When she was at school, Zoe didn't know what she wanted to do for a living, but she always enjoyed working with people. Fast forward a few years, and she's got a customer service apprenticeship under her belt and wouldn't be doing anything else, saying there's never a dull moment.
In today's interview, Zoe tells us the challenges and rewards of customer service jobs, and explains how to pursue a career helping people out.
Name: Zoe Minns
Company: Gifts International
Industry: Retail and merchandising
What is your job? Customer service associate
How long have you worked here? Since September 2015
Education: Customer service apprenticeship, level 2 in customer service, level 2 In equality and diversity, BTEC diploma in travel and tourism, GNVQ intermediate leisure and tourism
1. What was your very first job?
I worked weekend shifts in my local fish and chip shop from aged 15 to earn money between school and college.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do whilst I was at school, but I always enjoyed working with people.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
I have always been aware of the customer service industry, having worked in retail before. However, I stumbled upon this position by chance. I wanted to continue my career in a customer service-focused role, but I was eager to transition to an office environment.
I applied for an apprenticeship through my local college, who contacted me one day to say they would like me to apply for the position at Gifts International, as my CV matched what the employer was looking for.
4. How did you get there?
Before I left school I undertook work experience at a hotel. This gave me some great hands-on experience and taught me how to understand customers’ needs and requirements by paying attention to their body language and asking the right questions.
I then went to college and studied travel and tourism. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do when I left, but all the units I studied covered customer service and the best way to deal with customers.
All of my roles since leaving school have been very much customer-service focused, so I’ve built up plenty of practical skills over the years that I’ve taken into this job. I also made sure to refresh my qualifications to give my CV an edge, studying an access course in customer service, and equality and diversity before my apprenticeship.
4. What is a typical day like?
A typical day in my job consists of order processing and printing dispatch labels for gifts. It is then my role to check the delivery status of our customers’ orders and liaise with couriers or the customer to receive delivery information. I also communicate with customers to ensure potential orders are not lost.
5. What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I am constantly busy liaising with customers and couriers, which I love. No day is the same as you’re dealing with different enquiries every day, so I’m never bored.
I also love working within a close-knit team. As there are only four of us in the office, we all help each other out with a variety of roles. My team are really friendly and approachable which makes the work day more enjoyable.
6. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
My job can be challenging on a daily basis. Within my role I have to achieve certain deadlines and targets. We work on a next-day delivery basis and always have to ensure large corporate orders are processed within specific time frames. We also have monthly targets to achieve and I am communicating with customers to ensure that sales aren’t lost.
7. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
I would advise anyone who wishes to pursue an apprenticeship in customer service to do it! Receiving on the job training is huge benefit of going down this route, and it will give you so much real-world experience.
Individuals who have the patience and people skills to sympathise and understand angry or agitated customers will excel in this role. If this sounds like you, then you should definitely consider it!
8. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
As a more mature apprentice I only wish I’d had gone down this route sooner.
9. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
In five years’ time I would still like to be helping Gifts International grow and achieve more sales.
If you're great with people and love the idea of making it your career, why not find out how to build your communication skills to make sure you're super-qualified for a customer service job?