All Things oDesk
August 20, 2008 by Orie Zaklad

Customer support representative, as a discrete job or as one facet of the "virtual assistant" position, is a great opportunity for a provider with strong interpersonal skills and a natural ability to solve problems. But it can be hard to stand out among applicants for a job involving human language and "common" interpersonal skills.

Review your profile:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes can kill your chances. You're asking to represent someone's business to the world.
  • Mention "customer support" in your skills list or the title. Make sure your profile reflects your interest in the job.
  • Take the right tests. Placing highly in oDesk's Call Center Skills Test and our Email Etiquette Test demonstrates your skills and show you've taken time to establish your abilities--you're not just answering this job post because, "What the heck, I've got a phone ..."

Nail the interview:

  • Be professional, positive and polite. The buyer is thinking, "This is the voice my customers will hear. This is the attitude my customers will encounter."
  • Ask smart questions. A customer support person or versatile virtual assistant is a problem solver who deftly cuts to the heart of a matter to come up with a quick, appealing solution. Ask about the kinds of questions callers will bring, the tools and authority you'll have to solve them, the training you'll get and the metrics that will provide feedback on your efforts. Can you listen in on a few calls, live or prerecorded?
  • Treat the the buyer like a customer. When the interview finishes, ask whether there's anything else you can do for the buyer right now, and wish her a good day--leave her feeling the way she wants her customers to feel.

Do the job:

  • Keep a reliable schedule. If you aren't able to make a consistent time commitment right now, these jobs probably won't work out for you.
  • Provide frequent reports. There may be a degree of autonomy expected--after all, the buyer is outsourcing the work to you--but let him see that you are thorough and responsible, and provide all the information he needs to be confident in your work.
  • Make people happy. You're a creative problem solver, within the parameters your buyer sets out. Never tell customers, "Hey, I dunno," or "That's not my department." Be positive, empathetic, and utterly solution-oriented: "I will get back to you with an answer" or "Let me ask my manager."

If you're a quick-thinking "people person," you could have a lot of success helping buyers keep their customers satisfied. Just make sure that from the minute you apply for the job, you know how to keep your customer (the buyer) satisfied, too.

Orie Zaklad

Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at The Marc Lavry Heritage Foundation

Orie Zaklad is the Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at The Marc Lavry Heritage Foundation. He formerly served as Senior Marketing Manager at oDesk.