For many people, working from home is the dream, but they don’t always know how to get started. One of the most popular work-from-home careers is as a virtual customer service representative. Virtual customer service representatives work from home to facilitate communication between customers and the companies they patronize.
Their duties can vary widely and include customer service, tech support, handling customer complaints, sales and more. Having these types of issues handled by remote customer service representatives allows companies to outsource within their own countries of origin and frees up the companies’ dedicated employees to handle more pertinent day-to-day operations.
What are the main skills needed to be a customer service representative?
The most important skill you can have if you want to become a work-from-home customer service rep is the ability to communicate well. As a virtual customer service representative, you’ll be required to talk to all kinds of people from different regions and with different educational backgrounds and personalities. It’s important that you be able to communicate clearly with all of them without upsetting or angering them. Being fluent in a second language can also be extremely helpful, although most companies don’t require it.
Patience and a Good Attitude
Customers aren’t always going to call you in a good mood. This is especially true if you’re handling customer complaints or working in technical support. Sometimes, by the time a customer gets you on the phone, he’s already tried a few different things and sat on hold for quite some time. He may be angry or even downright ugly when speaking to you.
This is why it’s so critical that you maintain patience and a good, calming attitude. One of the biggest downsides to working as a remote customer service representative is that customers can speak to you in whatever rude way they choose, but if you get angry or rude back, you’ll likely lose your job. Patience is key.
The Ability to Multitask
Just as with any other job, work-from-home customer service reps rarely get to do one single thing at once. While on the phone with a customer, you may be required to search through her account, look for a solution online or even reach out to another representative for answers. Being able to multitask efficiently and without ever letting the customer know she doesn’t have your full attention is a critical skill.
Reading and Listening Comprehension Skills
As a virtual customer service representative, you’ll spend lots of time listening to customers’ needs. It’s imperative that you understand what you’re hearing. You may also have to read things, look things up or search through a backlog of orders or accounts. Good comprehension skills are a must for this type of job.
Good Phone Etiquette and Computer Skills
Work-from-home customer service reps will sometimes use phones to talk to customers; at other times, they’ll engage with customers through chat. Whichever way you’re speaking with customers, you need to be highly adept at it. You also need proper phone and chat etiquette, which means polite greetings and goodbyes, good grammar, the ability to speak clearly, fast typing skills and the ability to use basic and some advanced computer programs.
A remote customer service representative must be decisive. If you can’t make decisions on your own and must keep stopping to call a supervisor every time a customer calls, you won’t keep your job long. Being able to make quick, firm and reasonable decisions will go a long way towards your success.
What are the customer service certifications & training programs available?
This is a great, free resource for customer service training, particularly because it starts you at the beginning. Even if you have absolutely no experience as an in-person customer service rep or a work-from-home customer service rep, you can use this course. It covers basic customer service concepts, how to deal with difficult customers, how to recognize a potential “negative” interaction before it happens and how to ensure 100% customer satisfaction.
edX has several different programs and courses for people looking to brush up on their customer service skills. Some of the courses are free, while others come at varying prices. One of the most popular courses is the Culture of Services course. There are videos you can watch on the site, or you can sign up to enroll in the actual program. It’s an eight-week program, and for a small fee, you can even be awarded a certificate upon completion.
Customer Service Training Center
If you don’t mind paying money to learn more about everything being a remote customer service representative entails, Customer Service Training Center has a great program specifically dedicated to improving virtual customer service representative skills. At $450, it’s a little pricey, but it’s packed with tons of great information. It’s a three-part online course, and each session lasts about an hour and a half. It’s one of the better options on the list, despite the high price.
Although this is another course that requires you to pay, the price is much lower, and the content is excellent if you’re specifically hoping to work from home in an online call center. The course will teach you all about telephone etiquette, your responsibilities as an at-home customer service call center employee, the skills you’ll need to succeed and common “problem areas” involved with the job. It’s a six-month-long course, and there’s actually a comprehensive final exam at the end. It costs $50 to enroll in the course, but for an extra $25, you can receive a certificate documenting course completion, completed hours and CEUs earned. Universal Class also has other customer service-related courses as well.
