If you know various online shopping and service sites like the back of your hand, being an online sales chat agent may be the perfect work at home job for you.
Companies like Overstock, AT&T and Under Armour have online chat functions that enable direct customer support while the customers are still on the website. Quite often, these chat functions do not exist in-house but are outsourced to third-party vendors such as Needle.com, Talk2Rep, etc. These vendors work with the big-name retailers and industries to help support their customers and increase sales.
Chat customer support may include something as simple as explaining how an item is added to a shopping cart on the company’s website. However, in many cases, the support may entail something more in-depth, such as explaining to a Norwegian Cruise Line customer why a higher deck stateroom is preferable to one on a lower deck.
In such cases, the chat agent must have personal and credible experience with the product in order to be its best advocate. In exchange for being such great product advocates, many chat agents receive sales commissions.
The good news is that many third-party vendors hire remote sales chat agents who can work from home and arrange their hours around their personal schedule. The bad news is that, oftentimes, the work is strictly commission-based. Luckily (and perhaps due to agent complaints), many vendors have recently started paying not only sales commissions but also by the hour.
Here are some of the best vendors you can work for as an online sales chat agent:
Founded in 2000, LiveOps is a large California-based company that employs and contracts over 20,000 agents. There are a number of services that the company offers to its clients, including voicemail, chat, email, SMS, social media interaction, etc. LiveOps Chat is, as the name suggests, the chat segment of the company.
Chat agents can apply through the company’s general application page after creating a profile. Because the company is expanding and acquiring at a fast rate, the chance of being accepted is pretty high. There is also a required background and credit check that applicants must cover the costs of (via a third party site).
Sales chat agents can earn anywhere from $8-$30/hour, although the general consensus is around $10 for typical retail industry chat agents. It does seem that agents with sales experience do better at LiveOps than those going in completely “cold” because the company does not spend a lot of time training newbies.
LiveOps negatives include being treated like a number rather than an individual, possibly due to the sheer size of the company. Some chat agents have also complained about being forced to run through scripts rather than work independently with the customer.
This company has entered its 5th year of operations and works with well-recognized brands including Coach, Urban Outfitters, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norton, Overstock and UnderArmour.
Needle prefers to hire chat agents that have some personal experience with a brand. Typically, they will list the exact company for which they are hiring; for example, you might see a chat agent listing for Reebok or Adidas on the vendor’s subdomain Needle pincushion.
After you fill out the job application, you may or may not be contacted by a hiring agent. If you are contacted, expect to undergo an interview via chat. Aside from your product knowledge, you will also be tested on your typing speed (which should be at least 35 wpm).
Once hired as an independent contractor, you receive $1/chat. Needlers, as the sales chat agents are called, can also earn points for picking up chats quickly or closing a sale. These points are redeemable for items such as clothing, iPods, etc.
Needle negatives include a lack of available work hours; the available work schedule is distributed weekly and sign-up is by a first-come, first-serve basis. There are also some complaints on Glassdoor and Indeed that management is slow to respond to chat agent questions and issues.
This company has been around for nearly 15 years and offers phone, chat and social media support to fairly large organizations like AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Sears, Bayer, Lowe’s and Abbott Labs. Sales chat agents are paid $9-$11/hour plus a percentage of their sales.
Because it deals with larger and more stringent clients, Talk2Rep requires its applicants to pass a few smaller tests and a longer mock chat interview. Applicants must also be able to type at 50 wpm. There is a background check, with the applicants covering the $50 fee.
Company negatives include a lack of in-depth as well as paid training. The initial training time takes 8-9 days to complete, and during that time, the new agent works for free. Any additional training is up to the agent and at her own cost. Furthermore, hired chat agents must be prepared to deal with up to 3 chats at a time.
This 18-year-old company works with many different clients in a range of industries including health care, travel and insurance. The company also employs or contracts with over 76,000 agents. Arguably, it is one of the most diverse third-party vendors around.
Aspiring agents can check out what individuals jobs are available through the site’s Agent Opportunities job board. In many cases, agent jobs run as high as $20/hour for specialized industry knowledge, productivity or additional skills. Training time is paid for and agents are expected to work a minimum of 20 hours/week.
A background check and drug test are both mandatory and must be passed prior to hire.
Due to the higher pay structure of WorkingSolutions, there is a good level of competition when getting hired as a chat agent. Some applications have been known to sit for a few months before the applicant was contacted about an available position. Otherwise, the negative feedback about this company is rather minimal.
Is being a work-at-home sales chat agent worth it?
If you like chatting online, and especially about products or services that are near and dear to your heart, then being a sales chat agent may be the ideal job for you. As a long-term gig, however, I don’t see how an $8-$11/hour job can realistically pay your bills. Many of the above mentioned vendors work with large, Fortune 500 companies, so I seriously doubt that they are being compensated lightly for their services.
However, if you have a knack for sales, some of these commission-based jobs may be perfect for you. In fact, you might earn more from your commissions than the hourly pay. Definitely consider how much you like upselling and cross-selling before applying for these positions.