What Does It Take To Work at Home In Customer Service?
Have you been considering working at home in customer service? It’s a very popular option for people who want a home based job. It’s perceived as an easy, almost anyone can do it job. Perception isn’t the same as reality, however, and many people find the requirements more difficult to meet than they expected. Do you have what it takes to work at home in customer service? Here are some of the things you need to know.
Are You Qualified To Work At Home In Customer Service?
It’s true that you may not need a lot of experience to work at home in customer service. There are a number of companies that hire agents for entry level jobs. A few are LiveOps, NexRep, Talk2Rep, and [email protected]. You can learn more about these companies by checking out my entry level remote jobs post or by visiting the company job pages to see current listings.
Even entry level jobs have certain expectations, of course. They generally require at least a high school diploma. They may require a certain typing speed. You must also be computer literate. No employer will be willing to teach you the basics of using a computer that you should already know before applying for a job that mostly uses computers.
Other companies expect you to have customer service experience already. They don’t want people who are unfamiliar with the work. These jobs may pay a little better. It’s something to keep an eye out for as you build experience if your current job isn’t paying enough.
Some jobs will only be available to people who live in certain states. This can have to do with taxes or legal reasons. Other times they may expect you to come in for training at a certain location, and so need you to be local, even though your work after training will be done at home.
Have A Quiet Space To Work
Failing to have a quiet enough space to work is one of the big reasons customer service work at home jobs don’t work out. Employers check for background noise on your calls sometimes.
This means that if you have a baby or child who might start screaming for you while you work, you probably won’t last. Same for if the dog barks or the cat is noisy trying to get your attention. Noisy neighbors or someone coming to the door may be a problem as well.
Customer service is one of those work at home jobs you really cannot do at the kitchen table unless you’re home alone.
Some employers may expect you to have a door you can close to respect customer privacy. Most customer service agents handle at least a little private information, even if it’s just customer contact information.
Honestly, the requirement for a quiet workspace may be even more stringent than what is expected of people in some call centers. You’ve probably heard plenty of background noise when talking to people who work in call centers.
Of course, those are all sounds that go with a call center, not a person at home. Companies don’t want customers to know that their employees work at home, as some people regard that as less professional.
Have The Right Equipment
Good equipment is a must to work at home in customer service. Not only will it make your job easier, it may help keep the background noise out of your calls.
But before that comes the right internet and telephone connections. Most remote customer service jobs require a wired connection, both for your phone and for your internet connection. This improves the security of the connection, which protects customer privacy.
Your internet connection must be high speed, usually cable or FIOS. Wifi, satellite internet or cell phone data connections are not good enough. If you can’t connect to your router through a wired connection, you won’t qualify for most of these jobs.
Depending on the employer, you may use a VOIP connection through your computer or need a wired telephone connection. You may need to get a dedicated line through your telephone provider. This line cannot have call waiting or any other feature that might interfere with your ability to take calls for your employer.
To go with that, you will need a wired telephone headset. Some employers will prefer specific models, and it’s best to check with them before buying something. Most will insist on a noise cancelling model, so that very few background noises will make it through to your calls. It probably won’t fully cancel out a screaming child, but may help with other common background noises.
You can buy some models locally, but for a wider selection, Amazon.com is easier.
And of course, your computer must be current enough. Once in a while you will find a job that requires an older operating system, but most prefer a very current version of Windows. Some employers cannot accept applicants who use Mac OS.
Know How Flexible The Job Really Is
Many people want to work at home because they want flexible hours. It’s nice to be able to work when the baby goes down for a nap when you’re a new parent, or between other activities of your day. That’s not how it always works, however.
Most employers will expect you to set a schedule. You may have to bid for schedules each week and be expected to stick to that schedule. In other words, you can’t schedule based on how that particular day is going. Employers need to know that they’ll have coverage for incoming calls at all times.
If you have a set schedule or bid for a schedule, stick to it. Adherence is one of the big ways employers evaluate remote employees in these kinds of jobs. If you’re always late to your shift or quit taking calls early, they will notice and mark you down for it.
