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2017
Customer Support Salary Study

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2017 Customer Support Salary Study

👋 Hello friends,

Each year, we conduct an anonymous survey among customer support professionals around the world, asking what they earn in regard to their gender, local cost of living, industry, company size, seniority, skills and experience. We then take a close look at that data to bring you this report and the accompanying salary calculator.

Customer support as we know it is still a relatively new and rapidly evolving industry — this survey, our third annual, began because information about support salaries was difficult to find elsewhere. Our hope is that, in the spirit of transparency and community, this resource enables an informed discussion among the professionals working in customer support and the leaders hiring them.

This report isn’t intended to serve as a definitive guide for how much support professionals everywhere should be paid — it doesn’t, for example, address all of the factors that come into play when considering compensation (such as benefits, which vary widely country to country). It’s simply one data point in a broader and evolving discussion about compensation and industry standards, and should only be used for context and in conjunction with other sources.

After last year’s report, readers said they’d like to see a wider range of industries and job titles, more context about company size, and more clarity about whom and where the data comes from. We updated this year’s survey, our third annual, based on that feedback — it complicates a true year-over-year comparison in some areas, but overall provides a bigger picture on the state of customer support compensation across industries and the globe. We also included new questions not asked in previous surveys, so we could provide additional context for the results. (For a breakdown on what changed, see the Appendix.)

If you have any questions or comments about the salary study or calculator, please get in touch — we’re always eager to elevate the conversation surrounding customer support, and the people doing this important work.

In your service,

Nick Francis

Nick Francis
CEO, Help Scout

Scott tran

Scott Tran
Organizer, Support Driven

Preface

Who Took the Survey?

The number of participants in this study has grown significantly year over year: 551 people took the survey in 2017, up from 203 participants in 2016 and 60 in 2015. Of this year’s 551 survey participants, 277 are women, 257 are men, 5 are non-binary, 6 preferred not to answer, 4 said their gender was not listed, and 2 are gender-nonconforming.

551 Participants

277

Women

257

Men

6

unanswered

5

non-binary

4

Gender unlisted

2

Gender non-conforming

While a sample size of 551 is relatively small, it provides insight into a growing industry and enables business owners, managers and employees to stay on top of emerging trends.

Chapter 1

What are Customer Support Professionals Earning in 2017?

The average reported salary for support professionals in 2017 is $57,686. At first glance it appears support salaries have taken a dip compared to prior years’ averages, but that’s not the case. As always, there’s more to the story.

Average Support SalaryAll monetary amounts in USD

$65,874

2015

$68,540

2016

$57,686

2017

Salaries aren’t actually trending down — in fact, most individual salaries either stayed the same or went up. If the people who filled out the 2017 survey had also filled out the 2016 survey, they’d show a $2,935 average salary increase year over year. So what’s up with the lower overall average?

Why does the average support salary appear lower in 2017?

Broader industry participation

With more than double the number of survey participants this year (551 in 2017, versus 203 in 2016), we also saw three times the number of non-director respondents (125 in 2016 versus 480 in 2017), while the number of director-level participants decreased (78 in 2016 versus 71 in 2017).

While it’s tricky to extrapolate from the data, it appears as though the larger participation of support professionals who are earlier in their careers is contributing to a lower overall average.

Greater international participation

In 2016, 16% of responses came from outside the U.S. and Canada; in 2017, 29% of all responses did. The average support salary in the U.S. and Canada was $64,017 in 2017, or $6,331 higher than the international average.

No indication of employment status

It may also be that a higher percentage of part-time workers responded to the survey in 2017 than in past years, potentially artificially lowering average salaries. In future surveys, we’ll include a question about employment status to test this theory.

Why the shift in participants?

In past years, the majority of responses came largely from the Support Driven community, which includes a number of higher-paid professionals (many of whom are in the SaaS industry, where salaries tend to be higher — more on that later in the report). But as we broadened the call for participation this year and received a wider range of responses, we’re seeing a bigger picture of the industry at large.

Chapter 2

Do Support Salaries Differ by Industry?

