Work From Home Opportunity: Call Center Agent

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I’m looking for legitimate work at home opportunities to review for Quitters, and I’ve been spending a lot of time lately researching various types of work that can be done from home.  As I dig up information that I think you might be interested in, I’ll pass along whatever I’ve found and maybe one of these opportunities will be a good fit for you. Please jump in with comments if you have experience with this type of work, or any information about a particular company that might be hiring, etc. In this post I review information about working from home as a call center agent. I’ll fill you in on what kind of work is involved, earning potential, and what to consider when you’re comparing employers. I’ll also give you links to 16 companies that hire work-at-home call center agents.

Who Hires Call Center Agents?

Let’s say you’re up really late one night because your neighbor’s paranoid poodle won’t stop barking right outside your bedroom window. At some point, you will probably find yourself flipping channels and if you do that, you’ll undoubtedly run across at least one infomercial. If you were to call the toll-free number on the screen to order that new mega-super-ultra fat burning wonder-pill, the person who takes your order may very well be working from their home office. Other companies use at-home agents to perform various customer service duties. Here are a few examples of what you might be doing, depending on the company you work for:

  • Processing customer orders for products sold via infomercial, advertisement, catalog, etc. This is known as inbound sales. This usually requires no selling on your part, although some companies may have you try to “upsell” or sell additional products and/or services.
  • Answering customers’ questions about their orders, products, or services.
  • Helping customers sign up for services, such as additional services from a cable TV provider.
  • Taking delivery orders for restaurants
  • Interviewing people for opinion surveys

Know What You’re Getting Into

I’m going to give you a list of companies I’ve found that hire call center agents – or customer service representatives – working from home. But first, there are some things you should be aware of that will help you compare these companies and find the one that’s right for you. When you visit these companies’ websites, make sure you know what you’re getting into before you apply. Don’t assume they’re all the same, because some of them are very different in some very important ways.

  • Employee or Independent Contractor? Some of these companies will hire you as a regular employee. Some even offer standard benefits like health insurance, 401K, and paid vacations. Others hire agents as independent contractors with no benefits. If you’re hired as an independent contractor, no taxes will be taken out of your pay. If that’s the case, you’ll be responsible for settling your debt with Uncle Sam when you file your taxes.
  • Are they hiring in your state? This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • When do you want to work? Look for details about scheduling on the company’s website. Most allow you to specify which hours you will be available to work for the following week. Some companies are more flexible than others. Some require you to work a minimum number of hours per week. Others allow you to work as much or as little as you want. Some of the scheduling depends on the clients being served. If a client only runs their infomercial at 2 AM, they will need agents to answer calls at that time. In general, the more flexible you can be with your hours, the more calls you’ll get and the more money you could make…depending on how the company pays.
  • So, how does the company pay? Some companies will pay you an hourly rate, whether you are talking to customers or twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next call to come. Other companies will only pay you for time you are actually on the phone assisting customers. The companies that pay agents by “talk time” are typically somewhat vague about how much money you’ll earn, because it will vary according to how many calls you take. Many say something like “our agents average between $7.00 and $9.00 per hour.” Other companies offer a guaranteed hourly rate, but even then the rate may depend on the program (which client you’re taking calls for). Most companies I’ve found pay agents bi-weekly and offer several payment methods (check via mail, direct deposit, etc.)
  • What are the technical requirements? Most of these companies require you to have a separate phone line dedicated to your call center work. Obviously, you don’t want calls from your mother-in-law, dentist’s office, or telemarketer interrupting you while you’re working. For almost all of these companies, you’ll have to have a separate line, and a standard corded land-line phone. Most won’t accept VOIP or cell phones. Also, most of them require you to have a headset with a microphone so your hands are free for typing. You’ll also need to make sure that your computer system meets the minimum requirements specified by the company. Take a good look at these requirements and you’ll get a good idea of how much money you’ll need to invest in order to get your home office set up for this type of work.
  • Will the company train you? Some companies offer paid training; others only want agents who already have verifiable work experience. Are you qualified for the job? And if not, will they pay you to train, or will they expect you to complete training “off the clock?”
  • How do you get the job? Make sure you read the instructions given before you apply for the job. If you can’t follow the instructions for the application process, your potential employer probably will assume you wouldn’t be able to follow the instructions given for the job itself. Does the company want your resume in the body of an email (some will not open attachments)? Do they have an online form to fill out? Or do they require you to take some kind of screening test? Whatever the case may be, if you decide to pursue one of these jobs, put your best foot forward just as you would when applying for any other job.

Improving Your Resume with Certifications

What if you want to land a gig as a work-from-home call center agent, but you have no experience in customer service? Is there anything you can do to make your resume look a little more impressive and increase your chances of landing the job? There are a couple of websites that some employers use to pre-screen potential employees. As a job-seeker, you can use these sites to “prove” your skills and to offer potential employers some kind of reassurance that you’ve got what it takes to get the job done. One of these sites is Brainbench.com. Basically, you register, pay for a course, study, take a test, and get a certificate that says you know your stuff (assuming you do know your stuff and you passed the test).

You can check out the Customer Service certifications at Brainbench here, and Sales Professional certifications here. Another place to find certifications is ExpertRating.com. Their Sales & Marketing certifications are here.

Will any of these certifications actually help you land the job? Hell if I know. But I don’t think it could hurt your chances any, especially if you don’t have the work experience or other training to put on your resume. I haven’t used either of these websites so if any of you have, leave a comment and let the rest of us know if it was worth it.

Companies Hiring Work-From-Home Call Center Agents:

Ok, now that you have an idea of what to look for, go out there and start looking. These are some companies I’ve found in my digging. I’m sure there are plenty of others out there, so if you know of any good ones, feel free to post their links in the comments. And if you know of any bad ones, let us know about those too!

Alpine Access http://www.alpineaccess.com/external/careers/

Arise http://www.arise.com/content/work-at-home.asp

Blue Zebra http://www.bluezebraappointmentsetting.com/Careers.aspx

Convergys http://www.convergysworkathome.com/

Customer Loyalty Concepts http://www.customloyal.com/Employment.aspx

Embarq http://about.embarq.com/careers/opportunities.html

Extended Presence http://www.extendedpresence.com/salesjobs/joblisting.asp

Grindstone http://www.grindstone.com/career.html

Auto Club Renewals http://www.aaarenewals.com/i_careers_RS.htm

J Lodge http://www.jlodge.com/employment.php (specifically recruits disabled workers)

Live Ops http://liveops.com/become-agent/index.html

Pitney Bowes http://pb.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job=987626

Public Opinion Research, Inc. http://www.publicopinionresearch.net/apply/

Westat http://www.westat.com/atHome/index.cfm

West at Home http://apply.westathome.com/overview.asp

Working Solutions http://www.workingsol.com/agents_page/

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