This is the third article in our four-part review series on Arise Virtual Solutions, a company that has been in business since 1997 and utilizes home workers to handle customer contact for their customers.  From the Arise website:

Arise customizes and delivers virtual business process outsourcing services, including high quality voice, email, chat and mobile customer service, sales and technical support.  Access a network of over 25,000 professionals providing better customer experiences.

In a shorter definition, Arise offers call center services for companies who wish to outsource that function, and all the call center agents with Arise are working from their home.

I have extensive experience working with Arise for approximately 7 years*.  Like all companies, there are pros and cons, and this will be a review based on my own experience and observations, and may not necessarily be the experience or opinion of others who have worked or do work with Arise.  I am going to focus on what makes Arise different from other call centers, and assume that the average reader will be familiar with the type of work performed at a call centers.  Also, for the reader’s clarification, “client” used in the context of this review means a client of Arise, in other words, the company that partners with Arise to receive call center support services.

Part 3 – Pros and Cons

After having provided the basic description of working with Arise, these are some of the factors that I think are important to consider for this work at home “job”.

Pros

Choice of client you will be servicing.  Personally, I think this is a huge plus, especially after working for a variety of clients with Arise and experiencing firsthand the difference between taking calls for one client versus another.  There are opportunities for sales, customer service (with or without sales included), technical support, and other types of customer support, (as is the case with many of the work-at-home call center companies), also factor in that while most of the opportunities are going to be inbound phone calls, there are also some opportunities for communicating with customers in a chat setting, and through email.  Having a choice in what “job” I was going to be doing was a definite plus for me.

Ability to work with more than one client.  If you want to sign up with two, three or even more clients and have the time and ability to work at least the minimum amount of required hours for each of them – then go for it!  This actually provides a number of benefits, one is that you will have variety in your work.  Also, some clients may have seasonal highs and lows, so having multiple clients with different seasons, or at least one that is fairly steady, can also be a benefit.

Flexible Schedule.  Being able to set your own schedule and not have to keep the same schedule every week is a huge bonus to many people for a lot of different reasons.  Moms and Dads who have to schedule around school schedules, nap schedules, or available child care; people who are working other jobs and need to schedule around that work schedule; students who need to schedule around classes and studying time; spouses who want to work at the same time their spouse is working so they can have their time off together; caregivers who need to schedule their work time around the needs of the one they are caring for.  Another advantage is to individuals with disabilities who may have to schedule around various medical appointments or treatments, or may have particular times of the day when they are physically stronger.  They may need to take frequent breaks or work shorter shifts, or any combination of those items.  Also having a flexible schedule allows you to work more hours if you have an unexpected expense come up, or maybe want to work some additional hours to pay for a weekend getaway or vacation, and also the opposite, if you usually work 40 hours and suddenly have something come up or just want some more time off, you have the option of cutting back to whatever your minimum is, usually 20 hours.

Options and Security.  As you are part of a large pool of agents, if you do find that the client you are currently working with might not be exactly what you had hoped, or maybe you even just want something more challenging or more of an interest to you, you can watch for opportunities that come up and make a change.  As Arise’s clients are like any other company, occasionally there may be reduction in workforce, or maybe that client decides they no longer wish to outsource their call center support so they will no longer be working with Arise (doesn’t happen very often, but it can and does).  In these situations, instead of starting the whole process of job hunting, etc., you again can watch for opportunities and consider working with another client.  While this is not 100% job security, that doesn’t exist anywhere, it does give you some options if you either find yourself no longer working, or if you would like to make a change.

Challenging Work.  Many of the clients that work with Arise are not call center positions that are mindless and repetitive.  Thus the longer training times, however, the pay off for that is learning a skill and work responsibilities that six months from now won’t make you want to rip your hair out from the boredom or find yourself fighting to stay awake, or staring at the clock willing it to move!  If you are the type of a person who prefers work that can keep you challenged and using your mind, and has more variety to it, then this would definitely be a plus for you as well.

Cons

Seasonal Work/Regular Hours.  While this is definitely not unique to Arise, it is something you should be aware of if you are looking for very steady work.  Paying for people to work only when they are needed is one of the selling features that online/virtual call centers use for potential clients/customers, and it is one of the reasons that companies are bringing their call center support back to the US (or Canada or the UK, etc.).  This advantage to a large company, not to have to hire and pay a lot of people who are sitting there doing nothing during slow times, can obviously be difficult for someone who is working and needs a fairly steady income.  My honest answer and advice for that is that if you absolutely must have a fairly steady income 52 weeks of the year, you may have to have several clients or be prepared to work with a client that may not be your first choice but has a steady work load, otherwise, Arise may simply not be for you.

