How to Start a Customer Service Business

I was a little surprised to see so much interest in how to start a customer service business on my businesses you can start from home survey. Customer service is one of those jobs people either love or they hate. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. As this is a service I offered myself in my early Virtual Assistant days, here is what you need to know.

There are a few different ways you can offer customer service to other businesses. You can offer phone, email or chat support, or any combination of the three. Phone service is always the most common, so that’s what I’m going to address. There are some things you need to accept before jumping headfirst into a customer service business.

Pros

1. There is always a need for customer service. It can make or break a business. Solopreneurs often don’t have the time to handle every little call. They have much bigger fish to fry. This opens up big opportunities for virtual service providers.

2. These are going to be long-term clients. This isn’t a one-off project. You are hopefully going to be landing steady clients that will be on retainer.

3. When I was offering this service, there was little competition compared to other service offerings. It wasn’t taking long to land clients.

Possible Cons

1. You need to provide the best, most professional options for your client. This is likely going to include utilizing a virtual phone system. If your client is simply using the call forwarding option offered by their phone company, they may find themselves with a hefty bill at the end of the month. There are often double-billing charges with using this service. If you are fielding a good number of calls this can be a shocker to your client. You also need to consider any outbound calls to your client’s customers that you may be making. Obviously those calls are going to be billed to you.

RingCentral covers both of those bases, and is what I used in the past. Calls are forwarded to you without double-billing the client. You can make outbound calls on that account if needed. All incoming and outgoing calls are logged by RingCentral. There is complete transparency for your client. They have a number of plans available, and you may be looking at around $50 per month for this service. You can add this into your costs, or bill your client separately for this system. If you are utilitizing their toll free number, watch those minutes for your client. At this time, there are 1,000 minutes included each month. You are billed 3.9 cents for each additional minute.

Skype may be an option as well. When I was offering this service, Skype was still a little sketchy. It’s my understanding that it is pretty reliable these days.

2. Pricing is an area of concern with customer service. Are you going to need to be available to field calls eight hours per day? If so, you may not want to bill by the call. If you are staring at your computer eight hours per day waiting for calls yet only take 15 minutes worth of calls per day, this billing option may not be the most profitable for you. On the other hand, you likely won’t want to bill your client for eight hours per day either. If you try, you probably won’t land many clients. Do ensure you are getting a bit of compensation for your availability however. Make it worth your while for the limited personal flexibility this business model offers.

3. You also need to set clear boundaries for your hours from Day One. You do not want to get yourself into the position where your client is expecting those calls answered live day and night, Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays. Set the rules. Make your availability clear and known in your initial conversations and in your contract.

 

Set yourself up for success and you should have no problem landing clients. Every business needs an outstanding customer service system. I had clients ranging from other VAs to insurance agents to solo entrepreneurs with no online presence. Network! Check out my list of places to find freelance clients. There are thousands of opportunities out there.

Comments

  1. says

    Great advice, Angie. With the spotlight on social marketing these days it seems natural that businesses would want to have a live human CSR to interact with clients when they do call.

  2. says

    This is DEFINITELY something that every business needs. I know that as I expand- I’m going to have to hire out. Personally, I’d rather hire someone who is freelancing from home, continuing to support the people, not the corporations, as it were. That, and from my perspective- if you go over to WPLH right now, any given company for customer service, you see the same grips, day in, day out. How do you get around those gripes? Start your own company. Get out there, be brave- take charge. Things don’t change until you MAKE them change.

    Ringcentral’s also pretty neat. I didn’t know there was something like that out there.

    • Angie says

      This is one area, at least when I was doing it, there seemed to be an abundance of work without many contractors. Yet, I see a lot of people already doing this type of work that aren’t willing to take that next step. It is far easier doing this for yourself than it is being a number for one of the big wah phone gigs. Not to mention fighting for hours, often earning a measly wage, then struggling to conform to so many rules and regulations.

      I made a go of it being entirely green to the work at home world. Many of those struggling with working for those big companies are far beyond that stage. I have the utmost faith that the majority could make a go of this…on their terms.

      And yes. RingCentral is awesome!

      • Angie says

        Oh! And let’s not forget this is one way to boost up your profit potential. You can easily combine it with other service offerings and work. Waiting for the phone, while working on other projects.

        • says

          Oh definitely. This is one niche where you almost NEVER see a lack of work. When you sort of blend that all up, well, you’re head and shoulders above your competition.

  3. says

    I think all my years in the accounting department dealing with customers, invoices, and bills and then my time with LiveOps and West, ruined the phone for me. I hate the phone and I cringe when it rings. There are times when my anxiety takes over and I have a full blown panic attack. I prefer email or IM. Don’t know how to push past that. For now, I skip all jobs that require a phone interview , for me to call people, or for others to call me. Friends and family not included. :)

  4. CJ says

    Hi Angie,
    i am just coming in on the conversation on starting up a customer service home business. That is what i would like to do, but i do not know where to start, i don’t want to work for any of the already established businesses, because i have done that and feel we as CSR are not treated farely, and certainly not paid adequately. So my question, like David who asked, “where do i start? how do i go about getting those client?

  5. says

    I’m not a big fan of the phone either, but would have no problems answering emails etc. Are there opportunities for just doing the email end of things?

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