The call center agent field includes customer service representatives, answering service workers, telemarketers, and customer support specialists.
Call center agents may serve in-house for the company they represent or perform in an independent regional call center that serves companies that outsource their incoming, outgoing, and after-hours calls instead.
In-house call center agents typically have the title of Customer Service Representative or Agent.
In contrast, titles for customer support specialists include IT Support Specialist, IT Support Technician, Technical Support Engineer, or Help Desk Support Agent.
Table of Contents
- Job Description
- Education Requirements
- Experience Requirements and Salary Expectations
- Pros of Being a Call Center Agent
- Cons of Being a Call Center Agent
- Pros and Cons of Being a Call Center Agent – Summary Table
- Should You Become a Call Center Agent?
- States With the Highest Number of Call Center Employees
- Legal Considerations
Although people think of telemarketers as unscrupulous and aggravating, most do not sell products or recruit for programs.
In contrast, fewer than 1480 sell products and services directly to customers.
Furthermore, after subtracting the telemarketers, 177,150 of the 292,280 business support employees in the United States work as “Customer Service Representatives.”
Most first-time telemarketers do not need anything beyond a high school diploma or equivalent.
On the other hand, customer service representatives from finance companies or insurance agencies often need state licenses and must pass industry exams with at least 75 percent to earn one.
Experience Requirements and Salary Expectations
Despite being the largest employment sector for telemarketers, business support services provide the lowest average salary: $13.37 per hour or $27,820 per year.
In contrast, telemarketing at a call center for computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing brought home $27.84 per hour or $57,910 per year.
In addition, customer service representatives in business support services made $2.70 more per hour than telemarketers.
Contrast those salaries with the pay for computer network support specialists.
Elementary and secondary schools pay computer network support specialists $29.50 an hour or $61,350 per annum at the lower end.
However, call centers focused on petroleum and coal product manufacturing had the best-paying network support jobs.
The average pay for these network support specialists ran $50.28 hourly for an annual salary of $104,580.
Pros of Being a Call Center Agent
1. You Do Not Need a Degree to Start
Most call center agents begin immediately after high school.
As long as they have turned 18, they can even start their careers while completing the required courses for their GED or high school diploma.
Moreover, you cannot underestimate the financial boost of starting a job without garnering truckloads of student loan debt.
2. Bonuses and Spiffs
The acronym SPIFF stood for Sales Performance Incentive Funding Formula and originated in the garment industry to describe successfully selling outdated material.
Call centers that use spiffs and bonuses will advertise pay as “up to.” a specific dollar amount.
Call centers that use spiffs do so to keep callers enthused and motivated.
Examples of spiffs include mystery envelopes, lottery tickets, prize wheels, and cash.
3. Shorter Work Days
Call centers often send workers home when they reach the day’s goal.
Making a full day’s pay on a partial day’s work frees call center agents to take care of banking and errand-running on the way home.
Ideally, using this free time for outdoor exercise or creative pursuits will keep you physically and mentally healthy.
Call centers that provide business support services may administer surveys in the morning, call and thank donors in the early afternoon, and set appointments for the sales team in the early evening.
Contact center agents might run old calling campaigns to generate sales or get prior customers and donors to buy or donate again.
Even if you work from home, Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams, among others, allow you to see, hear, and interact with fellow agents, managers, and customers in real-time.
This contact helps maintain team bonds and prevents home workers from feeling isolated.
6. Hybrid Work Environment
Many call center agents work from home and only go into the office a few times a week.
This flexibility to work on fewer days reduces commute time and transportation costs.
You can devote this reclaimed time to creative pursuits, start your own business, or spend more time enjoying life with friends and family.
In addition to on-the-job training, many call centers pay for advanced courses that relate to skills you need in your specific position in the company hierarchy.
Take full advantage of these free educational opportunities and pursue a degree.
The more courses you take on the company dime, the faster you obtain a degree without incurring student loan debt.
Cons of Being a Call Center Agent
Making call after call, using a script, and asking the same questions over and over can become tedious.
Most call center managers use games, impromptu dance parties complete with disco lights, and competition between teams to keep things exciting and enthusiasm high.
Keeping yourself motivated may require getting up to walk around the building, especially after a difficult call.
