There have been a lot of negative comments about eDegree — formerly known as Helios Media — posted in various work-at-home forums. Many of these comments haven’t really represented an accurate picture of what it’s like working for the company, at least working as an inbound call representative. But having said that, there are several important concerns you should be aware of before signing on with this company that isn’t typically noted in those reviews.
As a bit of background info, eDegree provides a no-cost service to people to help them find educational programs that fit their interests. Think of it as an educational matchmaker. And while it’s still technically telemarketing, you are “selling” a product that can really help people change their lives. In other words, you’re selling something you can feel good about.
The application and hire process is fairly simple and straightforward. You fill out an application, and they call you to do an interview very quickly. Once hired, you do a very simple test demonstrating your basic knowledge of how a computer operates. And when I say basic, I mean really basic — as in, “which computer component is the mouse?”
After that, you sign up for a one-day training program which they offer Monday through Thursdays. Now, the training program is only supposed to last five to six hours. But if you’ve ever done one of those online virtual trainings via conference call, you know that in every class there has to be that one person. You know what one I’m talking about: the one who has to make commentaries and ask questions about every single thing, holding everybody back from actually learning what they need to learn in any kind of reasonable time. And then you always have the people who can’t seem to mute their phones, so you are listening to them talking to other people, their crying kids, their TVs, and even their toilets flushing.
Seriously, people. How rude can you be?
I seemed to be stuck in one of the worst classes they’ve ever had, earning the distinction of being “the longest training session I’ve ever done,” according to the trainer. At one point, he did mute the group, as that “One Person” not only kept interrupting him but was distracting us with her constant coughing, clacking keyboard and heavy sighs. But when we came back from a break, he refused to mute it the entire rest of the day for reasons I cannot begin to understand.
You are paid a flat rate for the training, and it’s paid upon completion of 20 hours on the phone, or “on the dialer,” as they say. The training was paid on the next check following my first 20 hours “on the dialer”, so no issues with payment. In fact, eDegree is so prompt with payment, mine shows up a day early in my bank account, with paydays being twice a month. They definitely score high in paying promptly.
So once you complete the initial training, that’s when they spring on you that you have more trainings to attend. But first, you start working on the outbound phone lines, cold calling. Here is where I think most of the complaints come from you see online. First of all, there is no mention in the interview that you have to do any kind of outbound cold calling. For those who aren’t telemarketers by trade but applied because they like the idea of matching people with college programs rather than selling a product, this is something that, at best, holds little appeal. At worst, it’s something you may not be experienced doing because you have no desire to do it, and would never even apply to such a telemarketing position.
Their rationale is that because the outbound cold call leads are the weakest leads, any errors you make during this part of the process minimize losses of viable prospects. And there is definitely some validity to that point, but the potential employees should be informed that is part of the process prior to hire.
You are told you have to stay on outbound calls until you get six valid prospects submitted. That may not sound like many, but when you literally spend hours on the phone listening to voicemail message after voicemail message before even getting a live person, you begin to understand that isn’t so easy. Even when you get a live person, they often aren’t the person who filled out the form or the leads are filled out with such first names as “aaaaa”, “zzzz” and my personal favorite, “bite me.” So when someone actually picks up the phone, you don’t even know how to address them.
“Hello, could I speak to aaaaa, please?” Right.
Anyway, at least they do give you an “out” in that the trainers can approve you to move on before you submit six leads because otherwise you might be stuck there forever. Then you move on to inbound calls training, but until you’re set up to do that training, they tell you to keep doing outbound calls. I had to ask many, many times for an estimated time frame to do the training because no one would give me any kind of answer. I even tried asking if we were talking about a week, a month, or a year time frame, because I was miserable, taking those outbound calls on the auto dialer, coming one after another. I basically had to complain to the people who interviewed me that I couldn’t even get a general idea of the time frame, and remind them that I was not hired nor did I apply to do outbound cold-calling on a long-term basis.
Expect about a week, for what it’s worth.
So you start on the inbound calling system, which is a totally different log-in and software program which wasn’t covered in the inbound training, so I was completely lost at the beginning of day one and had to ask for help. (They focused on what happens after the call is connected, not getting set up to take calls, even though I specifically asked that question but was brushed off.)
