Giving the people what they want
At some point in our day, we’re all customers: buying something in a shop, calling up about broadband or a phone contract, shopping online…the list goes on. Sometimes we can take care of things with a few clicks, but there are other occasions when only a real person can help us. That’s where customer services come in.
Types of Apprenticeship
The new customer service practitioner Apprenticeship standard is now ready for delivery. It sets out everything you’ll need to know to work in customer services in areas like hospitality, sales, IT and more.
About customer service
Customer service employees are the face and voice of an organisation. Working in this field means you’re often the first contact – or even the only contact – a customer might have with a company, whether they’re wanting to buy a product, get some help or make a complaint. It’s an important job because the way the customer service team treats us affects how we feel about the company they work for. Get bad service and we think bad thoughts about an organisation – and because we can rant about bad service very publicly on social media, it’s even more important.
What can I do?
There’s a simple way around getting burned on Twitter though: provide good customer service. That’s what an Apprenticeship can help you bring to a company. What could you do? To start off with, there are face-to-face roles in sectors like hospitality or sport and recreation, so you might meet, greet and assist guests at a hotel or leisure complex; or there’s retail, where you’ll be serving customers and advising them on purchases.
We don’t buy everything we need in person, though, so you might be based in a contact centre where you’ll take calls from customers. Or they might not be buying, but looking for assistance with something they already have: their mobile phones, bank accounts, gas and electricity services or other utilities, for example.
Similarly, have you ever had an online chat with someone who helped you? It might have been for shopping, booking a trip or even sorting your Netflix account. Behind those chat windows are more customer service pros, so there are lots of ways to get in touch and interact with the public when you’re in the industry; which means there can be lots of opportunities, too.
Customer service skills
The one thing people want when they come into contact with customer services, whether that’s at the chemist or trying to get the internet working again, is to feel that they’re being listened to. So you’ll need to be a good listener and to care about helping people get what they want; you’ll also need to be good at explaining their options to them. Great communication skills are a must.
It’s not an easy job as you might be dealing with frustrated, confused or even worried people who need to solve a problem, and it will be up to you to help them. You’ll need specialist knowledge of your company’s products or services and all of their computer systems (or tills, in a shop), too, but don’t worry: that’s what your Apprenticeship is for.
Customer service careers
You could apply your customer service expertise to all kinds of jobs, including:
– call centre operator
– shop assistant
– personal shopper
– banking customer service adviser
Depending on the employer there’s usually a clear path to promotion once you complete your Apprenticeship, moving up from customer service assistant or trainee to supervisor, team leader and then into more senior management roles. Remember, some of the most powerful business people in the world often started on the shop floor in a customer service role, so don’t be afraid to aim high.
To start getting an idea of Apprenticeships and jobs in your area, visit careermap.co.uk. Alternatively, you might be able to get (or perhaps you already have) a job in the customer service sector with an employer who offers Apprenticeship schemes. Speak to them and see if it’s the right thing for you.
As well as Apprenticeships, routes into customer service include:
– Vocational qualifications / A Levels
– Scottish Vocational Qualifications
– Foundation Degrees (England and Wales only)
– Bachelors Degrees
Earn and learn
Apprenticeships are a great way to get into customer service if you like the idea of helping people, developing some good ICT skills and becoming a clear, confident communicator.
Customer service apprentices train by working for an employer, getting paid while they develop the skills they’ll need for the future. They also go to college, either on day release or through online study, to pick up nationally-recognised qualifications; the industry itself offers further qualifications too, so there’s always a chance to learn and grow.
Apprenticeships in the industry include:
– customer service practitioner
– customer service specialist (currently in development)
You might be an apprentice for the local branch of an international company, be based in a major contact centre talking to people all over the world, or work for an independent employer providing a really personal service to a small customer base. The beauty of customer service is that pretty much every industry needs it, so you’ll have lots to choose from.
Life as a customer service apprentice
Ready to talk? You’d better be. Customer service is all about communication and you’ll work hard to improve the way you listen, speak and perhaps even write to customers as you go through your Apprenticeship.
What will I be doing?
In a word? Helping. But the way you do that will vary and there’s no one single working day that describes a customer service role. You could work in retail, for example, which would mean keeping shop hours (usually around nine am to six pm) and working at weekends; or you could work in a contact centre, which might mean shift work, including nights.
Whatever you do, you’ll almost certainly be part of a team, which is one of the perks of customer service as it can offer quite a sociable working environment. In some roles you’ll be face-to-face with customers so you’ll need to be smart and polite at all times; in others you’ll spend time speaking on the phone so you’ll need to be alert and speak clearly. You’ll quickly learn a lot about people, how to handle them and what to do to give them the best service you can, and your team will help you along the way.
Alongside this you’ll learn about your company and about things like ‘brand identity’ and ‘core values’ (basically the personality of the organisation and how it wants to be seen out in the world), learn to receive feedback and build your skills as a result, and stay on top of all the latest developments in your industry, from new products to the new software you might use. It’s a busy sector but you can move ahead very quickly, hopefully leaving a trail of satisfied customers behind you.
You could work in….
- Call centres
Find Apprenticeships and jobs in the hospitality and travel industry near you at Careermap