2. Financial Instability
A bad day or week can leave you without enough money to pay bills, especially in call centers that rely on commissions instead of regular wages.
Set aside your spiffs and bonuses whenever possible.
3. Rude Customers
Your calls often interrupt people at mealtime or while resting from their jobs.
Customers may yell, cry, or swear at you, but you do not have to stay on the call if they refuse to gain control of themselves.
Let your customer know that you understand why they might be angry or frustrated, but you will have to hang up if they intend to continue with unacceptable behavior.
In some call centers, managers walk the floor the entire time, shouting out what they think motivates, encourages, and maintains excitement.
The constant pressure to perform at peak ability can cause anxiety and even rebound to reduce rather than improve an agent’s performance.
5. Poor Job Security
In some call centers, routinely firing the bottom third of performers when performance rubrics go unmet means not knowing whether you will have a job from one day to the next.
Since many agents do not need any post-secondary education to start, it makes sense for managers to drop any higher-paid, low-performing agents and hire them off the street.
6. Excessive Stress
The pressure to perform, micromanagement, rude customers, and job insecurity often cause rapid burnout.
Additionally, burnout can affect the entire team, reducing effectiveness by as much as one-third and wiping out the necessary profit margins for bonuses and spiffs.
7. Irregular Schedules
Calling campaigns usually dictate schedules.
Consequently, when equipment breaks down, or software failures occur, you may sit for long periods with little or nothing to do.
Then, when the IT technician for your call center cannot resolve the problem, you may get sent home, losing hours and increasing anxiety about that week’s paycheck covering all your bills.
Pros and Cons of Being a Call Center Agent – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Call Center Agent||Cons of Being a Call Center Agent|
|1. You Do Not Need a Degree to Start||1. Boredom|
|2. Bonuses and Spiffs||2. Financial Instability|
|3. Shorter Work Days||3. Rude Customers|
|4. Variety||4. Micromanagement|
|5. Social Contact||5. Poor Job Security|
|6. Hybrid Work Environment||6. Excessive Stress|
|7. Training||7. Irregular Schedules|
Should You Become a Call Center Agent?
Employment Outlook: Telemarketers’ job growth will continue dropping through 2030 due to the increased use of AI-driven customer contact methods, shedding as many as 21,900 positions.
Robocall campaigns will continuously screen out clients who do not need your company’s services, vastly reducing the number of inbound calls and keeping revenue streams rising.
Chatbots further screen inbound inquiries, allowing customers to resolve their issues.
As a result, employment for customer service representatives will remain steady through the same period.
At the same time, available work for computer support specialists will increase by an overall average of nine percent through 2030.
States With the Highest Number of Call Center Employees
Over 22,360 telemarketers work in Texas, with Florida fielding 15,000 workers and Ohio, California, and Utah trailing with 8150, 7930, and 4340.
However, employment as a customer service representative dwarfs telemarketing by as much as 1000 percent in Texas, with 291.260 workers.
In addition, Florida employs 251,640 CSRs, while California, New York, and Ohio take third, fourth, and fifth place in the number of customer service representatives working there.
Texas also leads the field for computer network specialists, employing 14,020 people.
California took second place, with 13.330 workers, knocking Florida into fifth place.
Florida’s 10,660 computer network specialists make the least money per hour of the big five: $32.57 hourly or $67.740 annually.
The state of Illinois takes a surprising third position as the largest employer, with 13,250 people choosing to work in the field.
In contrast, fourth-place New York provides 11,350 network specialists with employment.
Working as a telemarketer, customer service representative, or computer network specialist gives you access to people’s personal information, financial data, and passwords.
By law, you must keep all of that information protected and cannot share anyone’s data without written permission from the customer or a signed, dated, and detailed court order.
Never repeat anyone’s bank account number or credit card number out loud, and if you have to write it down, you must shred that document.
Never throw client records away without shredding them if they contain any personally-identifiable information such as account numbers, birthdates, or social security numbers.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021: 41-9041 Telemarketers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021: 43-4051 Customer Service Representatives
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021:15-1231 Computer Network Support Specialists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021:15-1232 Computer User Support Specialists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Data for Occupations not Covered in Detail: 41-9041 Telemarketers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Customer Service Representatives
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