In 2017, we added the question “In which industry is your business?” to the survey.

How support salaries breakdown by industry
* The “Other” category includes people who responded with “Other,” as well as industries with fewer than 10 respondents: Transportation, Internet of Things, Non-profit, Data and Analytics, and Computer Hardware.

The industry that saw the highest wages for customer support professionals in 2017 was Software as a Service , with an average salary of $63,651. Marketing had the lowest average salary of $42,128, although there were only 15 respondents in that industry.

Industry highs

SaaS companies pay the highest wages for customer support in 2017, with an average salary of $63,651.

Chapter 3

Is the Gender Pay Gap Closing?

In 2017, the average pay for women in customer support is $55,503; men’s average pay is $58,663. This is only a slightly lower discrepancy than last year (and in comparison to other industries in general): Women make 94.6% of what men earn in support in 2017, compared to 94.4% in 2016.

Similar to last year’s report, women earn slightly more than men at entry level, but fall behind with more years of experience (5+ years).

Salaries based on experience and gender
Non-binary, gender-nonconforming, and those who preferred not to answer or whose gender was not listed are not depicted in charts due to small sample size.

Career fast track

Emerging industries like customer support offer relatively fast career progression and steadily rising salaries.

Chapter 4

What do Support Pros Earn by Job Title?

We expanded the options in this year’s survey to get a better idea of what people earn by job title. In 2016, we offered the following options: “I help customers,” “I lead a team but I’m not head of support,” and “I’m in charge of the entire support operation.” The updated job title options for 2017 are: Agent/Representative, Lead, Manager, Director, VP or Other.

How support salaries breakdown by role

The previous year’s version may have been a better approach, because for this year’s survey, the interpretations for the “Other” category were quite varied (from “Associate” to “Chief Happiness Officer” and everything in between).

Job titles by gender

Similar to the gender breakdown by years of experience, we see more women in agent/representative and manager roles, while more men report working in lead, director and VP roles. This seems consistent with recent research suggesting that the pay gap widens as women are promoted.

How support salaries compare by role and gender

Chapter 5

Do Technical Skills Mean Higher Salaries?

Responses to the question “Are you providing technical support?” told a different story this year than they did in 2016. The majority of the survey respondents, in every salary range, identified as technical.

Identify as technical

However, there wasn’t as much salary variation between support professionals who assist customers in a technical capacity and those who do not. On average, customer support professionals who provide technical support reported slightly higher salaries on average in 2017 than those who do not :

Are you providing technical support?
Average salaries

Salary depending on technical ability, however, may again be impacted by differences in title. For example, technical professionals make more in all roles except as VPs. Which makes sense: Professionals who are higher up the chain may be more involved in areas such as project management, personnel development and so on, and have less need for technical abilities.

Reported technical skills by gender

Similar to 2016, more women reported being “kinda” technical or not at all, while more men answered “yes” to providing technical support.

Comparision by genders who identify as technical

The ambiguity of self-reporting is a little tricky — what does “technical” mean? How technical is “kinda technical”? Research shows that women tend to downplay their technical abilities, while men may exaggerate theirs. It’s true you’ll find more men than women in technical fields, but between a man and a woman doing the same work, would a man identify as technical while a woman identifies as kinda technical?

Comparision by genders who identify as technical

We asked those identifying as “kinda technical” to explain in their own words, and we saw interpretations ranging from “setting up teams with the printer” to “some reporting and data analysis” to “knowledge of HTML, CSS and JS is required since we look into the page source code.” There was too much variation to draw any meaningful conclusions from the data this year, but the information it is useful in helping us frame the question better in future surveys, and perhaps define what “technical” means.

Chapter 6

Are Remote Jobs Still on the Rise?

Remote work continues to be on the rise in customer support, and it pays. The average salary for full-time remote workers is $62,604, compared to $53,344 for people who do not work remotely at all.

