What Does a Virtual Call Center Agent Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Image by Danie Drankwalter © The Balance 2019

Virtual call centers are work-at-home jobs in which individuals are hired as employees or work as an independent contractor to provide telephone, chat, customer service, or tech support services from their own home offices.

Like agents in a traditional call center, home-based call center agents handle inbound and/or outbound telephone calls and often chat and email as well. Companies either utilize virtual call center agents to provide customer support for their own organization or contract to provide virtual call center telephone support for others.

Virtual call center agents may do telemarketing or sales, customer service, third-party verification, or technical support for inbound or outbound calls. Depending on employers, agents may provide only one service or their workload may vary.

Virtual Call Center Agent Duties & Responsibilities

This job typically requires the ability to handle the following tasks:

  • Answer phone calls.
  • Answer emails or online chat messages.
  • Address customer concerns.
  • Direct customers to other resources when appropriate.
  • Engage in telemarketing.
  • Make calls to verify information.
  • Maintain a properly equipped home office.

Virtual call center agents need a home office that has the appropriate telephone and computer equipment to meet their employers' needs. While many jobs involve answering the phone, companies commonly offer customers an option to chat online with customer service representatives. Agents handle these responsibilities as well, and responding to customer emails might also be involved.

Many concerns or problems customers have can be solved directly by the call center agents, but sometimes agents need to direct customers to another resource.

Instead of receiving and responding to calls or messages, some virtual call center jobs require agents to make outgoing calls for the purposes of selling or to verify information.

Virtual Call Center Agent Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes virtual call center agents in a broader category of customer service representatives. While 80 percent of customer service reps worked full-time in 2016, according to BLS, it’s not uncommon for virtual call center agents to work part-time. Some call center pay structures are built on per-call or per-minute models.

  • Median Annual Salary: $32,884 ($15.81/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $54,329 ($26.12/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $21,361 ($10.27/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

No formal education or certification is necessary, and a high school diploma or GED often is the highest requirement.

  • Experience: Previous experience in telephone customer service is highly desirable. Some companies accept customer service experience in retail or other similar positions. Companies look for applicants who are self-motivated with good grammar and a professional phone presence. Typically, basic math and writing skills, as well as knowledge of word processing systems, are expected.
  • Application: Most companies hire work-at-home phone agents without a face-to-face interview. Online skill assessment tests and phone interviews are used instead. Background and credit checks are common, and some companies make applicants pay for these.

Virtual Call Center Agent Skills & Competencies

In addition to being knowledgeable about the companies they are working for and trained in how to handle common customer-related issues, virtual call center agents should have the following soft skills:

  • Interpersonal skills: Communication is a big part of the job. Agents need to be personable, professional, and friendly on the phone, with clear speaking voices. They also need to be adept at responding appropriately to callers based on their tone of voice as well as the content of their messages.
  • Patience: Callers often are frustrated or angry, and agents need to be able to work through the situation even if the person on the other end of the line is not as professional and calm.
  • Problem-solving abilities: Not all problems are common or expected. Agents need to be able to think quickly, assess the situation, and figure out the best possible solution.
  • Organizational skills: The job sometimes requires virtual call center agents to juggle a lot of information and jump from one call to an entirely different type of call, and they need to be prepared for each.

Job Outlook

Job growth for customer service representatives, which includes virtual call center agents, is projected at only 5 percent for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is less than the 7 percent growth projected for all occupations due to the increase in the number of firms using internet self-service or automated phone services that can handle simple tasks such as bill payment, changes of address, and more.

Work Environment

Companies hire virtual call center agents as both telecommuting employees and independent contractors. Either way, it’s most common for agents to work out of their own homes with companies like Arise Virtual Solutions. Since cordless phones typically are not allowed, agents need to remain at a desk or other workstation, and they typically need access to a computer while working. Agents generally own and maintain their own equipment, which must meet certain specifications.

Virtual call center agents rarely need to work away from their home offices. Even training is usually done from home. However, some companies do have geographic requirements and only hire from specific U.S. states.

Work Schedule

An array of schedules are possible. Some companies require agents to work some weekend or evening hours, while others don't offer weekend and evening shifts. Likewise, some require a minimum commitment of hours, while others make no guarantees about hours available. Most firms, particularly those that hire independent contractors, have no restrictions against agents working for a different company as well.

Demand for virtual call center agents often increases during holidays and other busy shopping seasons.

How to Get the Job

PRACTICE

To be as marketable as possible in the profession, take time to work on speaking professionally and clearly during all of your phone conversations.

APPLY

Seek open positions online and apply. Entry-level requirements are low, so it’s best simply to fill out as many applications as reasonable.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People considering working as a virtual call center agent might also consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries: