How to become a customer service apprentice: William's story

Meet William, 20, from West Yorkshire, who is completing a customer service apprenticeship with Hermes, a parcel delivery company.

"I did Drama at sixth form – it helped me loads in terms of confidence and speaking in front of people."

What is your job?

I work in customer service for Hermes. I'm in my first year of an apprenticeship with the company. In my role we deal with queries from customers about their parcels, so, for example, if they’ve been lost, we try to sort it out for them. We get things like calls, emails and web chats and we do our best to resolve issues for the customer. I report on the customers’ questions and if we are meeting targets. As well as that, I make sure reports are accurate and put the right people in the correct teams on the system.

What soft skills do you use in your job?

Because I’m working with different departments, I have to pretty much speak with every advisor in the contact centre. I’m in meetings a lot, so teamwork skills are important. I’ve also got to be organised because I’m doing a university course at the same time as coming into work. I’ve got to know what I need to do and prioritise.

What subjects did you study?

For GCSE I did Geography, History and French. Then for A-levels, Geography, Biology, Drama and Maths.

I will get my degree in Business Management, then I will also achieve Chartered Management status. Hermes offers a lot of help, because you get management experience, which is what we are studying at university.

What subjects do you find useful in your job?

Geography – you need to know where places are and if they are hard to get to. Also, you’ve got to have a pretty good knowledge of English. I did Drama at sixth form, which helped me loads in terms of confidence and speaking in front of people.

Is this the job you always wanted to do?

At the end of sixth form, I knew I didn’t want to go to university, but I needed higher education to get myself where I wanted to be. So, after taking a year out, I looked at apprenticeships through UCAS. Then, I was put into the customer service team. This is a world I’ve never been in before. It’s really good – I've really enjoyed it.

Top tips

  • I came from a school where university was the only option we were told about. I would suggest looking at apprenticeships too – it turned out to be a great opportunity for me

  • Degree apprenticeships give you hands-on experience as well as your qualification, which is really attractive to employers.

Customer service assistants deal with customers' queries, purchases and complaints. You could start as a customer service adviser and, with training, move up to become a team supervisor, team leader, then manager.

What to expect if you want to work in customer service

  • Customer service assistant salary: £12,500 to £30,000
  • Customer service manager salary: £20,500 to £70,000
  • Customer service assistant and manager working hours: 37 to 40 hours. You could work evenings, weekends and bank holidays

What qualifications do you need to work in customer service?

  • Typical entry requirements: You can apply for jobs if you have customer service experience, for example from working in a shop, hotel or contact centre. Employers may expect you to have some GCSEs (or equivalent) but you'll also need good communication skills and a friendly personality. You can take a college course before applying for a job. Courses are widely available and include Level 1 Certificate in Customer Service and Level 2 Certificate in Contact Centre Operations. You can do an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in customer service. You'll usually need some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship.
    There is no set entry route, but it could be useful to do a relevant qualification, like a Level 3 or 4 Diploma in Customer Services. You could do an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in Customer Services. After finishing, you could take further training to become a manager. You could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree and then apply for a place on a graduate management trainee scheme. The subject you take will depend on the industry you want to work in, for example, Business Management, Retail Management, Tourism and Hospitality or Financial Services. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) for a foundation degree or higher national diploma or two to three A-levels (or equivalent) for a degree. A foreign language can be useful for customer service or contact centre roles in some companies.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI, National Careers Service)

Find out more on the Prospects website about the role of a customer service manager.

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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