This occurs across other industries in the U.S. and around the world. Gallup’s 2017 workforce survey, for example, reports that 31% of Americans work remotely 80-100% of the time (four-five days per week), up six percentage points from 2012-2016. And that’s good news for customer support salaries: Support professionals who work remotely have the highest average salaries .

Remote hours worked

However, the breakdown by salary range shows that beginning at the $100,000 mark, salaries for co-located and remote support workers begins to even out. At the highest bracket, co-located support pros earn more — a trend that has not changed much since 2016.

2017

551
Respondents

164 30%
Remote Workers

387 70%
Co-located

2016

203
Respondents

81 40%
Remote Workers

122 60%
Co-located

2015

60
Respondents

20 33.3%
Remote Workers

40 66.6%
Co-located

SaaS companies are still the most “remote”

By far, more customer support professionals are working remotely for SaaS companies than other industries, indicating that they still account for the rise in customer support salaries.

Remote hours worked

Remote workers report higher job satisfaction

People who work remotely 100% of the time were likelier to report that they were not looking for a new job: 66% of remote workers are happy where they are, compared to 43% of respondents who go into an office every day. That’s in line with studies that show employees who are permitted to work remotely show higher job satisfaction (as well as higher performance).

Job satisfaction compared between people who work remote, and those who don't.

While it’s not for everyone, the increasing popularity of remote work and decent support salaries are great news for any support professionals who enjoy the freedom of working from wherever they choose. If you’re looking for remote work opportunities, here are some places to start:

Remote work resources

  • Support Driven Jobs

    Exclusive to jobs in customer support, both remote and co-located. Join the email list to have new job postings sent to you.

  • We Work Remotely

    Comprehensive remote-jobs-only site, created by the folks at Basecamp/writers of Remote. Includes a section dedicated to customer support.

  • Remote.co

    Has a job board section for customer service-related work. Job seekers can sign up to have new job posts emailed to them.

  • Remote OK

    Lists customer support work among its non-technical job listings and lets searchers filter for the highest-paying jobs.

  • Remotive

    A remote jobs community, hosts a remote job site with a section dedicated to support.

  • Working Nomads

    Curates a remote jobs list with a section dedicated to customer success.

Chapter 7

Does Working Remotely Increase Your Spending Power?

Salary ranges for people living in low, medium, and high cost of living areas is fairly consistent with 2016, and the takeaway for support pros should still be the same: Living in low- to mid-range cost of living areas and working for companies based in high-cost, high-salary areas will maximize your spending power.

Remote work sweet spot

Customer support pros who work remotely and live in lower-cost-of-living areas get the most from their salaries.

Salary breakdown by location

Resources for Support Pros

Thank you to the members of the customer support community who took the time to participate in the survey! For more customer support resources, you can …

Interested in Help Scout? Join us for one of our weekly live demos!

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Appendix

What Changed in the 2017 Salary Study

What is the approximate total number of employees at your company?

  • Removed “don’t know” and “other”
  • Added more options

What is the size of your support team?

  • Changed “Other (please specify)” to “500+”

What is your title at your company?

  • Removed “I help customers,” “I lead a team but I'm not head of support,” and “I'm in charge of the entire support operation”
  • Added “Agent/Representative,” “Lead,” “Manager,” “Director,” “VP,” and “Other (please specify)”

Have you ever worked in another role besides support (either at your current company or elsewhere)?

  • Changed wording from “Have you ever worked in another role?”

Does your company primarily do its business online or offline?

  • Changed wording from “Does your company do business online?”

Removed the option to select “Other” from the following survey questions:

  • Are you currently looking to change jobs?
  • How long have you been in your current position?
  • Years experience in customer support?
  • Does your company have more than one location?

Changed gender options from female/male/prefer not to answer to:

  • Female
  • Male
  • Non-Binary
  • Gender Non-Conforming
  • Prefer not to answer
  • My gender isn’t listed (please specify)

We made a few small changes to responses during the analysis:

  • A 2016 salary of $13,000 was changed to $130,000 based on a 2017 salary of $140,000
  • A 2017 salary of $300,002.00 was removed due to it likely being a typo (2016 salary was $23,000)

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