Customer service agents have an important job. They are often the first (and sometimes only) voice a customer hears when contacting a company. So in many ways, a good customer service experience rides the people on staff.
Does that challenge sound invigorating? If so, you might want to consider a career in customer service. But before you can solve any customer issues, you need to get the job.
Customer service resume basics
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re writing a customer service representative resume:
- Keep it short. Unless you have executive experience over several decades, your relevant work history should fit on a single page. Take out any job that’s more than 10 years old to save space.
- Make it easy to read. You have only a few seconds to catch the eye of a busy recruiter. Make your resume stand out with section headings (such as professional experience, technical skills, and education). Bullet points with short descriptions are much easier to read than long paragraphs. Take a look at resume writing tips and resume templates to get started. Proofread your resume before you apply—a typo can make you look unprepared.
- Add a summary. While resume objective statements have gone out the window, a summary statement can help an employer see what you have to offer. This is a great opportunity to highlight your interpersonal skills and transferable skills if you don’t have customer service experience.
- Consider keywords. In today’s job market, there are many more applications than positions available. Hiring managers will sometimes use software applications called application tracking systems (ATS) to sift through resumes automatically. That means your resume could be eliminated before a human sees it without the right keywords, because an ATS scans your resume to determine if your skills match.
Top 5 skills hiring managers look for in a customer service representative
Beyond the basics, there are things that catch a potential employer's attention. Here are some of the top skills hiring managers want to see:
1: Examples of customer centricity
Building great customer relationships is key to a company’s success, and customer service representatives are key to building great customer relationships. Customer centricity is literally putting the customer at the center of everything you do.
The bar is set high for what customer centricity in business today. At Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, service culture is a core value. In fact, the company’s mission statement is to “live and deliver WOW.” Agents are empowered to do things like upgraded shipping to get shoes to a customer in time for a special event, sending flowers, or adding little gifts to a package. In 2020, Zappos created a “customer service for anything” hotline - where you can literally call for help on anything, even if it’s not about shoes. And unlike other companies, where agents are judged on speed, Zappos lets their reps take as long as they need on a call. The Zappos record for longest customer service call is 10 hours, 51 minutes. Great customer service is woven into the fabric of the company culture, and Zappos hires representatives on their drive to deliver memorable experiences.
The idea of customer centricity runs deep at Zendesk, too. “I have to have somebody who's smart and technically-based. That's a given,” says Jonathan Brummel, senior manager, Premier Support at Zendesk. “But I'm not hiring them for the deep technical bench and talent. What I'm hiring for is heart, soul, passion, fire, integrity, self-management, leadership, communication ability, a hunger to learn, and a deep core desire to serve.”
What does this mean for you as a job seeker? Hiring managers are looking for agents who are driven to help others and want to deliver fantastic service. So, they make this part of their hiring strategy. Be sure to include examples of when you really went above and beyond to help a customer or a colleague to stand out to a potential employer.
2: Career progression
Aside from basic things like your contact information and education, your on-the-job experience is one of the most important things to include in your professional resume. Start with the most recent position and work backwards, making sure to list any customer-facing jobs you’ve held. “What’s the narrative of the resume—are they tilting about, or is this a structured path (even in another field)?” says Brummel. “What fires them up?”
- If you’re an experienced customer service representative, the hiring manager will want to see specifics: industry experience, your ability to deliver service over different channels (text, chat, email and phone), hard skills like training, technical skills, and performance metrics like a CSAT score.
- If you haven’t had a customer service job, think about what you’ve done in other roles that demonstrate your abilities. Ideas for your skills section include: answering phone calls, responding to customer emails, staffing a retail store, or volunteering with a school group.
When companies are hiring for customer service jobs, interpersonal skills and technical savvy are important. But they’re not just looking to check the boxes—potential employers want to find coachable employees.
Coachability is the ability to absorb and act on constructive criticism and feedback. It’s a critical skill because no one is perfect. Your employers know you’ll make mistakes - but how will you respond when they happen?
“I tell our team, ‘Look, I screw stuff up every seven minutes, and you're going to screw stuff up too. Making a mistake is okay,” says Brummel. “So let’s learn from this and bring it to the team as a source of strength. It’s our job to figure out what happened and enable the team to avoid the problem next time.”
4. Excellent communication skills
A good customer service experience takes much more than an answer to a question. It takes soft skills like empathy, quick thinking, the ability to stay calm under pressure, and friendliness. And because customers communicate with your company over text, chat, messenger, email and phone, customer service also takes channel-specific communication techniques.
While this myriad of communication skills can be tricky to capture in a resume, you can speak to your savvy in a cover letter. Here are examples of the soft skills employers are looking for:
- Mirroring customer language and tone can help create a connection. But you need to do this carefully—if the customer is angry, you don’t want to respond in anger. Instead, you can increase your volume just a bit and then work to bring the heat down a notch.
- Listening is key to good communication. When a customer is upset, they might not be able to hear what you have to say (even if you’re right). Listen to them first, let them cool down, and then speak up to help solve the issue.
- Communicating by email and text can be especially tricky, because it's often hard to decipher tone. Use a gentle and informative tone, and choose your words carefully. Remember, you are not a robot.
5: Examples of demonstrating empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others—so it’s a critical skill for a customer service position. Empathy doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with someone, just that you’re hearing and acknowledging their perspective. Being empathetic helps you notice what’s been left unsaid in a conversation, so you can address it and move the conflict toward resolution. It also helps you build a relationship with the customer and earn their trust. Being empathetic might sound like this:
- “If I were in your shoes, I’d be frustrated too.”
- “Here’s what I’m going to do to get you an answer.”
- “If I’m understanding, you’re saying …”
- “I’m really sorry to hear that.”
You can build rapport with and a better customer experience by expressing genuine empathy. Smiling when you’re talking to a customer can make a big difference, too—they’ll hear it in your voice. Empathy can go a long way in turning a negative experience into a positive one, so it’s key to cultivating customer loyalty.
Take time to craft your resume
Creating a resume that stands out takes time and effort, but it is an important part of your journey to success. Bring your experiences to life with tangible metrics, engaging bullet points, and the right keywords to help you land a job interview.