It was November 2007 when I quit my job to start a home business. I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight and I needed to find a way to pay my bills until steady freelance work started rolling in.
I didn’t just up and quit without a plan, though. I’d been researching telecommute jobs for months, and the stop-gap job I needed was obvious: a customer service job from home.
Work-from-home customer service jobs are some of the most legitimate remote jobs available, and they’re also some of the easiest jobs to land.
The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Remote Customer Service Job
So you want to work from home, and you think customer service might be right for you? At-home customer service jobs are some of the most common — and most asked-about — work at home jobs available right now.
People are drawn to customer service jobs because they have a relatively low “barrier to entry” — you typically need six months or a year of experience, but you don’t need a college degree. The skill set is straightforward and doesn’t require any special education or technical training. It’s also a well-known opportunity, so customer service is one of the go-tos.
What Customer Service Jobs Tend to Be
There are two “ways” to get customer service jobs. The main way is to find remote work with a traditional corporation. There are lots of jobs like this, and you can find information on specific companies here.
The other way to do customer service is to become a virtual assistant specializing in customer service. This is a completely different way of doing things, and it involves starting your own VA business. I love freelancing for sure, and you could make a higher hourly rate if you go the VA route, but running your own business is not for everyone.
If this piques your interest, you can learn more here; but for this blog post, I’m going to focus on finding a customer service job with a traditional company. This guide will address the questions I get most often about working from home in customer service. Keep reading to find out if it’s right for you!
What’s the Pay?
Most customer service gigs pay reasonably well. In most cases, you are looking at $10 to $15 per hour. Some independent contractor positions may pay for only the time you are actually on the phone. Some sales positions may include commissions.
When you’re interviewing or about to sign on with a company, be sure to read the fine print on any information you receive from them to know what your pay rate is, and what work will qualify for being paid. You don’t want any nasty surprises!
These gigs usually pay on a traditional two-week schedule and usually by direct deposit. Pay attention to whether you will be hired as an employee or independent contractor. There are a few differences to note between being an employee and a contractor:
- If you’re a contractor, you’ll need to pay quarterly estimated taxes. Expect to set aside about 25% of each paycheck, and send that money to the IRS each quarter. The exception is if you (or your spouse, if married filing jointly) work as an employee elsewhere and your withholdings are high enough to cover what your estimated taxes would be. If you have any questions about your tax obligations as a contractor, speak with a certified accountant.
- As an employee, you’ll receive a typical W2 at the end of the year, but if you’re a contractor, you’ll get a 1099.
Standard Requirements for Remote Customer Service Jobs
While the specifics of every job might be different, there are a few things you’ll need for your at-home customer service gig no matter what company you join. These are all pretty standard:
- Quiet work environment
- High-speed internet connection connected to an ethernet cable (not wireless)
- Landline phone
- Up-to-date operating system on your computer
- Ability to download and use specified software
- Basic computer skills
In addition to the equipment you’ll need, there are a few other requirements that come standard with most at-home customer service jobs:
- High School diploma or GED
- Must be able to pass a background check
- Ability to commit to a schedule and complete required training
It’s also worth noting that some companies may have location restrictions.
If you’re going to be a work-at-home customer service rep, you’ll also need a few “soft skills” to be able to do your job well. These are pretty consistent with any job that’s customer-facing:
- Thinking “on your feet”
- Able to handle challenging conversations without getting upset
- Desire to be helpful and find a positive outcome
- Easy-to-understand voice
How flexible are the hours for at-home customer service work?
Generally speaking — very generally — the hours aren’t very “flexible” from day to day. When you take a remote customer service job, one of the things you’ll be doing is “bidding” on a schedule, or “shift.” Your shift is fixed, which means you need to be working during the designated hours.
Shift bids can happen every week or every six months depending on the company. With each shift bid you submit, you’ll have the opportunity to set a new schedule for yourself, which means you’ll have the chance to change your work-at-home hours. So in that sense, your hours can be flexible — you aren’t chained to a 4pm-12am shift for the rest of your career. But you are assigned a particular schedule for that timeframe, and you’ll need to stick to that schedule.
