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The Brave New World of Customer Service

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: American Airlines

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The staccato pace of emergency customer requests - everything from storm-related home damage to leaking roofs - suits Justin Miller just fine. He’s rolled with demands so easily, that he has steadily been promoted from an entry-level customer service rep (working night shifts) to becoming the manager of a call center for 911 Restoration in Van Nuys, CA.


Miller was a Rifleman as a Marine Cpl, and in his civilian career, he has relied on the same hard-charging work ethic, diligence and leadership skills that the Marines instilled in him. He’s on call 24/7, but having served in challenging assignments for the Marines, that doesn’t faze him.


All told, it’s just taken a year and two months for Miller’s career to take off. He is in charge of an in-bound call/dispatch center, where he monitors the workflow of 10 employees, plus oversees processes for over 56 company locations in the United States and Canada.


“We handle all calls, ranging from anyone having issue with their service to anyone revisiting a current claim. Anything goes through my department,” he says.


Customer service is “low hanging fruit” when it comes to career opportunities for those transitioning out of the military, experts say. Potential careers include everything from working with cutting-edge technology, to interfacing with people on social media, to management positions like Miller’s.


“I would say it permeates any industry you can imagine,” says Melissa Goldberg, who co-authored “Customer Service Trumps Cost as King,” a February 2015 report on the industry released by College for America at Southern New Hampshire University.


“As an example, there is an emphasis on patient-centered care now in the healthcare industry. Front line people need strong patient services skills similar to those in customer service. Manufacturers who are selling products, sales and service folks, just about any industry uses it,” she says.

A Strong Job Outlook

In addition to a shortage of qualified candidates, business needs for customer service representatives are growing rapidly, according to the Southern New Hampshire University report. In 2012, companies nationwide employed more than 2.3 million customer service representatives, with the highest concentrations working in call centers, credit and insurance agencies, banks and retail stores. Even as companies rely more heavily on technology solutions, the ranks are projected to swell 13 percent by 2022.


We hire military veterans because they possess many of the qualities needed for these jobs, such as time management, the ability to read people and actively listen to them, diffusing negative feedback and possessing a calming presence, among others, Goldberg says.


“When they interview as applicants, they should have examples ready of ways they’ve done that during their service. They can help interviewers see how applying their military experience in the customer service environment would be beneficial,” she says.

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