What do you think when you hear the term 'Customer Service Job'?

Sometimes when people think about customer service jobs, a certain image comes to mind, one of a smiling person sitting in front of a computer, usually wearing a headset.  We think of the person sitting there and waiting for the next call, ready to provide excellent customer service to his or her next client.  This may be an accurate portrayal for some industries, such as telecommunications, travel, or online retail shopping, but for other industries, such as oil and gas, it is only a fraction of the skills needed for the job.  If you are curious or interested in customer service positions in the oil and gas industry, this article is a general overview to get you started.

While customer service jobs in the oil and gas industry need the basic soft skills, there is so much more that a good customer service representative (or CSR for short) needs to know.  First of all, the ability to learn new software is a must, especially if you don’t have much experience in certain applications.   Most oil and gas companies use some sort of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, with SAP and Oracle being the most popular.  It is essential that a qualified CSR at least know the basics in order to do the job well; the more complex functions can be learned on the job.  Knowledge of other common office applications is essential as well, with Microsoft Excel being an important one.  The reason Excel is important is because of its compatibility with the ERP software, especially for reporting and analyzing data, which almost every CSR position will do at one time or another.  It is also good to know the other usual Microsoft applications such as Word, Outlook, and Powerpoint, but those aren’t as critical.

Another very important aspect of being a CSR in the oil and gas industry is to know your product.  Some people may feel that if you have no prior experience in oil and gas, or if you are not an engineer or geologist, then it’s impossible to break into the industry.  While it helps to have prior experience, this is not true in all cases.  If your other skills are strong and you can prove in the interview that you can learn new concepts quickly, then you have a chance to land that CSR job.  But you must follow through and learn about the product or business unit as much as possible, because it will make your job much easier and smoother.  One way to learn is to ask your manager to visit the area you will be working for (if you work in another area, like the corporate office).  Most plant or pipeline locations are already set up to give tours of the facilities.

One last thing that needs to be emphasized is that, like most CSR jobs in any industry, being a customer service representative is fast-paced and can be stressful at times.  Oil and gas is a global industry and clients (both internal and external) are scattered throughout the world and in different time zones.  It is not unusual to open your email inbox first thing in the morning and find messages that have been sent to you during all hours of the night!  And although the email senders know that you are sleeping, they may expect an urgent reply as soon as the office opens.  It is not unusual to work some overtime and be available to clients. 

So if you think you have what it takes to work as a customer service representative in the oil and gas industry, why not check it out?  A simple search on the major job boards such as monster.com, careerbuilder.com, or indeed.com is of course a good start.