Casual jobs in retail or hospitality often provide an entry point to the working world. If you’re one of the millions of Australians who started out flipping burgers or scanning groceries, you’ll know how tough customer service can be.
What you might not realise is that customer service skills have extremely valuable applications in other industries such as IT and business. In this article, we’ll look at the many transferable skills from customer service that you can use to pivot into a fulfilling and well-paid professional career.
What are customer service skills?
Retail and hospitality jobs usually require a lot of on-the-spot problem solving. You might be working as a barista, for example, and discover mid-rush that your milk fridge has stopped working. Or you might be working in a bookstore on a rainy day, when you notice that the roof is leaking. In these sorts of situations, you need to use your judgement to quickly come up with a suitable solution. This is an extremely useful skill.
Another of the skills you get from customer service is learning how to deal with people. It puts you in direct contact with people of all ages, backgrounds and personalities, and it teaches you a lot about human behaviour. Again, this is one of those skills that has innumerable applications, and can help you in your journey through life.
Most crucially, working in retail and hospitality gives you resilience. You learn how to cope with pressure, deal with critical feedback, and juggle work with other commitments (such as study).
In these next sections, we’ll look at specific customer service skills examples, and how these can be transferred into other professions.
What are transferable skills from customer service?
Let’s take a look at some of the most useful transferable customer service skills that can lead into a new career:
Technology has found its way into just about every part of our lives – without it, most restaurants, cafes and retail businesses wouldn’t be able to operate. Working in customer service gives you valuable experience in using technology such as Point of Sale software, phone systems, apps and record-keeping systems. By highlighting your technical proficiency in your resume, you can show prospective employers that you’re capable of learning new technologies.
For anyone asking ’how can I transition out of a customer service job?‘, never underestimate the value of sales experience! If you currently work in a store where you have to meet monthly sales targets, or you work in a customer-facing role where there are opportunities to upsell, you’ve already got what it takes to make it big.
Specialised subject knowledge
If you’ve spent a number of years in a customer service role for a specific type of product – computers, for instance – this could help you get ahead. By becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME) you’ll be able to show you have an aptitude for acquiring knowledge and communicating it to important stakeholders. So if you are an SME in a particular area, make sure to include this in your resume and cover letters.
People with high levels of emotional intelligence are good at recognising and managing emotions – the emotions of other people, and also their own emotions. People who work in customer service get to learn a lot about dealing with people, especially if your job puts you directly in the firing line of angry shoppers or disgruntled patrons. Emotional intelligence has so many professional advantages, from working collaboratively as part of a team, to facilitating healthy relationships with clients.
Effective communication skills
Whenever anyone asks ‘what are the top 5 good customer service skills?‘ – the ability to communicate will usually always get a mention. Whether it’s taking orders over the phone, providing guidance and advice to people in a department store, or working well with your team so you can all go home on time, good communication is key. It will also make you a strong candidate when it comes to job interviews, so it’s win-win all round.
How can I demonstrate and describe my customer service skills?
Your resume and your cover letter provide opportunities for you to showcase your good customer service skills alongside your other qualifications and talents. For helpful advice about how to write a good resume and cover letter, take a look at Swinburne’s Job-ready Resources.
How to demonstrate customer service skills in a resume
You can do this by creating a dedicated section in your resume with the heading ‘Customer Service Skills’ or ‘Key Skills’. Then, create a bullet-point list of all the things you’re great at, such as:
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Communicating effectively with customers and teammates
- Active listening
If possible, it helps to quantify your achievements. For instance, if you received a good customer satisfaction score within your customer service role, you should include it.
How to describe customer service skills in a job interview
In a job interview setting, try to provide concrete examples to back up your claims. So instead of just saying something like “I have good customer service skills”, you should provide a specific example of a time you went above and beyond to make sure that a customer had a satisfying experience. Before you head into your interview, write down a list of your most memorable customer service achievements, so you have this info ready to share when you’re asked to describe your skills.
What jobs can you do after working in customer service?
