The call centre industry is one of the industries that are known to account for the mass employment of fresh graduates from the universities or polytechnics. Irrespective of the course you have studied, you can easily fit into the call centre setting if you are determined and hard working. The fact that the job description varies makes it difficult to restrict the recruitment of a call centre agent to a particular field of study.
If you have excellent communication skills and you have been looking for a well-paying job that you can do, then working from home as a call center agent might be the perfect fit for you. Below is a detailed guide on how to work from home as a call center agent.
What is a Call Center?
Basically, a call centre is a place where clients call to make enquiries of a company’s product or services and also a place where they call to get their complaints resolved. A call centre could be dedicated to handling technical issues (technical help desk) or could be the basically about making enquires or lodging complaints (telecommunication call centre et al).
Call center agents are relevant in virtually all industries, and this explains why they are always in demand. In financial establishments, call center agents help customers handle their financial products and deal with problems they may have with bank policies and other financial matters. In the medical industry, call center agents help patients process their health insurance claims and give them full information about the status of a claim. In retail stores, call center agents answer customers’ questions about products, handle customer complaints, and communicate with customers regarding payment issues.
Although, call centers don’t normally pay very attractive salaries, but the truth remains that it is a good platform to launch a career. What’s more, the pay is moderate. There are several career development path in the call centre that any call centre agent can aspire to attain. As a call centre agent, you can aspire to grow in the industry and become a customer service consultant / specialist or you can aspire to become a customer service trainer.
If you are interested in the call centre industry, there are certain requirements and skills you would need to be able to succeed in this career path and these are some of them;
7 Skills and Requirements You Need to Work as a Call Center Agent
Because most of the skills you need to deliver excellently as a call center worker can be learned on the job, there are no formal education requirements to work as a call center agent. However, some employers may have specific requirements. If you would be working as an independent contractor (which is more likely the case), you need to be an effective communicator and must have some business knowledge to develop a client base that will provide you with on-going work.
a. A Good University Degree or Equivalent in Any Field
Although in some clime, a high school graduate can be employed in a call centre, but if you want to start this career on a positive note, then it would pay you to first secure a college degree or diploma before applying to work as a call centre agent. The truth is that if you get employed in the call centre with a high school diploma, you are likely going to struggle to get promoted.
As a matter of fact, you can’t grow to become a call centre supervisor or manager if you do not take time to develop yourself and secure a college degree. Another thing that makes the call centre industry very competitive is the fact that it can accommodate graduates from any field of study with little or no working experience. So, if you want to succeed as a call centre agent, then be sure to secure at least a college degree.
b. Good Command of English Language (or the Official Language of Your Country)
Working as a call centre agent requires that you communicate with your customers (callers) in such a way that they will understand. It could be in English language, a local language or the official language of your country. The bottom line is that you must have a good command of the language if you must effectively communicate and proffer solution. Thus, ensure that you make it a point of duty to develop you command of English language or the generally accepted language in your call centre.
c. Ability to Work with Little or No Supervision
The hallmark of being a call centre agent is the ability to listen to a client’s complaint on the phone, and proffer solutions within the shortest time possible. If the bulk of the job falls within your table to solve, then you must be able to work with little or no supervision. You don’t expect your supervisor to tell you what to do whenever a client calls, so you must be willing to work with little or no supervision.
d. Excellent Telephone Etiquette
Working as a call centre agent means that you would be relating with your customers on the phone. Therefore, one of the basic skills you would need to succeed as a call centre agent is excellent telephone etiquette. You should know how to handle and speak to your customers on the phone whenever they call you. The truth is that, if you lack good telephone etiquette as a call centre agent, you are likely going to lose your job when you come across difficult callers who are ready to go all the way.
