As a virtual contact center agent you must know more than how to answer a call.
In Part One, Should You Work In a Virtual Call Center? you learned about some critical differences between working for in-house call centers and outsourced call centers. In this portion, How To Be a Virtual Call Center Agent, we discuss necessary skills and requirements important to contact centers. We also reference companies that specify these requirements in their job posts, or if a criterion is specific to that company. As you visit each company you’ll note the differences between those that have their own in-house call centers and those that hire agents to work for their company clients.
Qualifications for a Virtual Call Center Agent
As a virtual contact center agent you must know more than how to answer a call. Every contact center has education, work experience, and skills requirements. Some are minimal, others are higher and exacting.
Education & Training
- Possessing a High School diploma or GED is the basic education requirement for all virtual contact centers.
- Depending on a company’s clients, two years of college, technical school, or military experience may be required. Sutherland Global
- For more technical agent positions, an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or related field is preferred. Xerox
- Ability to attend approximately five to six weeks of online/virtual training on a fixed schedule that may include nights or weekends. Xerox
Customer Service Experience
- A minimum six months experience interacting with customers in some capacity (via phone, chat, in person, etc.)
- Minimum two years professional troubleshooting expertise or proven technical ability. Apple
- At least one year of call center experience. ABC Financial
- Ability to meet minimum typing speed of 25 WPM while talking to customers.
- Ability to download software.
- Good verbal skills.
- Fluent in using Instant Messaging.
- Bilingual, preferably English/Spanish. XACT Telesolutions
- Recent, native GDS experience on Sabre and Apollo. Frosch
It’s always good know about the industry a company is in before you apply for work. As mentioned in Part One, if you want to work for an in-house virtual contact center it’s easy to identify what industry it’s in. But if you choose an outsourced firm it will be to your benefit to learn as much about their clientele as possible. If, for example, their clientele is largely medical centers and your knowledge is financial, you might wish to explore firms that have mostly financial clientele.
- “Ability to become an expert in all related applications, policies, and the vehicle rental process.” Enterprise Holdings
- “Extensive knowledge and understanding of international and domestic routings, airfares contracts; excellent geographical familiarity and aptitude, impeccable work ethic, great communication skills, and attention to detail.” Frosch
- “A working knowledge of Quicken or other financial software programs,” or gaming experience, depending on client. Sutherland Global
When you work from home you accept that an area or room of your home becomes an extension of the company you work for. It is never a good idea to work from the same computer your kids play video games on. Nor is it acceptable to work from your kitchen table. Therefore, there are specific home-office requirements that must be met. Some companies’ rules are more stringent than others.
- Computer (PC, no Mac) OS Version: Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 Computer. Enterprise Holdings
- A 17″ flat panel monitor (minimum), 19″ or greater flat panel recommended.
- USB Headset with Microphone or PC speakers and microphone. Enterprise Holdings
- Noise cancelling microphone. Sutherland Global
- Current Anti-Virus software with updated definitions, Current anti-spyware software, Firewall installed & operating. Sykes
- Enterprise reserves the right to verify that your PC meets or exceeds the following requirements. Enterprise Holdings
- Dedicated and separate analog landline phone (no VOIP – voice over internet protocol) for training and production calls. (e.g. Magic Jack, Vonage, etc.) Phone modem preferred (vs. a wall jack) where available. American Express
- Minimum RAM: 1 GB or higher Alorica
- Internet Browser: Internet Explorer 10.0 or Higher. Alorica
Work Area Set Up
- Working space with working smoke detector, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit. Enterprise Holdings
- A dedicated home office space…with a door that can be closed and locked. XACT Telesolutions
- A “clean desk policy” – no papers, pens/pencils, cell phones, etc. allowed on desk while working. Sutherland Global
- A zero tolerance policy for noise. Sykes
Flexibility of a Virtual Call Center Agent
Whether you opt for an in-house or outsourced virtual contact center, the flexibility you receive as a remote worker must be returned, both in your time and your willingness to learn:
- Adapt to clients from a variety of industries such as financial services, telecommunications, retail, hospitality, and healthcare. Sitel
- Require the ability to work between the hours of 6am – 1am (EST) any day of the week. American Express
- Schedules are based on business need and could require morning, afternoon, or evening start times. Enterprise Holdings
- Working evenings and weekends required. XACT Telesolutions
- Available to work extended shifts during peak holiday weeks. Sutherland Global
No matter where you look for work, you can expect a background check. Some checks may be more detailed or extensive, such as requiring a drug screening and/or credit history. Enterprise Holdings, for example, requires that you have worked for the same employer for at least a full year to make sure you don’t bounce from employer to employer every couple of months.
Rules and requirements aside, what makes a good customer service candidate from an employer’s perspective? According to Sean B. Hawkins, a call center manager, and editor of Call Center Weekly: “When selecting call center agents, soft skills are most important.” These skills include:
- Being a good listener
- Being a good communicator
- Showing good problem solving skills
- Possessing empathy
- Ability to follow instructions
Armed with information about what you need to be a successful virtual call center agent you can see this profession requires more than a telephone and some spare time. There are equipment needs, mandatory office standards, desired personality traits, and background and work experience requirements. None of them are too difficult, but it helps to have a good picture of what’s involved before proceeding.
Your turn: Have you ever considered a career as a Virtual Call Center Representative?
Are you interested in working in home as a virtual contact center agent, but don’t know where to find hiring companies? Learn how to find telecommuting jobs with Telework Recruiting!