If you’ve reached a point where you’re asking ‘what should I do after customer service?‘, here are some career paths you might like to consider based on your current industry:
There are so many amazing careers that you can pursue if you have retail experience. These include:
- Sales and Marketing: if your retail job requires you to meet sales targets, you’d be a perfect fit for a role in the sales and marketing department of just about any kind of business.
- Management and Leadership: If you have experience as a store manager (or assistant store manager) you’ve already got what it takes to excel in a managerial role. Project managers are particularly in demand right now across all kinds of industries.
- Visual Merchandising: If you have an eye for product presentation and a passion for good design, a career in visual merchandising could be perfect for you.
- E-commerce: Online retail is thriving, and there are plenty of job opportunities in these spaces for people with customer service experience.
- Human Resources: Retail experience provides valuable insights into employee management and workforce development. For many retail workers, a career progression into HR is a logical progression.
- Logistics: If you have experience in making sure shelves were fully stocked, or ingredients were delivered on time, you’d be great in a logistics and supply chain management role.
If you’ve worked in hospitality, your skills for customer service can be transferred into a large number of exciting jobs including:
- Events Management: If you’re highly organised and coordinated, a career in events management could be a winner. Since events usually require some kind of catering component, your food experience will be a plus.
- Hotel Management: For many people working as cooks and baristas in cafes and restaurants, it’s a natural career progression to move into the hotel industry. Swinburne offers courses in International Hotel Management to help people achieve their goals.
- Travel and Tourism: There’s always been an overlap between the hospitality and tourism industries. Those with food service experience often do well working for travel agencies, tour companies, cruise ships, airlines and tourism boards.
- Education and Training: People who thrive in hospitality environments also tend to be good at teaching and training. You might even like to consider teaching food courses, so you can inspire a new generation of food workers.
Customer service representative
What is the career path for customer service agents? If you’ve worked as a customer service representative, you might like to consider the following:
- Customer Experience Management: If you’ve developed a deep understanding of customer needs and expectations, you’ll be in a good place to transition into a role where you manage customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
- Account Management: With your strong communication and relationship-building skills, you’ll be a natural fit for a career in sales or account management.
- Quality Assurance and Training: These types of roles require you to monitor and assess customer service interactions, design training programs and provide feedback to agents. If you have experience as a customer service agent, you’ll be good at these types of roles.
- Social Media Management: Social media allows companies to directly engage with their customer base. For this reason, online community managers are often needed to make sure that customers are supported across all the company’s digital channels.
- Market Research: Those who work in market research gather valuable feedback and insights to help companies create products their customers will love. These sorts of roles require you to analyse data, conduct surveys, and provide insights to management.
Technical support specialist
Ready to take your IT career to the next level? Here are some jobs that suit people with technical support experience:
- IT Support Technician: Transitioning into an IT support role allows you to build on your skills of providing assistance to users who have software, hardware and network issues. This might involve providing on-site support, or phone/web support.
- Systems Administrator: In this role, you would be responsible for managing and maintaining computer systems, networks, and servers within an organisation.
- Network Administrator: If you’re comfortable with managing network infrastructures and troubleshooting network connectivity issues, this could be the ideal job for you. As a network administrator, you’ll be responsible for implementing and maintaining network systems for organisations.
- Cybersecurity Analyst: Technical support specialists with a keen interest in protecting systems can explore opportunities in cybersecurity. This field involves monitoring and responding to security incidents, implementing security measures, and ensuring the integrity of systems and data.
How can I transition out of a customer service job?
Now that you know how valuable your customer service skills are, it’s time to start thinking about your dream career. It could be useful to arrange to meet with a careers counsellor or talk things over with a close friend to get some guidance. Swinburne Online students also have a wealth of career services at their fingertips, to help with career transitions.
How do I pivot into business from customer service?
A good way to broaden your career prospects is to study a degree in your chosen field. Not only will you gain a qualification, you’ll also make valuable connections with your tutors and fellow students. Swinburne offers flexible study options for people wanting to transition from customer service into more professional roles. Browse our range of online courses and degrees, and read our tips and advice for a successful career change to get valuable info about taking the next step.
If you need further support and guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly Course Consultants on 1300 069 765 or contact us here.