Lucinda SmallThere are two main types of at-home customer service jobs consisting of over-the-phone customer service and online customer service through websites, email and instant messaging. There are also jobs available that blend those services together.
Over-the-phone customer service jobs are available through the form of both answering services and virtual call centers. Online customer service jobs consist of meeting customer needs through website or emails.
When a business needs to provide customer service outside of their own work hours and cannot afford to hire full time help to answer any after-hour customer needs, they may employ an answering service. The answering service would learn to answer specific customer concerns and would provide any training needed to their employees.
Answering services work for several companies at once and provide good customer service without costing any individual business more than they can afford for the service. When a customer calls the "hotline" the call is routed to any qualified agent available to take the call and many of the agents work in the comfort of their own home as work-at home receptionists.
Additional benefits to a company outsourcing their calls to an answering service are the fact that they save on training expenses, equipment and software.
Virtual Call Centers
Virtual Call Centers work in a similar way that an answering service might work. A customer call would be routed to the next available agent, but because of the advancement of communication technology, it isn't required for agents to be in the same building, allowing the agent to work from home and helping the business save on facility expenses.
The main difference between a virtual call center and an answering service is that a single company generally maintains the virtual call center, whereas several companies might employ an answering service.
Many companies have websites in which customers can make purchases, request services or change specific accounts. Telecommuting agents are able to access any information being generated through the website by the customer and either fulfill the needs of the customer or transfer the information to the appropriate agent.
When a customer sends an email to a company, that email could be routed to any customer service agent, no matter where their location. Email services work in the same as phone services in that the service could either be outsourced to a third-party company or handled internally in the individual corporations.
In many retail settings, email may be sent to the sales representative who handled the original sale, but in the case where the original representative is not available, it could also be outsourced to a telecommuter.
Instant Messaging Services
In the age of instant messaging, companies have realized that customer service reps could help more than one customer at a time through instant messaging. A customer will ask a question to the agent and the agent will answer back with the appropriate information. When the customer remains "quiet" for a while, the agent can assist another customer as well, switching back and forth between both customers, making it easier on the company's finances and the customers who need to be helped right away.