Unpaid Meetings/Trainings, etc.  While there are exceptions, you should expect that you will have to attend occasional meetings or training sessions that you won’t be paid for.  How much time this will be will depend on the client you are working.  Many meetings are optional, sometimes training will be mandatory (for updates on client policy or procedure or products, etc.), but as a tip, I do encourage people to attend as much as they can, as it will ultimately make your job easier to be as informed and up to date as possible.  I can assure you that as with any job at any company—you are going to get what you give.  I considered attending those meetings and training sessions as an investment in myself, which pays off when you do your work better, with more confidence, and simply more enjoyment because you know what you’re doing.  Having the mentality of “I’m paid by the hour and for every minute I work and I won’t do anything unless I’m given money for it,” is not realistic for many jobs or careers, and quite frankly, is frequently an attitude that is only hurting yourself.

Fees.  This fees charged by Arise, and I’m mainly referring to training fees, are a frequent subject of discussion on the internet and among individuals working with Arise or considering it.  For someone who starts with Arise, it may seem like an enormous amount of money for having a “job.”  While I can understand this feeling completely—I also see the advantages of Arise that you will not have at many other call centers, such as choosing which company you want to work with.  I do not and cannot speak for Arise regarding their reason for charging fees, but I can also see as someone who has partnered with them for over seven years, that the fee for the training classes also ensure that those who are signing up for those class are truly interested and not just signing up on a whim or to “try it out and see what it’s like.”  As I stated above, many of the clients using Arise’s services are complex, challenging companies that in the “brick and mortar world” would require employees to train with them full time for quite a few weeks before beginning to interact with customers.  The training classes with Arise (as far as I know as of this writing) all require an actual instructor in a live classroom setting, so there are definitely expenses involved in each class.  Anyone who has taken a college course, continuing education class, or even a park district, class offered through a church, or community course has likely experienced starting a class with X-number of students, and then a much smaller number of students at the end of the class.  I once took an interior design course at the college level that not only was full, but had several students auditing the class, and had a waiting list—at the end of the class, I think we had 8-10 who stayed with it out of about 40-50 at the beginning.  Imagine how many more would have signed up and dropped the class if the class was totally free?

I also will add that if you are satisfied with a client, work 20-40 hours a week, and are with them for many months or even years (like many agents are and do), then the fee for that class is obviously returned to you many times over.  It is so often all a matter of perspective.  For example, have you ever had a job where you had to go out and buy some new clothes or a uniform?  Possibly other items, such as a briefcase, laptop, cell phone, other equipment?  I know mechanics and other tradespeople who have to purchase their own tools and don’t even question that expense, and usually that is an ongoing expense as well.  Both my sons have had jobs that required them to buy specific brand of steel-toed boots that were very expensive, and that purchase was a requirement if you wanted the job.  What about union dues?  Professional association fees?   Continuing education or certification?  Medical transcriptionists pay thousands of dollars for their training and then hire themselves out as independents or work as employees.  There are all kinds of reasons that people “spend money” in order to obtain or continue to do a job that brings in income.  Again—perspective.

With that said, I will again express my opinion and state that one of my wishes is that Arise had a reimbursement program so that those who stay all the way through the class and then work with the client for a given period of time, receive at least a portion, if not all, of the money back.  This is occasionally done, but I would like to see this for all training classes.  (As a side note, some of the corporations who hire agents offer this incentive or something similar.)  Two other wishes of mine:  I would like to see the training fees lowered, as well as totally eliminate the initial $99 course to get started with Arise.  (Again, if you are going to sign up with an existing corporation as an agent, check with them to see if they have any policies in place for that.)

Pay/Earnings.  In a general, across-the-board statement, I would love to see higher pay for agents with Arise.  Yes, there are some agents working in sales, and who are successful with sales, who can make some “healthy” incentives.  However, overall, I think the responsibilities and positions of call center agents are worth much more than the current average hourly pay, (which is according to Arise, $10-14 an hour).  I do realize that low-paying jobs are what is allowing us to compete with other countries for these call center jobs, and what is making homeshoring attractive to large companies, but I still feel that the people doing this work are undervalued and underpaid.  As an additional editorial note, this is definitely not just with Arise, but, unfortunately, is a virus that is completely embedded in theUS—but that could be an entire editorial on its own.  Let’s just leave it as saying that I wish Arise and the companies that are hiring Arise would value the people more who are doing such a fantastic job for them and pay them what they are worth.

Watch for the fourth and final article in this serieswhich is a summary and conclusion of this in-depth review of Arise Virtual Solutions.

*Editor’s Note:  In the interest of disclosure, I do want to make it clear that while I am not currently working with any client with Arise, I am still affiliated with them, have an existing contract with them, and do work with and recruit agents who are serious about working, and are a good fit for this particularly business model.  However, no compensation was provided for this review.