a Chief Customer Officer, spending time on the front lines will help you identify your passion and give you the skillset you need to make the next move.

While the options above offer new roles in your customer service career path, keep in mind that the knowledge and skills you develop in communications can transcend this field. Social media messaging can translate to marketing, product guidance can inform sales or engineering, while customer onboarding and empathy can lead to a promising start in HR. Overall, exposure to high expectations in stressful environments is a universally lauded skill, widening the jobs you can get within customer service. The same is true of ensuring customer satisfaction, which offers endless potential for career advancement given the industry-wide trend of customization.

As the customer experience becomes increasingly important, so too does the role of the customer service professional. Businesses are now striving to engage not only their customers, but the agents who provide the front line of service. As a result, career planning is a key driver of agent engagement. Team leaders should carve out time during regular 1:1 meetings to talk through agent career goals and help map a path to achieve them.

This post was originally published on September 11, 2019 and has since been updated.