Web chat anyone? Afni center in Opelika adding 150 jobs

Company offering flexibility of working from home

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMay 7, 2014 

Anyone who has shopped online very likely has seen a web-chat box pop up and float across the computer screen, asking if the company can answer any questions to speed your purchase.

That’s the job that Afni is looking to fill for an expansion of its web-chat center in nearby Opelika, Ala. The company said it is looking to hire 150 full-time employees this month.

To do so, there will be a “hiring party” 10 a.m.-7 p.m. CDT Monday at the Afni center, 1000 Jeter Ave., not far from exit 62 off Interstate 85. Prospects can apply anytime online or by visiting in person at the center Monday through Friday.

Afni contact center recruiter Chris Alonzo said Wednesday that those selected from the applicant pool will face a 90-day paid training period, although once they make it through that, there will be more flexibility with scheduling.

“That’s particularly for people like students,” he said. “When they’re going back to school in the fall, we can work around their school schedule. If people have extenuating circumstances, we can put them on part-time.”

There will also be the opportunity for staffers to work from home, considering the current technology that exists and the fact that the Afni center in Opelika is 100 percent Internet-based. None of its customer service is by phone.

“A lot of the younger people are more comfortable with that,” he said. “They’re used to texting. They’re used to having multiple chat windows open and that kind of thing; it’s second nature. So it’s an easy job for students.”

Although Auburn University is very close, Alonzo said the center gets a fair number of its workers from the Columbus-Phenix City area. The facility opened in 2001 and now employs about 600. With typical staffer attrition and the fact that not all of the applicants will make it through the training process, the center’s payroll should grow to around 700.

Though he declined to give a range for pay, Alonzo said employees receive a base salary, with commission on top of that for product and service sales they make, as well as the opportunity for bonuses.

Following the 90-day training period, he said, staffers also will be part of a “team” and paired with a coach who will give weekly web chat and sales sessions.

“So the people who stick it out and who do well and learn their product and the sales technique, they make good money. It’s there to be had,” he said.

Though no customer service positions are the same, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median yearly pay for the occupation at $30,580, or $14.70 an hour. It says there are now nearly 2.4 million customer service representative jobs across the nation, with nearly 300,000 more needed over the next decade.

The official classification for the Afni jobs are customer sales and customer service representative. Human resource manager Steve Turner said he’s looking for “people with great communication skills who are passionate about helping others.”

The company also said it offers medical, dental and vision benefits, along with tuition reimbursement and a 401(k) plan with the company matching a portion of employee contributions.

Bloomington, Ill.-based Afni dates to 1936 and operates centers that cater to the communications, insurance and health-care sectors.

The company recently announced plans to add 450 workers in Tucson, Ariz., on top of the 2,200 full-time employees it already has there, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

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