It’s that time again! Support Driven and Help Scout have teamed up to conduct an anonymous survey among customer support professionals around the world, asking what they earn in regard to their gender, race, local cost of living, seniority, and other factors. We then take a close look at that data to bring you this report and the accompanying salary calculator.
This study, the fourth annual, exists so people in the community can bring data to their conversations regarding compensation. In the spirit of transparency and community, we hope this resource enables more informed discussions among managers, employees and job seekers in the growing and evolving field of customer support
This report isn’t intended to serve as a definitive guide for how much support professionals everywhere should be paid — 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.
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
We love hearing your stories about how you’ve used the study in conversations about compensation! Based on feedback about what kind of information is useful to bring to those conversations, we changed some of the questions we asked in this year’s survey:
Adapting the survey each year means we can’t provide a year-over-year comparison in some areas, but it also reflects which questions are currently top of mind for members of the community.
This year instead of reporting average salaries we’ll be reporting median salaries.
Consider three salaries: $5,000, $50,000, and $60,000. The average is $38.3k, but is weighed down by the low $5,000 figure. The median — the middle number — is a better representation of what a typical person earns because it’s not influenced by outliers. According to Payoneer:
The median salary is often much closer than the arithmetic mean to what common intuition would give for the typical salary. Strangely, people, political parties, newspapers, even statisticians continue to calculate the arithmetic mean and present it as a “typical” salary answer, when median salary would be much closer to what people want to know.
Now, onto the good stuff.
The number of participants has grown significantly year over year:
While a sample size of 706 is relatively small and the results aren’t wholly representative of what customer service professionals earn around the world, the survey helps shine a light on this growing field and enables business owners, managers, employees and job seekers to hold more informed conversations about compensation.
The median customer support salary for 2018 is $50,000*
*All monetary amounts are USD.
We should emphasize that these are worldwide medians — not just North America and Europe, where salaries tend to be higher. For median salaries specific to your region, check out Chapter Four.
The majority (96%) of survey participants work full time (30+ hours/week). For the rest of the analysis, we’ll focus on full-time employees who indicated they earn at least $5,000 per year. (We made the call to disregard a few entries indicating annual salaries under $5,000 for full time employees — these numbers are likely due to self-reporting errors — e.g., respondents could have misread the line about annual salary vs. monthly).
or third gender
As in years past, the median salary for women ($50,000) is slightly lower than it is for men ($52,000)* — not ideal, but a smaller wage gap compared to other industries in general.
Women make about 95% of what men earn in support in 2018, similar to what we saw in 2017.
Also similar to last year’s report, women earn:
*Non-binary, other genders, and those who preferred not to answer are not depicted in charts due to small sample size.
This year for the first time, the survey included a question about ethnic identity. The breakdown:
Because most of the survey participants identified as Caucasian, we don’t have enough data about other ethnicities to draw meaningful conclusions about salary differences. We also wanted to avoid oversimplification and false equivalences (e.g., comparing Caucasians’ salaries against all people of color, or reporting that people of a certain ethnicity are paid less when that could be due to other factors, like working in lower cost-of-living areas).
Not surprisingly, managers make more money than people who perform only frontline support. Those performing frontline support make $43,581 compared to $55,000 for those who do frontline support and management, and $70,000 for managers and other leaders who don’t do any frontline support.
Women make up:
Women tend to earn about the same as men based on role (and for those only managing people, slightly higher):
There are two ways we can look at how experience impacts salary. The first is by how long someone has been in their current role (their tenure); the second is by how many total years of experience they have worked in customer support.
When we look at the numbers by how long someone has been in their current role, we don’t see much of a change: people tend to make $50,000-$55,000 regardless of how long they’ve been in the role.
When we look at salaries by years of total years of experience in support, we do see salaries tend to rise as people gain more experience. People just beginning their career in support can expect to make around $37,000 per year, with that number rising to $50,000-$55,000 after several years of experience. That number doesn’t grow much with more years of experience in the same role: even support professionals with 10+ years of experience in the same role still typically make $50,000-$55,000.
