Career as a customer services officer
Martin Jones is a customer services officer with a Council in West Yorkshire. He helps people understand local council benefits and council tax bills – and makes sure people in need get the help they are entitled to.
What is your main role?
I work in the Revenues and Benefits department, helping customers with queries about housing benefit, council tax benefit, business rates and council tax bills. I also answer emails and telephone enquiries.
What are your main responsibilities as a customer services officer?
Most of my work involves advising members of the public about the benefits they may be entitled to. For instance, they may qualify for help if they can't afford to pay the full amount of council tax or housing costs.
I also have to liaise with other agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue, as a lot of our clients are on benefits administered by these two agencies.
What is your daily routine?
In a typical day, we have to be ready to see the first customer at 8.45am. For half a day, I will help customers who come into the office. The other half is spent taking calls from other agencies and landlords who may have enquiries relating to our clients. I also spend some time at different locations, as we do some outreach work in places like community centres or other advice offices.
What hours do you work?
I work 37 hours a week. This does include some flexible working but there are some constraints as we have to be available when customers want to see us. Our offices are open from 8.45am to 5.15pm Monday to Thursday and 8.45am to 4.45pm on Friday.
What's your working environment like?
I work in an open plan office in the centre of Huddersfield, but there is some travelling too. The counter area is open to the public. We have a designated kitchen and rest room where we can go and have our lunch away from the counter and phones.
Who do you work with?
I work in a large team with other customer service officers, managers and people form other related departments. We work together to make sure our clients get the best advice the first time they come to see us.
What special skills do you need for your career as a customer services officer?
You need to be able to use computer packages such as word-processing, spreadsheets and databases. You have to be courteous and respectful when dealing with the public and remember that you represent the council at all times.
How do you use your language skills at work?
I am fluent in English as well as Indian and Pakistani languages such as Gujerati, Urdu and Hindi. If a client comes into our office and they cannot speak English, no matter where they are from in the world, we get an interpreter for them. No-one should be disadvantaged because of language difficulties.
Why did you choose this type of work?
I have always worked with the public and started off in retail. I chose my current job as I have always wanted to work in local government because of the career opportunities. I get satisfaction from my job when I know I have helped someone by advising them of what benefits are available to them.
What do you like about your career as a customer services officer?
I love my job. I really enjoy working with people and I meet people from all walks of life and interests.
What are the particular challenges in your work?
The hardest challenge is telling people who are genuinely having financial difficulty that we cannot help them.
Martin's route to his career as a customer services officer
- A levels.
- Experience in retail and customer service.
- NVQ Certificate in Customer Care.
Martin's customer services officer tips
- You should get experience of working with the public.
- You also need to be confident about meeting different people.
Customer services officer related jobs
- Call centre operator
- Civil Service administrative assistant/officer
- Customer services assistant/manager
- Debt counsellor
- Local government external funding officer
- Local government revenues officer
- Welfare rights officer
Salary of a customer services officer
- New entrants are likely to start at around £10,500 to £11,000, rising to around £16,500 with experience.
- While local government customer services officers are paid within a national pay framework, salaries depend on the responsibilities of the job, local grading policies and the size of council.
How to become a customer services officer
- There is no set route to becoming a customer services officer. Personality and attitude are likely to be far more important, together with a neat and clean appearance.
- Most employers will expect GCSEs, especially in English and maths, and some may ask for A levels or equivalent qualifications.
- Once employed, you can work towards an NVQ/SVQ at Levels 2 and 3 in Customer Service.
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