The important thing to remember is that the shifts do change with each new bid season, and the longer you’re with the company, the higher your priority level may go and the more likely you’ll be to have a favorable shift.
Typically, customer service hours are going to span the company’s entire customer service availability. Sometimes this is a standard 9-to-5 operation, but more often than not, a company that’s hiring a lot of remote customer service reps is going to have a customer service window that’s open 18-24 hours every day. This makes it a great opportunity for those looking for late night or weekend hours because of a day job or family obligations. If you don’t have much for availability or flexibility, however, this can be a tough gig.
Late nights, early mornings, and/or weekends and holidays tend to be the busiest and therefore many companies do have a set number of hours that need to be worked during these slots each week. The lower your seniority, the more likely it is that you’ll be slated for nights and weekends. Because you can’t exercise full control over your shift, you need to have full availability.
How should my resume look? What are the keywords? What if I don’t have the necessary experience?
Job descriptions for at-home customer service jobs tend to focus on the ability to answer customer questions and solve their problems. You’ll need to be able to be resourceful, carry conversations with all kinds of people, document everything that occurs on a call, and work efficiently (nobody likes to sit on hold!).
Some of the “unstated” qualities you’ll need include the ability to move quickly, listen effectively, and keep a level head when the person on the other end of the line is really unhappy.
Typical keywords you’ll find in these job descriptions include things like problem-solving, documentation skills, phone skills, multi-tasking, and conflict resolution.
Your resume needs to reflect all of these keywords and necessary skills. If you lack the required experience, it’ll be especially important that your resume and cover letter show that the experience you do have is still relevant, even if it’s not specifically in customer service.
If you’ve ever worked in a job that had you “face to face” with the public, you’ve probably picked up some valuable customer service skills. Sales, marketing, cashier work, and teaching are all transferable skills. Think about your work history and how you might have played the role of “question-answerer” or “problem solver” or “peace-maker.” Those are all hats you would wear in customer service.
What are some typical interview questions?
Some of the interview questions you get will be tailored to the specific job you’re interviewing for, but these are some of the typical customer service interview questions you might get:
- Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work for us? What makes you want to work in customer service?
- Have you ever worked remotely before? How will you achieve your goals and objectives? What are some of the challenges you expect with working from home?
- What qualifications do you have that make you a good fit? Why should we hire you for this particular position?
- Are there any reasons you won’t be able to work your assigned hours regularly? Are you available for extra shifts?
There will probably be role-specific questions to judge how you might perform under some of the more challenging situations you’ll face:
- What is good customer service, in your own words?
- Describe the best customer service experience you ever had, and why you think it was the best.
- Describe the worst customer experience you ever had, and why it was the worst.
- Tell me about a time when you helped resolve a particularly difficult issue with a customer. What was the issue and how did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time when you were unable to solve a customer’s problem. What was the issue and how do you think you handled it? What would you do differently, if you could?
- How would you respond to a customer who’s experiencing a common issue with your company’s product?
- How would you respond if the customer is angry? Is impatient? Is flat-out wrong?
- What would you do if you’re asked a question you don’t know how to answer?
How do I know if something is a scam?
Generally speaking, if something seems too good to be true, it’s going to be a scam. The absolute best way to protect yourself is to research the company and the position. Look for company reviews online. Check out sites like GlassDoor.com to see what other people say. You can also look for reviews on YouTube.
Generally speaking, these jobs pay between $10 and $14 per hour. If they promise you much higher rates (like $20 an hour or more), it’s likely that you’re dealing with a scam. Do your research and check online in Facebook groups (like this one) to see if anyone else has any experience with that company.
How do I use remote customer service as a stepping stone?
I love this question. Because customer service is considered an entry-level job (or one step above entry-level) it’s a great way to get started with remote work while you figure out what you *actually* want to be doing. If you want to stick with customer service for a while, more power to you! But you don’t necessarily have to.
As you look for remote work, you’ll notice that a lot of remote positions will require six months, a year, or even more of remote experience. They don’t necessarily specify what kind of job you have during that time frame, as long as it’s something you’ve done remotely. Customer service is a great way to rack up that work-at-home time so you can qualify for other work that you truly want.