Some will expect you to work within normal office hours, while others are open 24/7/365, and expect you to be available for night and weekend shifts. Depending on the best hours for you to work, this can be a good thing. College students, for example, may love that they can get work hours after classes are out for the day.
If the job is more flexible about when you work, the availability of work may depend on call volume or by who signs in first. Just because you’re available at a particular time doesn’t mean work will be there waiting for you.
Understand Your Pay Rate
Many customer service work at home jobs pay on talk time, rather than hourly. This means that if you aren’t on a call, you aren’t getting paid. Obviously, this sucks if you have a shift that gets very few calls, but you have to sit there waiting.
Other positions may pay hourly.
Some customer service jobs may offer commissions or bonuses, especially if you’re expected to upsell. This can be a big help if you do well, but don’t assume that you will get top commissions right at the start. When considering your base pay plus commissions, it can be safer to assume you’re near the bottom so that any extra is a bonus, not something you’re relying on.
Understand Employer Expectations
Make sure you understand what your employer expects you to do. This goes beyond merely sticking to your schedule.
Many employers, for example, will train you on a script. On some jobs, part or all of the script may be a legal requirement, not just something your employer wants you to say. I had to deal with that when I worked for the phone company many years ago. While many parts of the calls we could be flexible, there were certain things that absolutely had to be said in a particular way each and every time.
Employers may expect you to try to make a sale on every call. This is a real pain when you’re dealing with a customer complaint. Once again, speaking from experience. There are times when you can resolve a complaint with a better product, but other times the attempt at a sale will only annoy the customer, and you know it will only annoy them, but your employer will expect you to do so anyhow. Having to make sales can be fun on the right calls, but there will be times when you wish you could just handle the problem without the pressure to sell something at the same time.
Beware Of Customer Service Job Scams
There are scammers who set up job listings that claim to offer customer service jobs from home. Make sure you don’t fall for anything too easily.
As with any other work at home job scams, there are some key things to look out for.
The first thing is to see how they’re contacting you or want you to contact them. You’re best off applying directly through the employer’s website, or through a link their website directed you to. It’s not at all uncommon for employers to have one job board or another handle job applications.
If the job contacted you or you found the job listing elsewhere (even here), look into it carefully. Make sure it’s the real thing before you apply.
Big warning signs include being directed to apply on a different website or being requested to send your application to some Gmail or similar address. Very few real employers have applicants send in their information that way.
Another warning sign is when the pay is too good to be true. Scammers rely on greed or need overtaking common sense. If the pay is oddly high and the interest in your qualifications is minimal, it’s most likely a scam and you should skip it.
If you have any doubts at all about a work at home job, research it before you give any personal information. It’s better to take a little extra time with these things and be safe rather than fall for a scam. Falling for a scam will take up a ridiculous amount of your time dealing with the aftermath, not to mention any money you may lose to it.
Expect Your Job Hunt To Take Time
Very few people find a work at home job of any sort right away. It’s no different from searching for any other kind of work in that respect. Just think about how many people you know who have searched for a job outside the home for months with little or no success. It’s no different when you’re looking for something to do from home.
Except that there are probably fewer jobs and more people applying for them. Most home based jobs are open to people in many states, and may even be available worldwide. You aren’t just competing with your local workforce for these positions.
Take Your Work At Home In Customer Service Job Seriously
Once you’ve landed that work at home in customer service job, take it seriously. You need to be every bit as professional as you would be if you worked in their office.
Adhere to your schedule, as mentioned before. Be professional with the customers you’re dealing with. Demand that family and friends respect your work hours.
That last may take some time, depending on how your family and friends view work at home jobs. Some have a lot of trouble taking them seriously. But if you are strict with them, they will learn eventually that they can’t expect you to drop everything with your work at home job any more than they would expect someone who worked outside the home to do that.
If you aren’t sure that your family will handle it, practice before you get started. Tell everyone you’re doing a practice shift, go into your home office, and do something on your computer. See if they can leave you alone and keep things quiet enough.
Talk to them after about what went right and what went wrong. This may help you come up with a plan for when you’re really working. Getting off to a good start is the best way to ensure that you keep your new work at home customer service job when you get it.