Want to be a call center representative? Here’s what you need to know.
If you have any interest in working for a call center, here’s what you should know before you apply.
Published March 25, 2021
Last updated April 7, 2021
Due to COVID-19, there’s a growing number of remote call center jobs available online. According to Fortune, more and more high-volume call centers (or contact centers) are moving to remote work and staying that way, which means greater opportunity for work-from-home call center representatives.
But don’t let the role’s high demand boost your confidence too much—getting a job as a call center representative still takes preparation. If you have any interest in pursuing a career as a call center, you’ll need to know the basics regarding job expectations and qualifications, salary, and remote work opportunities.
Here's what you'll learn about becoming a call center representative:
What is a call center representative?
A call center representative, or call center agent, is someone who talks on the phone with customers or members of the public at a dedicated inbound or outbound call center. The agent helps people with questions, issues, or complaints about the product or service the call center is designed to support.
A call center representative is responsible for a number of different tasks:
- Providing omnichannel support: Your primary responsibility will be talking to customers on the phone, but you may have to use other tools as well. These might include email, live chat, CRM software, or social media. Reps who are comfortable communicating on an array of channels are able to meet customers where they are.
- Coordinating with other teams and departments: Often, you won’t be able to solve an issue all on your own. You’ll need to forward it to someone else within the company or get input from another representative. You must be able to communicate with different people within a potentially large organization—all in service of helping customers or making a sale.
- Multitasking: During a call with a customer, you may be doing several different things at once on a computer. You’ll need to be able to maintain your focus on customer care and make callers feel as though they have your full attention while you’re juggling a few different processes to assist them.
- Troubleshooting customer problems: Customers will call in for help with a variety of issues or questions. To solve the issues or answer the questions, you’ll have to understand what the problem is, what the customer needs from you, and what information you need to solve the problem—and you’ll have to create a list of possible solutions and alternatives—all in a timely manner.
Working at a call center is far more complex than just talking on the phone and Googling the solution; you must have the right skills and mindset to achieve maximum customer satisfaction.
What skills and qualifications do call center representatives need?
For an entry-level call center role, no one is going to expect you to have 10 years of experience or be able to make 100 calls a minute. But there are a few call center skills and qualifications that are essential even for newcomers—as well as some characteristics that are nice to have.
- Verbal communication skills: This is the most important one. It’s not just about having all the information at your fingertips; you also need to actively listen and then skillfully communicate the solutions. Active listening is about establishing rapport with customers and making sure they know that you understand them and their concerns. It’s an essential skill for diffusing tense situations with customers. You’ll also need to clearly explain to them how you can help, and you may have to walk them through complicated actions using a computer or software program—a difficult task on the phone.
- Empathy and adaptability: You’ll be talking to different types of people, all with diverse styles of communicating and varying needs, problems, or requests. Even though you'll often be working from scripts or templates, you must be able to understand what problems your customers are dealing with and how they’re being affected—and then adapt your tone and knowledge for any situation, with any kind of customer.
- Technical skills: You’ll be using a set of tools and call center software to do your job, and if you’re working remotely, you may be expected to implement them yourself on your own equipment. So, you’ll need to be self-sufficient with technology.
- Time management: With all the multitasking you’ll be doing, you’ll need to prioritize to-do list items. Time management skills will be essential to making sure you’re meeting your quotas, if you have them.
- Familiarity with a company’s products or services: Customer service representatives often need to help customers with issues, educate them about features, or upsell them on different products. Reps must have a deep understanding of the material themselves to build trust and communicate effectively.
- Ability to work with others: Physical call centers typically have many representatives working in close quarters. Even if you’re working remotely, you’ll be part of a team, and collaboration will be important.
- High school diploma: It may not be impossible to get a job as a call center agent without a high school degree, but it will definitely be more difficult.
- Previous customer service experience: It will always be easier to get a job (even an entry-level one) if you’ve done it before. It won’t often be a requirement, but having prior experience in a customer-facing or customer support role will give you an edge.
- Availability at odd times: Sometimes, call centers will need to work the phones on weekends or at night, and not everyone is willing or able to do that—it’ll help you if you are.
- Multilingual: Wherever you’re working, there may be customers who speak different languages. Customer support is about meeting customers where they are, and if you can communicate effectively in two or more of the common languages the company's customers speak, you’ll be a better representative.
Most of the must-have qualifications are directly related to the tasks you’ll be doing routinely, while the nice-to-haves will give you a competitive leg up.
How much money does a call center representative make?
Call center representative salaries vary widely by location. Places with high concentrations of tech companies, like California’s Bay Area, have average salaries of more than $48,000 per year. Some of the other places in the U.S. with the best pay for call center jobs are New York, Chicago, Austin, and Atlanta. On the other end of the spectrum are Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia, with salaries around 20 percent lower than the national average of $29,251 per year.
Since the potential to work from home is high and increasing, it may be wise to try to balance the cost of living in expensive areas with the higher average salaries those areas provide.
What equipment does a call center representative need?
If you’re working in a physical call center, all your equipment will likely be provided for you. If you have a remote call center job, the company may provide you with this equipment or give you a stipend for it, but that’s not a guarantee. If the cost is a barrier for you, make sure to check job postings for mentions of how the company will help workers set up a home office.
Here’s what call center reps may need to work from home:
- Desktop PC: You’ll want a strong, reliable desktop computer (laptop PCs and Macs are sometimes not allowed) to accommodate all the tasks you’ll need to do and the software you’ll need to use. Look for at least 1 GB of RAM and a 1Ghz–2Ghz processor.
- Internet connection: You’ll have to send emails; browse databases, features lists, etc.; and, potentially, communicate with customers if your company uses some kind of instant messaging. Wireless often isn’t reliable enough, so DSL or cable will be the way to go.
- Phone: Companies will have many different policies around phones, so be sure to inquire. Sometimes, a work phone will be provided. Other times, you’ll have to use your cell phone, a VoIP number, or a dedicated landline.
- Headset: You must be able to talk on the phone hands-free, and your voice should be clearly intelligible, so you’ll need a headset with a microphone and high-quality sound.
- Company software: You’ll need to become proficient in the messaging, calling, call-logging, or other software your company uses and have room for it on your computer.
- Workspace: Lastly, you must have somewhere quiet to work. You’ll be listening and talking nonstop and, quite possibly, exchanging confidential information with customers. It’s essential that you be in a space where no one overhears you and where you’ll be able to hear customers clearly.
This is just a general overview of the equipment you’ll need for a home office. Every company will have different specifications and requirements, and you should always make sure you understand what will be needed so you don’t sign up to spend more money than you’re able to on equipment.
Call centers are work-from-home opportunities
Many call centers are moving to the cloud, and with that shift comes a huge amount of flexibility and more opportunity to work as a call center representative from home. Whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time roles, you can work for a company based almost anywhere (thanks to call centers’ versatile hours) while residing in an area with a low cost of living.
The most important call center representative skills in this new era will be the ones that allow you to work effectively from home: communicating well, having flexibility, shaping your office setup to serve your needs, and finding solutions independently.
Now that you know what it takes to become a stellar call center representative, it’s time to spruce up your call center representative resume and start applying to roles.