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Customer Service Representative vs. Tech Support Specialist. Which Career is Better?

Mar 25, 2023
Customer Service Representative vs. Tech Support Specialist. Which Career is Better?

Technical support and customer services play a crucial role in ensuring customer satisfaction. Although people sometimes use these two terms interchangeably, they are, in fact, two different things. Today we will discuss the main responsibilities of customer service representatives and tech support specialists, the qualifications you need to work in each field, as well as earning potential and career outlook for customer service and tech support roles.

Job Descriptions of Customer Service Representatives and Tech Support Specialists

Both tech support specialists and customer service representatives function as the first point of contact for customers. They use their in-depth knowledge of their company's products and services to handle customer inquiries on the phone, via email, social media, or live chats. However, the primary focus of their work is different:

  • Technical support specialists resolve issues with technical products, be they hardware devices, software tools, or services. They figure out why something isn't working and make it work.
  • Customer service representatives help customers to get the most out of using the company's products and handle non-technical inquiries. They provide guidance on choosing the right product, answer questions regarding payments, shipment, delivery, etc., gather feedback for new features, and resolve complaints. 

In other words, the main goal of technical support is to ensure that everything is working correctly and fix issues as soon as they arise. And the primary purpose of customer service is to recommend the best solutions and make sure that users are happy.

Customer Support Specialist vs. Tech Support Specialist: Job Responsibilities

Daily duties of customer service and tech support specialists may vary depending on the industry they work in, company size, or the nature of the products it offers. Typically their responsibilities include the following:

Customer Service Specialist

  • Answer customers' questions regarding product features, billing, order status, etc.
  • Address customers' comments, suggestions, or complaints to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Investigate and escalate more complex issues when necessary. 
  • Raise support tickets to enable tracking and resolution of customer requests.
  • Identify and communicate critical customers' pain points to relevant departments.
  • Update records on customer interactions in help desk software.
  • Monitor the current company's processes and policies that might impact customers.

Tech Support Specialist

  • Troubleshoot technical issues customers might encounter while using the company's products
  • Determine root causes of problems with software, hardware, connectivity, servers, cybersecurity, or similar issues
  • Document incident resolution, including troubleshooting steps and solutions
  • Setting up new equipment, devices, or software tools 
  • Help with onboarding new users
  • Assist with upgrades or modifications
  • Ensure integrity and availability of all hardware, software, server resources, and systems 
  • Provide training and guidance 

Where Do Customer Service Specialists and Tech Support Representatives Work?

Tech support and customer support reps can work in a wide range of organizations:

  • Tech companies
  • Financial institution
  • Insurance businesses
  • Hospitality businesses
  • Healthcare providers
  • Airlines
  • Educational institutions.

They can be a part of the in-house teams or work in large call centers that provide customer and tech support for various companies. In any case, these professionals usually work in office environments. Nowadays, many companies also have remote positions in tech and customer support. And sometimes, these roles involve shift work, as some businesses provide support around the clock. 

Customer Service Specialist vs. Tech Support Specialist: Salaries and Career Outlook

Data shows that the total compensation for technical support specialists in the United States is $78,032 per year. In their turn, customer support representatives typically earn $57,595. Salaries in both roles may vary depending on such factors as the industry, location, company, years of experience, and required technical or language skills. 

When it comes to career outlook, jobs in tech support look more promising. As businesses across all industries rely on technologies more and more, they need qualified professionals who can ensure that all systems work as expected and work processes run smoothly. That is why the demand for tech support specialists increases every year. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of tech support specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031. 

And on the contrary, employment in customer service is expected to decline by 4 percent during the same period. Companies are increasingly adopting chatbots, self-service portals, and other automated tools or AI solutions to handle routine customer inquiries. And while they still need human customer service representatives, the demand for such specialists decreases. We can safely assume that this trend will continue in the coming years.

Customer Support vs. Tech Support Specialist: Requirements

Both tech support and customer services representatives need the following abilities to handle their daily tasks successfully:

  • Excellent communication skills, verbal and written
  • Active listening skills and empathy for those that may be frustrated or anxious
  • Problem-solving and conflict-resolving skills
  • Outstanding time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and prioritize tasks
  • Familiarity with help desk and CRM software applications
  • Ability to learn quickly 
  • Flexibility to work shifts

While the right set of soft skills and language abilities is often enough to get a customer service job, candidates for tech support roles also are expected to have certain technical competencies. Typically, the more complex the company's products or services, the higher are requirements. Necessary skills might include:

  • Knowledge of macOS, Windows, and Linux operating systems
  • Familiarity with configuration management tools, patch management, and mobile device management
  • Understanding of network services, wireless protocols, and commands
  • Familiarity with security concepts, certificates, and password management
  • Experience in working with cloud solutions
  • Understanding of database concepts
  • Experience with backup systems

A degree in Computer Science or Engineering, relevant certifications, or completed training programs increase candidates' chances of getting hired as a tech support specialist.

Final Thoughts

Customer service and tech support are both easy-to-enter jobs with plenty of growth opportunities. With a background in customer service, you can transition into marketing, sales, product development, and user experience design roles. And former tech support specialists have an open path to IT management or systems engineering.

Since positions in customer service and tech support imply working on different tasks and require a different skill set, you need to think about which of them suits your personality and interest better. It is also important to consider earning potential and career outlook in both fields. If you're more inclined to work in tech support, don't hesitate to enroll in our Become a Tech Support Specialist program today and land your first tech job in just a few months! 

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