Some companies hire work-at-home phone staff directly, to service their customers. At any point in time, you may be able to find large hotel chains, catalog sales retailers, or other types of companies that hire and train their virtual call center staff directly. An example would be Century Link or 1-800-Flowers, which hires staff and trains and supervises their own people.
Many other companies become clients of a home-shoring company, because they want to take advantage of the home-shoring company's expertise in training, call center software, and staff supervision. An example of this would be Working Solutions, whose clients have included companies like Nine West and Dell Computers in recent years.
Some companies hire you as an employee. Others bring on their call center staff as independent contractors.
There's a chart listing work-at-home companies and their rates of pay at Rat Race Rebellion. You should also be aware that many companies pay more if you are bi-lingual. Training may or may not be compensated. In some cases, training is compensated, but only after you have completed a few weeks of successful calls.
Your willingness to be flexible is important. A company may want you to be available for a minimum of 15 hours per week, for example. However, that same company may have weeks when they cannot offer you the hours, because business is slower around the holidays, or because a client has cut back temporarily. Many home-based agents cope with this by having more than one “egg” in their basket. They work on one “line”, and have another work-at-home gig which they can work on when times are slow at the other position.
Most call center companies insist that employees and contractors sign a non-disclosure agreement. For this reason, you will see on the forums that employees cannot mention the exact name of the clients and projects that they work on, and may not disclose how much money they are making.
To succeed as a home-based telephone customer support agent, you'll need most of the skills listed below. Many work-from-home phone positions don't involve selling. However, they all involve building rapport. It's important to emphasize in your cover letter, and in your interview, that you're really good at the following:
- Accuracy - An agent often has to update two or more systems with codes, quantities, address information, while speaking with and engaging the customer.
- Quick thinking - You'll have to react fast and professionally to customers who say surprising or challenging things.
- Persuasion - You need to skillfully and tactfully encourage the person on the phone to buy your product, or to complete a survey, or to cooperate with you in whatever way needed.
- Flexibility - The rules in the call center workplace are changed often. As calls are analyzed, the managers decide to tweak methods and procedures, to improve customer service and sales. This means that your scripts and instructions will change frequently! If you're ready to roll with that, you'll make a good at-home customer service person!
- Thick-skinned - If you can take a rejection, and get right back to the next call with a smile in your voice, you've got it made. People you deal with may be having a bad day, but you can't let that get to you.
- Independence - Have you done great work on your own in the past? Mention those successes when you interview for a work-at-home phone job.