e. Call Centre / Customer Service Training and Certification
Securing a job as a call centre agent will not guarantee you success in the industry if you do not take out time to avail yourself for call centre / customer service training. Although, you will definitely be trained by your company once you are employed, but it will still be to your advantage if you enroll for external training. There are various call centre certification exams, both locally and internationally, ensure that you source for the one that suits you and then enroll. The truth is that you stand a better chance to grow as a call centre agent in the call centre industry if you have professional qualifications.
f. Excellent Listening Ability
If you have an excellent listening ability, then you stand the chance of succeeding as a call centre agent. Many call centre agents fail to proffer solutions to their caller’s complaints simply because they aren’t excellent listeners. Once you are able to effectively listen to your callers when they lodge their complaints, you will be able to provide the right solutions to their challenges. So, if you want to succeed as a call centre agent, you must develop your listening skills. It is a very essential skill in this industry.
g. Ability to Work Effectively With a Team
The call centre job is a team job and as such if you must succeed as a call centre agent, you must be able to work with a team. The fact that there would be occasions where you may be required to pass- on some challenges to your team mates or supervisors means that you should be able to relate well with them if your want the job to be done.
There you have it; some of the requirements and skills needed to succeed as a call centre agent. With the above in mind, let’s now discuss the steps involved in starting out as a work-from-home call center agent.
How to Work from Home as a Call Center Agent – A Beginner’s Guide
1. Get the necessary equipment
Because the job mainly involves communicating with customers, you need to assemble very reliable communication equipment. Having poor devices would affect your communication with customers and ultimately dent the reputation of your employer.
Equipment you will need include a PC, active telephone line, and reliable internet connection. These will help you communicate effectively with potential employers, conduct telephone interviews, and communicate with your employer’s customers. You should also sign up with a telecommunications network provider that offers excellent call and high speed internet services. Don’t go for a mediocre service in order to cut costs.
To work at optimum speed and perform your tasks effectively and efficiently, you must ensure that your home office is conducive, professionally arranged, and free of distractions. Having your baby crying beside you or your spouse calling your name loudly when you are busy receiving a customer’s call is just unprofessional. So, it’s best to arrange a home office that will prevent such issues.
Also, ensure that the arrangement would help your health. Sitting for long hours is unhealthy, as it increases your risk of becoming overweight. Having a standing desk would be better. Also, holding the phone with your hand may cause discomfort. It is advisable you use a headphone for comfort and clarity.
2. Plan well
Because you want to take up this job on a long term, it is very important that you plan well before taking a plunge. You must do all the necessary things, such as setting your rates, designing your invoice, creating your payment timetable, devising your strategy for attracting new clients, ruling out terms and conditions for working with clients, etc.
3. Search for call center job positions
Start hunting for vacant call-center agent positions that allow telecommuting. Search online job portals that list job vacancies around you. Tell your friends and family; as you never know who may connect you with a lucrative position. Visit the offices of prospective employers and ask if they employ call center agents that work remotely. Check the job vacancies section of your local newspaper to see if there are listings you might be interested in. Also visit the career section of the websites prospective employers; as many of them request for unsolicited applications.
4. Manage your client base
Once you have been able to get some clients, pay careful attention to details such as work hours, number of customer calls received, and other records. This is necessary to help you issue accurate invoices and prevent controversies with your clients. You will need to use productivity software packages and other tools to securely keep client records, tract billable hours or units, fulfill contractual obligations to your employers, and effectively track and invoice accounts receivables.
To be successful in this home-based job or business, you must learn to be very patient and professional when communicating with customers. Most of the time, you will be dealing with customers that are frustrated, irrational, rude or annoying. But regardless of the customer’s conduct, you must remain calm and reserved. Remember, how well or badly you communicate with customers will affect the reputation of your employer, and yours as well.
7 Health Risks and Problems Associated With Being a Call Centre Agent
Working as a call centre agent comes with its own merits and demerits; as a matter of fact, the call centre job is not a job that someone is expected to engage in for a long period of time. An ideal call centre is designed and run in such a way that once a fresher is hired, he or she spends a maximum of 18 months to 24 months working in the call centre before they are transferred to avoid some of the health risks and problems associated with being a call centre agent.
