Guest Post by Melissa Brewer
There’s been a lot of buzz in the call center industry regarding the use of home-based call center agents. While a relatively new phenomenon, the use of US-based workers in geographically dispersed locations has allowed call centers to grow, and manage growth, while maintaining higher levels of customer satisfaction.
In fact, the use of at-home customer service agents has been hailed by many teleservices industry experts as the call center of the future. Virtual call centers now exist as a centralized location that simply hosts the call center phone lines, software, and equipment. Through technology, these bases connect home-based agents across the country to their employers and clients.
Virtual call centers are set for explosive growth, and they hire home-based workers for a variety of industries and clientele.
Finding Virtual Call Center Jobs
Companies such as JetBlue and Uhaul regularly hire reservation agents for their virtual call centers, however, there are also a large number of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm that now take up the slack for companies such as Drugstore.com. Alpine Access, Arise, West, and LiveOps are just a few of the companies that regularly hire home-based workers to outsource their client calls. The easiest way to find a virtual call center job is a strenuous search on Google, using the keywords “home based agents” or “at home agent.”
Because legitimate work-from-home employment is highly competitive, employers often automate the initial application process to weed out ill-matched candidates.
The Virtual Call Center Application Process
Most virtual call center jobs have a three-tiered application process. First, there is an online application and skill assessment. Second, there is a “voice test.” Third, there is an over-the-phone interview. These three essential components often include other not-as-obvious skill assessments, such as the use of online learning tools, chat communication, and email follow-ups.
- The Virtual Call Center’s Online Application & Skill Assessment
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.)
- The Virtual Call Center Voice Audition
Most virtual call centers require applicants to audition or 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 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. (Make sure you 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 over the phone.
- The Virtual Call Center Telephone Interview
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 time 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.
Once You’ve Been Screened: Sit Back, and Wait Patiently
The backlog for virtual call centers is tremendous and it can usually take anywhere from a week to several months for them to call on you to work for a specific project. Don’t fret–if you made it this far in the application process, they will be in touch when they need you. A few virtual call centers actually purposefully schedule their call backs a few weeks later to give you time to decide if the job is really for you. The next step will be making it through their training and certification. Just be professional, get back to them in a timely manner if they contact you, and prepare your home office for your new virtual call center career.
About the Author
Melissa Brewer is an writer-preneur based in Washington DC.
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I’d never have thought of this. Virtual offices have been around for a long time now but customer services … Thanks for a thought-provoking post.