Taken together, these numbers imply that loyalty to a specific company does not impact salary much. It may be that switching companies tends to lead to higher salaries.
In 2017, 38% of survey participants asked for a raise. About 25% of respondents were promoted. About half of all respondents didn’t receive a raise or change roles/companies.
We mentioned earlier that the salaries of men and women tend to diverge with experience. The reason for the difference at 10+ years is driven by a couple factors:
Together, these result in the higher median salary for men with 10+ years’ experience ($69,000), compared to women with 10+ years’ experience ($50,000).
Put another way, men and women in director roles tend to make about the same. However, men with 10+ years of experience make more than women with 10+ years of experience who are in director roles.
Instead of asking for country in this year’s survey, we asked for region. Three-quarters were from North America.
|Company Region||Number of Participants||Percentage*||Median Salary|
|Australia / Oceania||17||2.57%||$49,000|
*Regions other than North America (with its larger sample size) are only included for reference and should not be considered representative of median salaries in those regions.
North American support professionals typically earn more ($55,000) than Europeans ($39,000).
Salaries tend to rise with cost of living: $14,805 for low cost of living areas like Manila, Philippines, compared to $42,500 for medium cost-of-living areas like San Antonio, Texas, compared to $60,000 for high cost-of-living areas like London.
|Cost of Living||Number of Participants||Percentage||Median Salary|
|$ (e.g. Manila, Delhi, Hanoi)||28||4.23%||$14,805|
|$$ (e.g. Tallinn, San Antonio, Santiago)||166||25.1%||$42,500|
|$$$ (e.g. Nashville, Birmingham (US), Vienna, Austin, Las Vegas, Tel Aviv)||237||35.8%||$50,000|
|$$$$ (e.g. San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Paris, New York)||213||32.2%||$60,000|
This is where working remotely (more on that in the next chapter) carries the biggest advantage: Living in low- to mid-range cost-of-living areas while working for companies based in high-cost, high-salary areas will maximize your spending power.
Companies with larger support teams tend to pay more: Teams of one-five people earn a median of $47,750 compared to the $55,000 people on teams of five or more earn, and $64,328 that people on teams of 101-500 people earn.
Interestingly, salaries at companies with more than 500 support professionals are the lowest, at $42,562. Only 10 responses came in from those companies, so it might not be fully representative of actual salaries, but that median may also be brought down by the lower salaries paid in call center organizations that employ large numbers of customer service representatives. (Another potential factor is that respondents could have misinterpreted the question as company size rather than support team size.)
About 4 in 10 participants work at a SaaS (Software as a Service) company. Support professionals working in SaaS typically earn $5,000 more per year ($55,000) than those working outside of SaaS ($50,000). It’s true that the software industry often pays higher salaries in general, although the difference may also be due to a growing understanding among SaaS companies that high-quality customer support is a competitive differentiator when it comes to customer experience.
Support professionals who work remotely some or all of the time have the highest average salaries.
A comparison of remote to co-located survey participants over the years
The continued rise of remote/flexible work schedules, and the good salaries to be found in those jobs, are great news for support professionals who enjoy the freedom and productivity of working from wherever they choose.
Most survey respondents (72%) receive at least partial medical benefits through work — definitely more of a critical benefit in the U.S. and other countries without government-subsidized health care.
An encouraging 44% of survey respondents reported receiving bonuses outside their regular salaries.
Nearly a third (30%) of survey respondents reported some form of equity in their companies as part of their compensation package.
Among survey respondents, 44% said their companies pay for professional development such as conferences, continuing education, seminars and books.
This is another benefit that’s more critical in some countries than in others: 38% of respondents said their companies offer more parental leave than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave required by the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act, but this is a global survey and many countries in Europe and elsewhere have more generous parental leave laws than the U.S. does.
Nearly half (49%) of customer support professionals have a 401k or other retirement plan option through work.
The survey asked “What skills do you want to learn or develop for yourself?” This word cloud represents the most common terms used in the replies:
The survey also asked mangers what skills they’d most like to see their direct reports develop:
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