So, if you intend working as a call centre agent as a fresh hire, then you should endeavor to map out your own plan of exiting the call centre as soon as possible to avoid exposing yourself to some of the health risks and problems associated with being a call centre agent. The truth is that, the longer you work in the call centre, the higher your chances of picking up one or more health challenge associated with the call centre.
There are several health risks and problem associated with being a call centre agent and that is exactly what will be treated in this article. Now let us quickly go through some of the health risks and problems associated with being a call centre agent;
I. Working in the Call Centre Affects Ones Eye Sight
Some of the basic working tools for a call centre agent are a computer, telephone box and a headset. The fact that various software is used in the call centre makes it mandatory for a call centre agent to work with computers. One of the health hazards associated with working with a computer for a long period of time is that it affects eye sight especially if there is no protector or windscreen shield on the monitor. If you take your time to relate with call centre agents, you will realize that a large chunk of them battle with one eye challenge or the other.
II. A Call Centre Agent is Prone to Back Ache
As a call centre agent, you may be prone to back ache because of the longer time spent sitting down. Because of the constant complain of back ache and spine problem from call centre agents when they visit the hospital, most call centers have started designing comfortable chairs to minimize back ache amongst call centre agents.
As a matter of fact, most call centers have adopted shorter period of working time for call centre agents to avoid them sitting for too long. Unlike previously where call centre agents were subjected to 12 hours shift, now most call centers only run 6 hours shift. Aside from sitting for too long, another thing that causes back ache or spine problems is slouching. It is advisable for call centre agents to always sit erect to avoid preventable back ache.
III. Partial Deafness or Continuous Ear Infection
The fact that a call centre agent wears headset for a longer period of time makes them vulnerable to bacteria that causes ear infections. The truth is that, if ear infections are not treated on – time and are allowed to fester, it might likely result to partial deafness. Also, if the volume from the headset is very loud, it might out – rightly damage the ear drums.
In most call centers, when an agent is employed, they are handed with personal headset to prevent the spread of ear infection. It is the responsibility of the call centre agent to ensure that they maintain their headset and part of what they need to do to maintain the headset is to always wash the foamy cover of the mouth piece and the ear piece with detergent and also soak in mentholated spirit for a while before drying them in the sun.
IV. Throat Infections (Sore Throat)
Another health risks associated with working in the call centre is contracting throat infection. The bitter truth about it is that once an agent comes under the flu or throat infection in the call centre, he or she can easily spread it to other call centre agents. That is why it is important not to share headset with other call centre agents and also the management of the call centre should ensure that the water dispenser in the call centre are always kept clean; these are some of the measures that can curb the spread of throat infections in the call centre.
V. Stress and Burnout
Stress and burnout is a common challenge faced by most call centre agents. The fact that a call centre agent is meant to do same thing over and over again every day they come to work, makes the job boring and this can easily result to stress and burnout. At first, the job might be very interesting to a fresh hire in the call centre, but over time, it becomes monotonous. That is the major reason why call centre agents are not expected to work for a long period of time in the call centre.
Once stress and burnouts are not properly handled, it might likely lead to depression. So, if you find yourself in the call centre, you will do yourself a whole lot of good if you put plans in place not to stay long in the call centre, because if you stay longer than expected, at a point, you will get dissatisfied, frustrated and probably depressed.
VII. Poor Health and Obesity
The fact that you sit for a longer period of time in the call centre because of the nature of the job makes it easier for you to grow obese if you have the slightest tendency to be obese. If you are not cut out to sit in one place for 2 hours or more, then you should not bother picking a job as a call centre agent. Those that work in call centers also have the challenge of poor health because of the nature of the job they do.
There you have it; some of the health risks and problems associated with being a call centre agent.