My team leader couldn’t talk with me right away, so I ended up losing about an hour trying to figure out what was wrong. And remember, you’re only paid for hours on the dialer, so this is time that I was earning revenue. This is another major source of frustration with eDegree: getting the required number of hours in on the dialer takes longer than you think. They ask for a minimum of 20 hours a week which would be four hours a day if you work five days a week. So you may be scheduled from 9 a.m. To 1 p.m., but the problem is, it takes you well past your “end time” to get four hours in on the dialer. Even if you really try to stay focused and stay on the calls, the incoming calls are auto generated and come in relentlessly. There is absolutely no break between them, and in fact, you often don’t even realize a previous caller has disconnected until a new caller comes in. This can leave you scrambling to switch screens so that you have your scripting and can see the person’s name for the introduction.
The only way to stop the incoming calls is to take a bathroom break, grab another soda, or disconnect the phone. And let me tell you, all those little breaks add up. At least at first, expect to add another 10 to 15 minutes per hour to your work time to actually get your dialer hours in.
But the most difficult thing about working inbound customer service for this company is the frustration of dealing with the poor performance of the “yodelers.” The company uses what they call yodelers as their outbound direct dialing representatives. They’re called yodelers, because instead of actually talking directly to the prospects, they use prerecorded messages they play to mimic a conversation. Why do they do this? Because the yodelers are based somewhere in India.
They are supposed to screen leads to make sure they’re qualified in regards to such criteria as completion of high school or a GED, they’re a US citizen, they’re within a certain age range, they speak English, and they have an e-mail address, etc. These are things absolutely required by the colleges to submit their information as a lead and are supposed to be addressed by the yodelers before moving the call forward.
This is important to you on the incoming side because your job and your raises depend on maintaining a certain conversion rate of leads passed on to you that you actually convert into submissions to colleges for information. Can you see where this is going?
It became apparent very quickly that many of the yodelers do not even attempt to do their jobs properly. Many times, there won’t even be a caller on the line after the transfer, or sometimes the yodelers themselves won’t even be on the line — just dead air. Then you get the ones that clearly do not qualify and should have never been passed on to you. I’ve had my fair share of people who haven’t graduated from high school, who are too old, who are actually upset and yelling at the yodelers that they are not interested as the call is transferred, and my personal favorite, “no speak English.”
Um yeah, you really qualified that person, didn’t you?
When you complain to management, your concerns are completely disregarded and you’re made to feel like you’re being unreasonable because after all, they “only require 10% conversion rate.” Sure, only 10% to keep your job, but to get a raise, you must show not only a much higher conversion rate but to continue getting your raises, the standards increase with each level. So to even get your first raise, you must convert at least 18%, then for the next level, you need to at least make 19% and on up the ladder. This should be really easy because there are times when it seems there are good yodelers on the line and you get great leads to the point where I was even rating over a 30% conversion rate at certain times of the day. But you can immediately tell when a bunch of bad yodelers come on because you will suddenly get a whole string of calls with no one there, and candidates that were obviously unqualified from the get-go.
This is the thing that makes me crazy. The fact that my livelihood and my raises are dependent on people who are not held accountable for doing their jobs properly, and to make matters worse, my frustration with this is completely disregarded by management. So for you to do this job, you’re going to have to be able to deal with that situation unless this company finally realizes that outsourcing for cheap, third world labor gets you cheap, third world country results.
This is the crying shame of this company because it has the potential to be such a great place to work. Yes, the training is a hassle and there’s a pretty steep learning curve, to be honest, but the possibility of having such a great job with such flexibility is what made me hang on to get through that process. Plus, if you actually received properly prequalified leads, the potential for regular raises based on tenure and performance would increase your pay rate very quickly to a very respectable hourly rate.
Having said all that, there are many people who enjoy working there and have been with them for a considerable amount of time. And if they would communicate better, and enforce standards with their yodelers, this could be a really great place to work. So if you still think you might be interested in working for them, at least go in with your eyes open.
And one last pet peeve of mine: the company absolutely will not give you a physical address or phone number as a work reference for any kind of rental application, or anything requiring your employment be verified. They simply ignore your question or send you the e-mail address contact, even though you specifically said you don’t need that information (seeing as how you are e-mailing them at the address they are giving you) but wanted a physical address and phone number. What is so secret about your location? Which, by the way, can be found through Better Business Bureau reports anyway. But I didn’t figure that out till later. Why make something that should be so simple, so hard?
- Trainers need to take control of disruptive employees during training process and mute everyone
- Pays very promptly
- Has a very generous raise schedule if you can make performance criteria
- Flexible scheduling
- Bonuses for working Saturdays and certain early and late hours
- You’re selling a product that can really help people
- Extremely poor communication from management, except team leaders
- The yodelers not doing their job properly
- Performance raises affected by other employees not held accountable for maintaining their job standards
- Steep learning curves in the training process
- Last-minute training notifications
- Did I mention the yodelers?
- Won’t give a physical address and phone number when using them as a work reference