If you've been in this industry long enough or read a number of my reviews you'll start noticing that when a company is successful others will “bite off” them. In non-urban terms that means copying someone else. My daughter is in that annoying phase right now and it's driving me crazy but I digress. In the past, I've reviewed a few Virtual Call Center companies which include VIP Desk and Arise.com
As expected there were varying opinions on both companies. But at the end of the day I concluded that the two companies were legitimate and viable options for people with Customer Service skills. Depending on your needs one was better than the other. Well I like giving people a lot of choices when possible. So if neither company rubbed you the right way, maybe Alpine Access might be another viable option.
What is Alpine Access.com?
This is a Denver (about as alpine as we have in the USA) company who claims to be a pioneer in the virtual call center business. It seems to me that the mid 1990's is when this whole outsourcing phenom got all started in everything, so I don't know so much about the pioneer thing. For those who have not read the previous posts on Arise.com and VIPDesk, a virtual call center is the person sitting at home in their sweats and a T-shirt who professionally answer the 1-800 call you make to customer service number conveniently found on TV commercials, your bill, and/or your favorite shopping websites. They are the folks who answer product questions, solve ordering issues, deal with billing issues, help you with returns, make reservations, and all that stuff. You might want to think twice the next time you go the nasty route with these folks. Maybe they can tell you how they get their job. Just a thought.
Alpine is different because….
– This time we are talking about a job. You are not an independent contractor, when you get hired, you work for them. That means, well, you know, they pay you to work, and so they have to take out the taxes to keep Uncle Sam happy. It also means you get paid by the hour and not by “productive minutes” with customers. You do not have to have a separate bank account or incorporate yourself or any of that legal Work At Home Taxes headaches.
– They offer health,vision and dental benefits to anyone working 20 hours per week or higher after you put 30 days in and matching 401(k) after one year. Do not start jumping for joy here, you can expect these will be minimal levels and you may have to pay for some additional coverage. That is pretty common with this level of pay. Hey, something is better than nothing, right?
– You do not have to pay for training. The training procedures are rigorous, as these Fortune 500 companies that use outsourcing for their customer service expect professionals who speak well, can spell and write complete sentences and have good judgment. (I'm out of the running for this one.) At Alpine Access University, you register for a class, and then with a group of others, you go through a virtual classroom training together. Yep, you get to interact with the other class members and the teacher. You will learn about the Alpine Access, you learn about the virtual call center business and then you dig in and learn all of the specifics about the specific industry you are training for. There will be tests along the way you must pass. You will practice with real customers with the instructors critique before completing the course. Some time each day is spent in the “homeroom” what they call their virtual classroom, (yes it sounded corny to me too) and others will be with independent assignments. Once you pass the class, you get a phone interview and if everything works out, you will be offered a job.
Let's talk about the money…
The pay for these jobs is $9 an hour, and occasionally you find people making $10-$12. It might depend on the minimum wage in your state and the business you train for. But the reality is, that is what you get paid. I found lots of grumbling about the pay rate for this company and really any virtual call center, but the bottom line is that is what the pay scale is industry wide, like it or not. One thing is you will probably not get a raise, unless you are promoted within the company to be a team leader or coach or trainer or something, which could be just like most promotions I ever had in the business world, a Tylenol Promotion, (more headaches than the extra money is worth.)
You get paid every two weeks, direct deposit to your bank. Unlike other places you will know what is coming in, since it does not depend on the number of calls you get. Do the math you work 6 hour shift a $9 ($54) for 5 days ( $270) minus taxes will make it around $200/week while sitting at home, no gas, no parking, no fancy clothes, and you get two hours of your day back in wasted commute time.
When and how much can I work?
You must work at least four hours a day, 5 days a week. You have to work at least 20 hours a week and you must work one weekend day. That part is non-negotiable. They do not have overnight shifts Most shifts run between 6-8 hours. Although there are a variety of time slots, expect mainly afternoon and evenings. The coveted morning hours are first come to the long time employees so don't even bother asking for those times. Alpine Access official hours of operation are 6am-midnight (Mountain Time) which for you time zone challenged folks means 8am-10pm Eastern. (Don't worry I am too and had to look it up. lol)
Are there any fees?
Well this is a job not a home based business so there shouldn't be. But if you want to get technical, you need a PC (no Mac's) with Windows XP, Vista or 7, Internet Explorer, a high speed Internet connection, (no wireless) a land-line phone with a cord, (no wireless) and a headset with a microphone that can filter some noise. Those would be considered basics and many people already have everything but the headset. However if you don't have all that stuff, then consider it a cost you must incur. I think the headset with microphone most people would need to purchase but it isn't really that expensive if you buy it online at a place like Amazon. That being said it's still a cost but nothing crazy that makes me think this is a scam. It makes sense given the job.
But then they zing you for a $45 for a criminal background/credit check. I hate when certain online companies do this. When I worked offline in Corporate America and they ran their criminal check on me but I didn't have to pay for it. So for the life of me I don't know why this cost is passed down to the workers of certain online based companies.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that they screen folks out because I don't want anyone that has been convicted of identify theft with access to my credit card or personal information. It's a necessary legal precaution to cover everyone's tail. The credit check on the other hand I'm torn about. I know some people have made poor choices with their credit. But I don't necessarily think it means they can't be a competent worker. But alas it doesn't matter what I think. Just know it's part of the screening process and something they expect you to pay for.
