Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Work From Home: Virtual Call Center

Virtual call centers offer people with disabilities one viable work-from-home option. Many companies today employ people to answer phones without ever having to come in to a central work location. The company saves on building space and equipment costs while retaining more of their workforce. You, the employee, get some perks out of the arrangement as well.
Virtual call center jobs offer several benefits over the traditional work model of traveling to the office every day:

• Flexible Hours. You can pick and choose work hours to suit your schedule.
• No Dress Code.
• No Commute. If you are at home, you are also at work.

You may be hired by a single company to handle calls. Hilton Hotels, 1-800-flowers and Jet Blue are some of the best known virtual call center employers. Or you may work for one or several smaller companies that have contracted with an outsourcing company to procure virtual call center personnel. Outsourcing companies such as Alpine Access are actively hiring more than a thousand new employees annually, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
Virtual call center agents generally perform one or more of the following tasks:

• Customer Service.
• Telemarketing.
• Third-party Verification.
• Technical Support.

Depending on which area you will be working in, you will need particular skills and perhaps experience. Good grammar and a professional voice are important. Previous employment in telemarketing is a bonus, but retail sales or other customer service positions can help you get hired. Often, basic math and writing skills are desirable, as well as familiarity with word processing. Many companies require proof of graduation from high school or a GED, and eligibility to work in the U.S.

You will be expected to provide and maintain some basic equipment, most or all of which you already have. While every company’s specific list will differ, here are some common requirements:

• Desktop computer. Most employers frown on laptops.
• Broadband Internet Connection.
• Land Line with Corded Phone.
• Instant Messaging Account such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger, or Skype.
• Email Account. You may be required to have an account with a specific provider.
• Web Browser such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.
• Printer. Only certain companies require a printer.
• Quiet Work Space. Some employers require a room with a door, or even a locking door.

It is difficult to compare your options when compensation can vary considerably from one company to another. There are three payment methods:

• Per Call.
• Per Minute.
• Per Hour.

Virtual call center agents are usually hired over the phone and receive training on their computer. Avoid companies that want to charge you for training. The only up-front fee you should be asked to pay is a small (about $50) amount for a background check.
Some work-from-home employers require that you work a minimum number of hours weekly, while others will not guarantee a bottom line. If you are an independent contractor, working for more than one company at a time may help boost your income.


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