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,
CEO, Help Scout
Organizer, Support Driven
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.
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.
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.
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?
➙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.
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.
In 2017, we added the question “In which industry is your business?” to the survey.
, 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.
SaaS companies pay the highest wages for customer support in 2017, with an average salary of $63,651.
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).
Emerging industries like customer support offer relatively fast career progression and steadily rising salaries.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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,:
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.
Similar to 2016, more women reported being “kinda” technical or not at all, while more men answered “yes” to providing technical support.
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?
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.
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: .
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.
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.
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).
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:
Exclusive to jobs in customer support, both remote and co-located. Join the email list to have new job postings sent to you.
Comprehensive remote-jobs-only site, created by the folks at Basecamp/writers of Remote. Includes a section dedicated to customer support.
Has a job board section for customer service-related work. Job seekers can sign up to have new job posts emailed to them.
Lists customer support work among its non-technical job listings and lets searchers filter for the highest-paying jobs.
A remote jobs community, hosts a remote job site with a section dedicated to support.
Curates a remote jobs list with a section dedicated to customer success.
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.
Customer support pros who work remotely and live in lower-cost-of-living areas get the most from their salaries.
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 …
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What is the approximate total number of employees at your company?
What is the size of your support team?
What is your title at your company?
Have you ever worked in another role besides support (either at your current company or elsewhere)?
Does your company primarily do its business online or offline?
Removed the option to select “Other” from the following survey questions:
Changed gender options from female/male/prefer not to answer to:
We made a few small changes to responses during the analysis: