Customer service representatives are an essential bridge between companies and the people they serve. Whether they are assisting customers with questions, complaints, special requests, handling returns and exchanges, signing up people for loyalty and rewards programs, or providing many other services — they have a tough but necessary job.
Aside from face-to-face customer interactions, they can also deal with people by phone, email, and live chat, making customer service jobs a natural category for remote work opportunities. According to Global Workplace Analytics, there’s a growing movement for companies to explore remote work arrangements, with a 173% growth in teleworking since 2005. The trend was also intensified by the at-home work arrangements forced by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Companies are embracing remote work arrangements because they can save on overhead costs, increase employee happiness – as they give up difficult commutes and achieve a better work-life balance – and boost productivity. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reveals that in a study of call center employees, the ones working at home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office. They were also happier with their jobs and 50% more likely to stay with their employers.
Investopedia points out that virtual assistants, translators, data-entry and transcription workers, teachers or tutors, and call center or customer service representatives are among the top types of remote jobs. Many companies are outsourcing these positions and hiring plenty of domestic candidates. Investopedia shares: “Most of these types of jobs entail inbound calls, helping people with orders, or account information, but some also require outbound calling. Most also come with a set work schedule – though the pay is often by the hour (or sometimes minute), while you’re on an actual call.”
For people attracted to remote customer service job opportunities, these provide great flexibility in living-working arrangements, and in some cases, they come with on-the-job training.
Seven Skills Needed for Remote Customer Service Jobs
Successful remote customer service sometimes requires broad general knowledge and specific expertise (providing support for a particular software package, for example). But, in general, the position requires the following skills and attributes:
The Ability to Communicate Well. Not surprisingly, great communication skills are required to get the customer to trust an agent and benefit from their help. Customer service representatives need to communicate clearly, use positive language, manage expectations, and assure customers that their issues are being addressed, but they also have to be good listeners. If a customer is misunderstood, the transaction may lead them to question their choice of a company’s product or service.
Before they can help, reps must thoroughly understand the customer request or issue, both in what is said and not said. Without face-to-face communication and the ability to read body language or hear the tone of voice, the job is made challenging when trying to understand the situation from emails or messages.
Calm and Patience. Customer service reps often have to deal with people who might be angry or rude and do not communicate clearly. The reps must not respond to heated emotions and should have the presence of mind to get to the core of the problem so that an appropriate resolution can be found. Knowing how to calm down an irate customer and having access to real emotional intelligence are important customer service qualities.
Empathy. When dealing with a lot of customers and complaints, it’s easy to become jaded. This links back to the idea of calm and patience. Having a certain level of empathy for your customers’ plights will help you do the job more effectively. If compassion is too much to ask for under the circumstances, then professional detachment and courtesy will do.
Organization. If a customer service representative is working remotely, they need to be well-organized and disciplined to stay productive without a boss staring directly over their shoulder — especially if they are on a call quota. Part of being organized is treating a home office like a real one, with set work hours, a professional demeanor, and the ability to keep your home and work life separate.
Decision-Making Skills. A call center or other customer service function can be a fast-paced business environment. Remote staff are expected to make a lot of decisions on their own before they push a question or problem further up the command chain to a supervisor. Making the fast, right decision requires confidence, and knowing what you are doing.
The Ability to Juggle. Multitasking is often required for remote customer service jobs. While engaging a customer on a call or putting them on a temporary hold, for example, you might have to search quickly for an answer or information you don’t have, perhaps calling someone in another department to see if the call should be transferred instead. It takes real skill to keep a lot of balls in the air from falling to the ground.
Capacity to Work Independently. When working from home, you still have the support of bosses and team members, so knowing how to use these connections is essential to the job. But getting advice and feedback isn’t as simple as taking a walk next door and asking your question. The physical distance from the workplace and colleagues requires you to be independent and motivated. Advanced problem-solving skills and resourceful thinking go with the territory.
Other Considerations for Remote Customer Service Jobs
When working remotely, you have to be sure that your home office is properly set up for the customer service job. So, if possible, you shouldn’t work on the kitchen table or from a living room armchair. You should have your own home office space – or if space is a challenge, a dedicated corner in a communal living area – that is properly furnished and equipped with all the technology you need to do the job.
For example, if using the internet is important to what you do, including hosting live chats or answering emails, do you have a fast enough connection to do your job, or will it slow down as your housemates scroll through social media and watch YouTube videos? Increase your internet plan or put work-time rules on your connection’s use.
If you have to do phone calls, perhaps get a headset so that you can communicate clearly with customers without distractions. And if you are asked to use specialized software or equipment for the job, put in the time you need to learn it, so you aren’t floundering when actually working.
Keep in mind security, too. Is it robust enough to do the job if you are using your own computer, and is it running all the latest versions of software, including security patches? Do you have virus protection?
Keep in mind that while technology allows you to work from virtually anywhere, it’s not always wise to do so. If you decide to go to a coffee shop, an unsecured Wi-Fi connection could put your computer data at risk. Or an overheard phone call with a customer might fall on the wrong pair of ears.
Where to Look for Remote Customer Service Jobs
If you have decided that a remote customer service job is for you, it’s time to find one. First, make sure you have a good resume ready, emphasizing appropriate credentials. If you don’t have work experience in the field, then highlight transferable skills that show your ability to communicate, stay organized, work with people while under pressure, and so on.
To find a remote customer service role for you, Joblist is one of the best places to search, with millions of jobs on offer across the United States, posted by the top companies in every industry. Take your first step toward a new career by browsing the listings in our job openings for customer service roles. If you have any questions, one of our customer service reps will be happy to help you.