Working in customer service is also a great “stop-gap” if you need to start working to get some money in the door, even if it’s not what you want to be doing for the long haul. You can wait and wait and wait for the perfect remote job to open up someday, or you can jump in right now, start getting paid, and pick up extra customer service skills while you look for the right job (or build your own business).
That’s what I did — when it was time for me to leave my corporate job, I started off by taking an at-home customer service job so that I could pay the bills while I got my virtual assistant business off the ground. Once I had enough VA clients to make ends meet, I quit my customer service jobs.
If you feel like you’re just treading water in your customer service job, try to focus on wringing as much as you can out of the experience. Ask your supervisor for feedback often. Look for ways to contribute or take leadership roles. Or go outside your employer and find ways to build your skills by taking classes on Udemy or joining professional networks. Anything you can do to build yourself up in the meantime will be a big benefit when you go looking for your next job.
Companies Hiring Work from Home Customer Service Reps
There are quite a few companies known for hiring at-home customer service reps, especially during the busy season. Not all companies may be hiring at this time, but if you want to find a work-from-home job doing customer services, these are all great places to start looking.
- ACD Direct – contacts with Independent Business Owners to process pledges for not-for-profit businesses
- ACTIVE Network – has some really interesting customer service positions like camping reservations and hunting/fishing licenses
- Alorica at Home – Employee position
- Alpine Access – hiring in the U.S. and Canada, also known as SYKES Home
- Amazon – location-specific and usually paying around $10 per hour, Amazon’s busiest season is right around Christmas. This position may last up to six months and includes an employee discount.
- American Express — This link goes to their remote job listings, which involve a few different types of customer service work
- APAC atHome – full-time employee positions with health and dental insurance available
- Apple at Home – tech support
- Arise – contracts with business entities only if you are not willing to form one there are opportunities to sign up under existing Independent Business Owners
- Aspire Lifestyles — offering high-end customer service reps for companies who need them
- BCD Travel – hires at-home travel consultants
- Capital One
- Convergys – location-specific employee positions
- DealDash – hires for phone, email and chat positions
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car — lots of at-home jobs available, including customer service
- GE Retail Finance
- Groupon – onsite training is required
- The Hartford – international company in the insurance industry
- Hayneedle – location-specific, employee positions
- Home Shopping Network (HSN)
- Intuit – hires tax specialists
- LiveOps – hires contract-workers to answer calls for various clients, contracts over 20,000 at-home reps!
- Needle – online chat
- Nieman Marcus – provide customer service to web and catalog shoppers
- Pierce Eislen – rent surveys, seasonal work during fall and spring
- Sutherland Cloud Source – hires for many big name companies. These are employee positions.
- SYKES – a worldwide company offering customer service solutions to Fortune 1000 clients in healthcare, transportation, leisure, technology, communications, and financial services industries.
- Teleflora – Mother’s Day is their busiest time of year, location-specific, full- and part-time positions available
- TeleTech – offers support to several Fortune 500 brands, employee rewards and discounts included
- TTEC – headquartered in Englewood, Colorado this company contracts over 20,000 at-home agents worldwide
- U-Haul – take reservations and book roadside assistance
- UnitedHealth Group
- Vivint Smart Home
- WorkingSolutions — do any of a variety of tasks based on what you’re assigned
The Best Job Boards to Watch for Openings
There are a few job boards that regularly list at-home customer service opportunities. When you’re looking for an at-home job doing customer service, check these boards regularly!
- FlexJobs – This site requires a subscription, but their focus is researched legitimate telecommuting positions. They do the digging, so you don’t have to. It’s very affordable, and they offer a money-back guarantee.
- Indeed – search for “work at home” or “work from home”
Use Your Head
When you’re looking for a work-at-home customer service job, be careful. There are lots of legitimate links and information, but there are also some opportunities that look legit but aren’t.
Specifically, never, ever give away important personal information, passwords, bank account numbers, or anything else. And NEVER respond to a person or organization who’s trying to involve you in a check-cashing, wire transfer, or Western Union scheme. Those are bogus and will bring you nothing but trouble. Be smart!