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New customer service job titles can pay off

Jeffrey Marino,

Customer service job titles are changing, and the one you end up with in your next role could significantly affect how much you get paid, even if the skill requirements are the same.

Most job titles have at least one alias: Software developer and software engineer, outside sales representative and B2B sales representative, talent development specialist and recruiter, to name a few. But regardless of the title du jour, each role and its analog tend to pay about the same, according to the ZipRecruiter Compensation Estimate.

But unlike software developers and HR reps, which tend to have two or three synonymous job titles, customer service representatives are referred to in more than 30 different ways in jobs posted to ZipRecruiter, not including titles that denote senior or management positions. What’s more, even though the core skill requirements for customer service jobs remain consistent across different titles, our research shows as much as a 35 percent difference in pay.

The fastest-growing titles pay a premium

Novel job titles pop up on ZipRecruiter all the time. But the Sales Ninjas and Data Jedis of the world are usually one-offs, rarely gaining mainstream adoption. A few alternative customer service titles, however, are clearly catching on.

Although customer service representative still accounts for the largest share of customer service job titles on ZipRecruiter — about 42 percent — the growth in postings using this title pales in comparison to a few of the loftier sounding titles in 2018. The fastest-growing customer service job title for 2018 was customer experience associate, increasing 346 percent year-over-year. Customer engagement representative job postings increased 214 percent, and customer service advisors jumped 138 percent, all three of which significantly outpaced the 89 percent growth in customer service rep jobs.

We analyzed the job titles of more than 5 million customer service openings posted to ZipRecruiter in 2018 to see what, if any differences existed between the roles. And while some of the jobs prioritized a few skills over others, we found that the top 10 skills for each of the job titles were nearly identical.

Although the different titles come with the same responsibilities, the pay varies widely. Our data show that the fastest-growing customer service job titles pay an average of $2 to $5 more per hour than roles advertised using traditional CSR titles. Someone hired as a customer service professional stands to earn an average of $10,000 per year less than a similarly qualified counterpart working as a customer experience associate. Assuming a 35-year career with a 5 percent annual pay increase, that customer service professional could lose more than $800,000 in lifetime earnings.

Changing titles for a changing marketplace

It’s possible that employers who choose to advertise openings with alternative titles are missing out on the full scope of talent in the market. There were about half as many applicants per job opening across the board for customer service roles designated as something other than customer service representative in 2018. With fewer job seekers competing over the same role, the market for talent may appear tighter than it really is, thus leading to a higher wage.

The most likely explanation is that the changes we’re seeing in customer service job titles are indicative of a shift in the service sector, where more mundane tasks, like cashiering and taking inventory, have become either self-serve or automated. Because of the efficiencies introduced through technology, there’s greater demand for customer service staff to engage and delight their customer, rather than simply serve them.