GoSkills is one of the few online customer service training programs/courses that’s actually certified and accredited by the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certification service. There are two different pricing options – $29 for one month or $199 for the entire year – but you can sign up for a free week that gives you access to ten lessons from every course the site has to offer. These courses include Customer Service Training, Essentials to Providing Excellent Customer Service and more. Thanks to the CPD, you can also receive real certification after finishing a complete program.
The Success League
The Success League offers a wide variety of different training programs for people hoping to become virtual customer service representatives. You can take any of the courses individually for $175 each, or you can enroll in the comprehensive, 15-course program for $1,495. It’s not an inexpensive program, but at the end of it, you will be certified as a Customer Service Manager, so if you’re looking to take the next step in your online career, this could definitely help you get there.
This final program from HubSpot Academy is another free option. HubSpot offers several different free courses on achieving success in the customer service field. Some of the available options are just courses, but others are courses that lead to various certifications such as the following: Inbound Sales, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, YouTube Marketing and more. For the low, low price of free, you can’t really beat HubSpot.
What are the different experience levels required for this job?
The great thing about at-home customer service jobs is that you can usually find companies who are willing to take a chance on you. While many of the more well-known companies like Teladoc and Williams-Sonoma will require you to have some prior customer service experience, there are other companies out there who will give you a shot even if you have absolutely no experience with customer service.
The great thing about customer service is that you don’t necessarily have to earn your experience online. Customer service jobs can include those years that you worked for Walmart or Target, all those summers you sold cell phones with Verizon or any time you’ve spent working as a receptionist or front desk clerk with hotels or doctor’s offices. Most people have at least a little experience with customer service-related careers.
Even if you have absolutely no experience, though, you can usually find entry-level work as a virtual customer service representative. Most companies are pretty upfront about their requirements for working there. Just read the job description and requirements thoroughly to see if you qualify. If you have no experience, you’ll usually come in “at the ground floor” so to speak – working in call centers, handling customer complaints, etc. The job titles for entry-level positions are usually Representative or Associate.
If you have several years of experience with customer service – between four and nine years – you may be able to come into a remote customer service job as a Specialist or a Team Leader. Specialists have much the same job responsibilities as representatives, but they may also have the added responsibility of handling “difficult” customers or calls that have been bumped up from lower-level associates who couldn’t handle them.
Team Managers often handle the high-priority customers with whom companies have strong, important relationships. Team Leaders also manage individual representatives or associates just as a team leader would at an on-site location. It’s rare that you would be hired initially to this position unless you have several years of customer service experience and an exceptional resume.
Upper – or senior – level customer service positions are reserved for those people with decades of experience in customer service, sales and/or marketing. Unless you’ve been working in the online customer service field for years and already have lots of built-up experience with a particular company, you won’t be eligible for these types of jobs for a long time. These are the Manager and Director positions, and they’re only given to people with a proven track record of success within the company.
Frequently Asked Questions
What physical things will I need to work from home as a customer service rep?
Having the skill set needed to work from home is great, but there are also actual things you’ll need to be successful. These include the following:
- A good computer and fast, reliable
- A dedicated phone line for customer calls.
- A quiet space in which to work.
- Any additional items specific companies require – webcam, headset, specific apps or programs downloaded onto your equipment, etc.
- Any incidentals to do your job – paper, pens, staplers, etc.
What will my schedule be like?
One of the biggest draws to most work-from-home jobs is that you can work on your own schedule. You pick your hours and how often you want to work. This isn’t true of all work-from-home jobs though. Be sure to check the specific scheduling requirements of any prospective job.
Is the pay any good?
The pay for work-from-home customer service rep jobs can be quite good actually. Some companies pay as much as $20+ per hour for quality representatives. Of course, not all of these companies allow full-time work. Again, read the job description thoroughly.
If you’re serious about working from home, there’s really never been a better time to get started. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several companies to transition to more and more online work and online outsourcing. There are currently more work-from-home jobs out there than ever, but there’s also more competition for these jobs as well. So enroll in some online courses and pad your resume with a few certifications to help your application stand out from all the rest. Be sure to practice for the interview beforehand, and you could be well on your way to a lucrative work-from-home career!