Can I do this if I live outside the USA?
Here is word for word what Alpine Access website says, “If you can provide legal documentation proving you are eligible for employment in the U.S., you may apply. Please note that Alpine Access participates in E-Verify and work eligibility status is confirmed through the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Of course there are some cons since no work at home-based opportunity is without flaws. I would not be doing my job for you if I did not point them out. So here are the few major consistent complaints about this company. Take them with a grain of salt.
-Apparently there aren't many options to get a raise. My thing is if you go to all the trouble of training people, why not do more to keep them around for the long haul? These complaints go way back before the downturn in economy, so it seems to be a long standing issue. But I guess knowing there are literally thousands of people that they can tap into to replace a disgruntle worker makes it easier to have such a crappy policy.
– The second issue that raised a red flag for me was the required credit check. As I said earlier, I think sometimes people make poor mistakes with their credit but I don't think it means they can't perform a job. You have to consider the economy has crapped out. A lot of people who were financially responsible have fallen on tough times and thus had their credit affected adversely but are probably qualified to the job nonetheless. With this type of check they may not even be considered.
– There can be problems with communication with team leaders. From what I can tell, the people who are happy with this job have a great team leader who works with them each shift, and the unhappy ones have leaders who do not give as much help, are too bossy or they deal with a lot of turnover on their team. This is mainly due to promotions within the company and the complaint is it seems to happen frequently. These issues makes me wonder if there is the same level of intense training for the supervisory roles as they make those talking with customers go through. Promoting from within is a good sign, but promoting too quickly, or weak supervision of the supervisors can be a problem. We all know how frustrating it is to deal with a supervisor who is quick to tell you your faults, and never help you out and twists it all to make you look bad. You are stuck with no place really to turn.
– Another common complaint is that there is no paid vacation. Things like paid vacations are a perk not a requirement for companies and people seem to forget that. Perks like that are totally at the discretion of the hiring company. Furthermore you're getting so many other benefits from working from home, it sort offsets the lack of paid vacations. As long as you're not being penalized for taking days off, I don't think this complaint is really a big deal.
– The last con I don't think is often mentioned but I found interesting to me is that the percentage of people who actually get hired and work for the company compared to the number of applicants is about 2%. That's some daunting numbers for would be employees. You really need to be a shinning star for this company to hire you. This may scare away some people. But to me it says this company is picky, and will not just let any old “bloke” off the street in (I'm trying to meet my quota of using slang from other countries in. lol).
How To Apply?
If you're still reading this then it's safe to assume the cons didn't turn you off. So here's what you need to do to get started. Please note the application process will take about 7 to 10 days and is pretty much conducted online. Their training center is call Alpine Access University ( AAU). When you first go to sign up, you will be given an Admissions account to this university. They communicate with you at every step of the way to let you know what to expect next. It all starts on the home page of their website and you click on the link that says you want to “join their team of customer care professionals.”
Step 1-They will confirm that you meet the requirements for the technical side of things, which is all spelled out int the Qualifications section on the website, and I mentioned earlier, the computer, phone, headsets etc.
Step 2-You open an admission account at AAU and get your profile completed and some other odd details.
Step 3 -Take the Capability and Commitment Course online and get your application essay written. The course included videos, and interactive exercises as well as other resources.
Step 4- Complete a Skills Exam. This is literally a simulation exercise, to show that you can do this job. So it is not only about the accuracy of the information you give out, but also on the spot judgments, and how you process and respond to the situations that are thrown your way.
Step 5- If you make it this far, then you get a phone interview where you can ask all your questions and learn more about which positions they have available. When your skill set matches the programs they have available, you should receive a job offer.
Step 6 Then you go through all the background checks, drug an credit checks we talked about earlier.
Once you get hired, there will be more Alpine Access training in your specific call center job.
That's pretty much the steps from what I can tell. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Click here if you want to give it a shot.
So I have to say Apline Access appears to be a legitimate job, without many of the “pitfalls” of being a independent contractor, that others complain about in other virtual call center operations. However work at home seekers need to get real and remember you can't really expect all the offline benefits from an online job. The online businesses know you are saving on transportation, clothing, and food costs are cut, so they do not get factored in. That being said, I see no justification for not including a merit and loyalty raise, so if that is true, shame on them. But I still think it's worth a shot. But view it as a stepping stone that you can use for another job or opportunity that may have more the pay and benefits you want.
At the end of the day as I have said a million times, I don't know of one work at home company that everyone loves. There will always be a con or complaint. You need to be wary of the “Look in the Mirror” primpers and puffers that make it seem like their opportunity tops all others because they're full of it and may try to convince you that you've been “hired” by the next Donald Trump. The reality is you need to take all I've told you and mix it up in your head and come out with a decision that is right for you. As always, I relish the input I get from the loyal subscribers who have some relevant, not cry baby input about their experience with this company. So feel free to chime in. If I got any of the information “twisted”, please feel free to correct me to help your fellow work at home seekers out.