Central Oregon hurt when news broke last spring that T-Mobile (News - Alert) planned to shutter its Redmond, Ore., contact center. The call center facility didn’t go empty for long, however, as Consumer Cellular saw the opportunity to pick up seasoned contact center employees with wireless support experience. It opened one of its call centers at the site last summer.
Consumer Cellular, which offers low-cost cell phones targeted as senior citizens and baby boomers, is doing quite well at the new facility.
It currently has roughly 240 employees at the 77,000-square-foot facility, according to a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting article, and the company plans to add 30 new hires each month through the end of the year.
This would make 350 workers by December, which is about the same number who staffed the center when it was closed by T-Mobile. At its peak, though, the T-Mobile center had nearly 700 employees.
Consumer Cellular plans to grow the contact center location to about 600 employees within the next two years. It might happen sooner, however—the company chalked up revenue of $263 million last year, up 39 percent.
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Leveraging the local talent pool has been part of the success of the contact center. The current Redmond workforce includes quite a few former T-Mobile employees, especially among the first hires, according to Consumer Cellular CEO John Marick. A number of former T-Mobile employees laid off during cost-cutting measures also have come to work for Consumer Cellular, so the workforce is “not necessarily brand new to wireless.”
The customers who agents interact with are not necessarily the easiest. Since the company is focused on the seniors market, callers often need a bit more hand-holding when it comes to cellular technology.
Dealing with seniors about their phones and cellular bills can be a test of patience, Marick admitted.
“I don’t know if you can train for it, but you can preach about it,” he said.
The goal is to create an environment for reps to be able to solve customers’ problems, noted Marick, not get callers off the phone quickly.
To properly serve the market, the key also is “hiring people who enjoy helping others,” he said.
Agent pay starts at $12.25 an hour, with regular increases roughly every six months for agents that stay on with the company. There’s fully paid medical, dental and vision care for employees, a cell phone allowance, 401(k) match, profit sharing, vacation and holiday pay, too.
“I’d like to say [turnover] is zero,” said Marick. “Unfortunately that’s not the case. But it’s been better in the Redmond facility than we’ve seen in other offices. It’s a beautiful office, and we really great management there.”
Edited by Alisen Downey