My first experience working from home was that of a home-based telephone customer service representative. I had done some CSR work for a brief stint in my late teens and while at that time I couldn't get away from it fast enough; let me tell you, desperation over much-needed income with which to support my small family, coupled with the prospect of not having to give a damn about my dress and grooming (it's a slippery slope) was all the motivation needed to change my perception of the work; and when after two telephone interviews with a reputable communications company I was hired as a home-based independent contractor, I was overjoyed!
Office set-up for me was the inclusion of a small desk in one corner of my bedroom, and on it a computer with high-speed internet and a telephone. I also purchased an inexpensive hands-free headset for convenience.
Training was paid and didn't take more than a few hours. The rate I was paid at the time was $9.00 per hour (1099-based), which isn't horrible considering I had very little overhead. I wasn't spending anything on dry‑cleaning, gasoline to and from work or even lunches.
The company I contracted for had several well-known clients including a major mobile phone company, credit card company, popular restaurant chain and popular retail chain. These were the four clients of the communications company that I had specifically trained for, as there had been so much work available from a long list of companies
For the training portion of the job, I downloaded the required software from the communications company's website pertaining to each client. Using the programs, I logged in and went through tutorials that explained the process of answering phones and entering orders or payments into the applicable systems. I will admit it was overwhelming at first, but in just a couple of hours, I was able to do this with ease.
Schedules for each company were sent out weekly and posted in one‑hour increments and I would coordinate my schedule for the following week based upon which hours were available (all were given on first-come, first-serve basis) and which hours I wanted to work. As I was taking care of two small children at the time, one of them a baby, I chose to spend my evenings and late nights working the telephones.
Upon signing in to my work shift, telephone calls would be sent my way, and upon answering a call, my trusty script would automatically appear on my computer screen. Based on the caller's responses to the questions read from my script, I would enter the information in the fields provided, continually reading the applicable script that popped on the screen until I had reached the end of the script and bade the customer goodbye. Occasionally an unsatisfied customer would be on the other end of the line, in which case I simply clicked a button in my computer program that transferred the call to the appropriate department.
As I touched on above, the work was not glamorous and I often looked like a homeless person while I worked, but I was so thankful for the flexible hours, the ease of having only to transport upstairs to my room and of course, the income. Additionally, there was the odd bit of amusement as the late-night shift tended to yield the more randy callers, many of whom were far more interested in what I was or was not wearing, or if I'd be game for some dirty talk, rather than paying their credit card bills or placing orders.
Over all, my time as a home-based telephone customer service agent proved valuable in my portfolio of experience, and the niche has grown leaps and bounds as more and more companies rethink their off-shore CSR and bring the positions back home. Communications companies have multiplied, serving hundreds of clients who require 24‑hour customer service for their millions of consumers.
While virtual call centers like West Corporation and Alpine Access/Sykes may be the better known CSR companies who accommodate many of the big names, there are many more to choose from. For a more comprehensive list, I recommend this blog.
I recently spoke with a friend who had recently been hired by the Home Shopping Network directly to do customer service from home. This interested me because HSN was one of the clients that I had taken calls for though West Corporation and also provided me with the most work. I was happy to hear that not only did HSN now handle CSR without the assistance of a third-party, but that in addition to raising their wages for home-based telephone CSR agents, they offer benefits.
If you are considering looking for home-based work in the immediate future, I highly recommend checking out the many companies now taking on independent contractors and even some remote employees!