Customer Service Work from Home

by Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Working from home as a customer service agent may seem like just a dream to some people, but for thousands of people it is a reality.

It might come as a surprise to learn that many companies that are well known use agents who work from home to field their customer calls.

  • HSN (The home shopping network) uses work at home agents to field their order calls

  • Pizza Hut uses people who work from home to take pizza orders and send the orders to the correct store for delivery

  • Office Depot uses agents who work from home to field their customer service calls.
Because it’s still such a new concept to many, companies don’t seem to want to let the cat out of the bag just yet so along with the impressive benefits of working from home come some negative points as well.

Hunting the J-O-B

After working for years in call centers throughout the West Coast, I was tired and needed a break... I had heard there was such a thing as working from home, but I couldn’t find legitimate job opportunities no matter how much time I spent searching for information.

Then one day, I came across a message board that harbored the gold. On this message board I found many companies that were looking to hire people to work from home as call center agents.

Well I thought this was a dream come true since I was simply tired of waking up every morning and heading into traffic just to turn around and do it again a few hours later after working all day.

I contacted a few of the companies I had learned about, and I got an offer almost right away from a company named West at home Agents. They work like the average outsource call center, with multiple clients whose customer calls they handle. The line I was hired to work was HSN (The Home Shopping Network).

You can imagine how ecstatic I was at the thought of being able to avoid traffic everyday and essentially work in my pajamas any time I wanted to!

On the other hand, I was terrified I wouldn’t make enough money doing this work to provide for my family. But as they say, you'll never know what could have been unless you at least try, so that's exactly what I did.

My experience working from home

Let me start off by saying I really had to take some hits where compensation is concerned to get this job started. I didn’t think it was to any agent's benefit the way their compensation plan works. But I was determined to get inside and find out what it was all about.

I started on an interactive training program that I was to complete while my required background check was in the works, and there was no compensation offered to complete this training. It was however required to complete the training to be able to work the phone lines for compensation.

So I took the few hours I would need to complete training and I got it over with as soon as I could. There was no way I would hold up my opportunity to make money because I was so caught up in the training.

My thought process during this time worried me, because if I lost sight in the importance of training just because I didn’t get paid for it, what did all of the other customer service agents who work at home think? Was training even beneficial for this company? At the end of training, I realized that many people just might be hurting themselves if they didn’t take the training seriously.

You see, after the training is completed, the company hooks themselves up to your computer and pretends to be a customer while you are expected to treat the mock call as a real one and handle business.

Luckily I did pay attention to the training, and I passed the test that gave me permission to actually start making money.

When you work at home, you are considered an independent contractor, meaning the company has no responsibility for offering guaranteed work, any kind of benefits, or security in your position with them.

What they do offer is flexibility, as you can schedule as little or as many hours as you’d like to work, and you can schedule on a daily basis if you prefer. They offer a per minute rate of pay, meaning you only make money for the time you actually spend on the phone, not the time you are available and ready to take calls like in a traditional call center.

This is where I found it very hard to maintain a decent income to provide for my family. If the calls aren't there, they simply aren't there and no money is being made.

More Job Hunting

This made me decide to scout out better opportunities for myself. I did finally get on with another company who hired me to take calls for Office Depot/Viking, and there was a guaranteed rate of $7.20 an hour. This is for 30 minutes of talk time per hour you are available to take calls, so compensation, although minimal is there whether the calls are or not.

Was it worth it?

I ended up working with this company for many months, averaging about 20 hours a week at about $10 an hour. It worked out great until the dreaded day came when Viking was shutting its doors, in turn shutting down our jobs.

By this time I had many other projects going for me, so it didn’t devastate my financial income as I’m sure it did for many people who worked on the project with me from home. It did open my eyes to a few things though:

First of all, sure it’s great to work from home and not have to worry about gas, clothes, food, and child care. But is the possibility of losing the work at any given moment really worth the benefits that are offered with this work? The answer may be no to some, but for me it's definitely worth it.

Thinking about it, what company in the World can guarantee you a job next week? Not one, because anything can happen... It may not happen tomorrow or next month, but it can certainly happen.


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