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Monday, November 30, 2009

How to work from home as Virtual Call Center Agent

Imagine a commute that is just down the hallway, a few minutes from your coffeepot and the Monday morning news. You plug in your headset to the phone, boot your computer, and begin taking calls for your client. After 30 minutes of call time, you move on to a scheduled break to tend to a few errands around the house. You get another cup of coffee, finish a few small household tasks, and return to your desk to begin taking calls again.
As a virtual call center agent, your schedule is flexible, and you can have all the breaks you need from the comfort of your own home. You're paid anywhere from $7.00 to $30.00 an hour, and you work not just the hours, but the minutes, that you choose.
Sound like another work from home scam? Or simply too good to be true? Think again. The rise of homeshoring employers has paved the way to legitimate work from home careers that allow flexibility for a whole new workforce; including work at home moms and dads, caretakers, military spouses, and people with unique medical needs or disabilities


Who Hires Homebased Workers for their Call Centers?

A look at virtual call center employers.

Homeshoring companies range from outsourcing partners to large corporations looking to save operating costs for their call center components. Companies such as JetBlue send their workers home and have an added benefit when weather problems force call overflows - they can call on their home-based workers to pick up the slack. Other companies outsource their calls to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO's) firms such as Alpine Access or LiveOps.

Homeshoring also provides a flexible and adjustable workforce for companies that often are sent into chaos with call overflow. The flexibility works for employees, too. Often, a homeshoring agent can schedule work shifts in time periods as short as 15 minutes.

There are currently 112,000 home-based agents in the U.S., according to IDC. By 2010, there 330,000 home-based workers are expected to be working in the US alone. According to the Gartner group, 10% of all call centers in the US plan on employing home-based agents in the near future.
That's a lot of people working in their bunny slippers!


Essential Technology and Skills

What you should have before you apply for a virtual call center job.

1. High speed internet access.
You'll need internet access to preform your call center duties and most companies will require a high speed or broadband connection.

2. A landline phone.
Most employers require you have at least one, if not two, landlines.

3. A quiet home office in the house.
No barking dogs or crying babies should be heard in this room. :-)

4. An understanding of software and hardware installation.
This means you should know how to put the CD in your computer and follow directions... as well as follow directions for troubleshooting.

5. Experience working with people.
This does not necessarily mean experience in a call center. Many homeshoring employers look for people with experience in retail, hospitality, and other fields of expertise.


The Application Process

How to get that dream work-at-home job.
Most virtual call center jobs have a three-tiered application process. First, there is an online application and skill assessment. Secondly, there is a "voice test". And the third step is an over the phone interview.These three essential components often include other not as obvious skill assessments, such as the use on online learning tools, chat communication, and email follow-ups.

1.The Online Application
How to stand out when you fill it out!

Since much of the online application screening automated, you will want to be as thorough and descriptive as possible when you apply. Many BPO firms call on new customer service agents when they need a worker with experience in a specific industry. If you have retail experience in more than one area, then it's important to mention which areas you have experience in. For example, if you have worked for both Wal-Mart and the Macy's perfume desk, you'll want to mention both of those areas on your application. There's a big difference between mentioning retail experience and mentioning big-box retail experience and upscale boutique experience.The online application will also have a checklist for the equipment and technology you will need to use and acquire. Make sure that your computer and phone systems meet their needs or that you have the money and/or resources to acquire these.


2.The Voice Audition
Things to keep in mind when you audition.

Most virtual call centers require applicants to audition for the job by calling in to leave a message. Usually they will give you a few scripts to practice and then randomly select one for your voice test.What are they looking for? It's a mixture of personality, voice tone, and friendliness. If you're nervous about a voice audition, it's helpful to actually call a friend or two and actually practice the script with them on the phone. When you call for your audition, make sure that there is absolutely no background noise or interference with your call. Also, remember to disable your call waiting when you call. Speak slowly and clearly, and make sure you have an actual smile on your face - that's something your callers will always hear on the phone.


3.The Telephone Interview
When you've made it this far, it's smooth sailing. Here's how to prepare.

When doing your interview, it's best to be alone in a very quiet part of your house - preferably the home office you plan to work out of. Background noise is one of the main reasons why many potential home workers do not get hired.Most virtual call centers use telephone interviews that are either live or recorded and last between 10 and 20 minutes. It's natural to be nervous during this part of the process. This is where your personality should shine - and the best thing to remember your research, speak calmly and slowly, and be prepared for creative interview questions.If a company is recruiting for an online drug store, they may ask you how you feel about weight loss products. If a client is a retail catalog, they may ask you specific questions about styles or brands. Make sure you've looked at their client list if available. Brush up on any industry experience that you may have highlighted in your resume, just in case they are screening for a similar client.


Where to Find Virtual Call Center Jobs

Apply online with these reputable companies.
Let's face it - the hardest part of the work from home job hunt is simply finding legitimate jobs. Here's a quick list to get you started. They have been listed in alphabetical order.

1-800-FLOWERS
1-800-FLOWERS hires in specific regions. Their work-from-home agents are W-2 employees.

Accolade Support
Accolade Support also hires home-based agents to work on a variety of client projects.

Alpine Access
Alpine Access hires virtual call center agents as W-2 employees. Competition for jobs is stiff, however, they are one of the most respected in the industry.

American Airlines
American Airlines hires home-based reservation agents across the U.S. who have a call center close to home.

Extended Presence
Extended Presence hires outbound callers to work on their B2B campaigns.

Freedom Telework
Freedom Telework has a reverse bidding structure - you should have a business license and your own equipment. You tell their clients how much you'll charge by the minute or hour.

LiveOps
Liveops is another BPO firm - you'll be an independent contractor.

Superior Telemarketing
Superior Telemarketing pays an hourly wage for their W-2 employees to work from home.

UCN.net
UCN.net builds and manages contact center infrastructure. You gain the freedom to innovate.

VIPdesk
VIPdesk offers home-based contracting opportunities to U.S. based individuals This company provides inbound and outbound customer service for their clients through home based call agents. They are in process of recruiting and will be hiring about 500 people within the next few months.

West at Home
West at Home hires home-based independent contractors, and they tend to hire on a regular basis. Again, because of their popularity, there's some real competition to get a job with them.

Working Solutions
Working Solutions hires agents throughout the US and Canada. Call center projects can include order processing, reservations, enrollments, customer service, sales, market research, technical support, etc.

Best Of Luck...
EarnABit.

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