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2016

Customer Support Salary Study

Brought to you by your friends at Help Scout and Support Driven

2016 Customer Support Salary Study

Chapter 1

Annual Support Salary Data

What are customer support pros making in 2016?

We’ve conducted an anonymous survey that asks customer support professionals around the world what they earn in regard to their gender, local cost of living, company size, seniority, skills and experience.

203 people responded to the survey* — more than three times the participation from the previous year’s survey.

  • 109 were men
  • 91 were women
  • 3 declined to identify

The average salary for a customer support professional in 2016 is $68,540, up $2,666 (4%) from last year’s average of $65,874.* Women’s median pay is $65,000; men’s median pay is $68,800. This discouraging link between salary and gender is present throughout the results, regardless of other factors such as company size or location.

* All monetary amounts throughout are USD. You can see the raw data here. Data is free for individual use; please contact Support Driven for corporate use.

The average salary for a support professional in 2016:

$68,540

Up $2,666, (4%) from 2015

The average salary for a support professional in 2015:

$65,874

Maximizing your spending power

Based on this year’s survey results, the best ways to maximize your spending power as a support professional are:

  • Work remotely in an inexpensive city
  • Have some technical skills
  • Stick with it — it pays more over time.

We should note that a sample size of 203 is problematically small, and that we refrained from making too many comparisons between this year and last year’s data due to 2015’s even more problematic sample size of 60. This resource, therefore, should be referenced in conjunction with other sources — in other words, don’t base your support team’s salaries or compare your own salary apples-to-apples using this information alone!

It’s also worth noting that the majority of responses came from a community that cares deeply about customer support. These are professionals who excel at what they do and are invested in support as a career — many of them are management-level, or have been working in support for years. Of course, other factors such as benefits come into play when considering compensation, and this study does not address all of those. This resource is only intended for context, in other words — not as a definitive guide for how much employees at widely differing organizations should be paid.

More and more companies are embracing the science that shows “customer experience is a major driver of future revenue,” and support professionals have ever-greater choices when it comes to employers who will value their talents and compensate accordingly.

If you’re curious how salaries compare among support professionals working for companies that view high-quality support as essential to their success, read on!

Chapter 2

Men Make More

...but the wage gap isn’t as wide in support.

The results of this year’s survey unfortunately corroborate what women around the world and across other industries experience. While it doesn’t exactly qualify as good news, we can at least say that the gender wage gap in support is not quite as wide as it is across other industries.

Median salary of men vs women

The median salary is somewhat encouraging:

Women make 94.4% of what men make in support.


Among lower-paid support professionals (the 25th percentile), women earn more than men.

Looking at the mean, 75th percentile, and max salaries, men tend to earn significantly more. At the 75th percentile, women make 90% of what men do, and at the max, it’s down to 81.25% of men’s salaries. The mean is prone to being skewed by “outliers” — in this case, men’s salaries at the top are pulling that mean up.

The main differences between genders when it comes to salary occur at the higher levels.

There’s still work to be done equalizing pay in support as in other professions, and we can and absolutely should do better.

Equalize pay in the real world

These practical applications are in everyone’s best interest, since we know diverse teams perform better.

Other axes of diversity such as race/ethnicity and LGBTQ identity impact how people are perceived and paid:

Chapter 3

Experience Pays

...especially for men.

The chart below is fairly obvious — the longer you work in support the more you're likely to make!

Chart illustrating the salary differences of men and women based on experience

Another non-surprise: the top earners are mostly men. While more men than women responded to this year’s survey, we do see a number of entry-level women coming into support, but the number of women decrease as years of experience increase. Likewise, women’s salaries outperform men’s at the entry level, but fall behind with more years of experience.

We do know, however, that women are more widely represented in support than in other fields related to SaaS and ecommerce, such as engineering. Help Scout’s support team, for example, is 80% female but as of this writing, women make up only 27% of everyone at the company. These statistics seems fairly consistent, at least anecdotally, across the field.

Chapter 4

Technical skills pay

...even for non-engineers

This shows pay by gender and self-identified technical abilities. Those who self-identify as “technical” are overwhelmingly male.

Chart illustrating the salary differences of men and women based on self-identified technical abilities

The ambiguity of the self-reporting is a little tricky — what does “technical” mean? How technical is “kinda” technical? At least in the U.S., few truly “technical” workers (engineers, data scientists, etc.) make less than $80,000 per year. Does this data show that these responses overwhelmingly came from outside the U.S., or that respondents interpreted “technical” as “I do some coding in my support job”?

Our hunch is the latter, accompanied by the research that shows women tend to downplay their technical abilities, while men 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?

Technical skills pay, even for non-engineers doing support.

In addition to helping you earn more, it also means you might not have to wait on someone else to get your work done.

Chapter 5

Remote work on the rise

...dominating the middle

The below graph suggests the highest- and lowest-paid workers are in-office.

Chart illustrating the salary differences of men and women based on in-office vs. remote work

Remote workers dominate the middle salary range, but low-paid workers and high-paid workers (at well-funded startups in high-cost-of-living areas, maybe?) are expected to show up at the office.

2016

203

Respondents

81 40%

Remote Workers

122 60%

Co-Located

2015

60

Respondents

20 33.3%

Remote Workers

40 66.6%

Co-Located

Remote work appears to be on the rise in support, as it is across other industries in the U.S. and around the world. While remote work isn’t for everyone, its increasing popularity and decent support salaries are great news for any support professionals who enjoy the freedom of working from wherever they choose.

Chapter 6

Remote Salary Distribution

Where does your salary fall?

Salaries appear to be more varied at co-located companies, but on average, people who work at the office tend to earn a little more. The median salary for co-located workers is $65,220 and $65,000 for remote workers.

Chart illustrating the salary differences of remote vs in-office workers

While it's true co-located workers earn slightly higher salaries, there are a larger number of lower-paid workers at co-located companies than there are at remote companies. At the 25th percentile remote workers earn more: $55,000 per year, compared to $50,000 per year for co-located workers. At the 75th percentile it reverses: co-located workers earn $85,000 while remote workers earn $77,000.

Chapter 7

Cost of Living

What are the salary ranges for people living in low, medium, and high cost of living areas?

Chart illustrating cost of living

The pie charts represent salary distribution in each cost of living category.

When compared to cost of living, the study appears to show that remote employees who live in mid-range cost of living areas and work for companies based in high-cost, high-salary areas end up making quite a bit more.

What this tells us:

It’s possible to live where the cost of living is low while drawing a big-city salary.

Getting paid like a New Yorker, wherever you live in the world? Yes please!

Thank you!

Thank you to the members of the Support Driven community who took the time to participate in the survey, and especially to Sahra Santosha, Brian Kerr, Simon Ouderkirk, and Romain Lapeyre, who contributed to a thorough analysis of the results.

Hiring Your Customer Support Dream Team

Building a talented support team is hard. We talked to support leaders from companies like Kickstarter, Trello, and Basecamp to get their hard-won advice on the entire hiring process — from your first job posting to setting a new hire up for success, this free guide covers all of the essentials.

Read the Guide

We make a web-based help desk for teams that insist on a delightful customer experience. More about Help Scout.

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