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Call Center Adds Jobs Even In Down Times

By Josh Splilker | Archives
Quick call: Tony May, director of the Verizon Wireless call center, has overseen the call center's growth.

There is one constant on the second floor of Wilmington’s Verizon Wireless call center: movement.

Some employees search model phones to mirror the customer on the other end of the line, others are rocking back listening intently, still more are taking additional training quizzes between calls. Screens and displays flash announcements and sales percentages like at a baseball game. It’s a hum of a thousand voices at once, all on a schedule.

“In call centers, we measure time by the second not by the minute,” said Tony May, director of the Wilmington Verizon Wireless call center.

And Verizon has been judged on its timing as well – and the company is ahead of schedule.

More voices will soon join the call center’s clamor. Late last year, the company announced that it would add 160 more jobs to the 1,400 already there for its February training class, with more jobs to come later in the spring.

Those positions in Wilmington can point back to the state’s creative incentive program called the Jobs Development Investment Grant (JDIG). North Carolina offered $7.2 million in grants to Verizon Wireless to come to the state, payable over nine years.

“Verizon told us that ‘we’re going to be an employer of choice and be civically involved, and if we tell you that we’ll create a 1,000 jobs, we’re going to create them,” said Scott Satterfield, the director of Wilmington Industrial Development. Satterfield was involved in recruiting Verizon Wireless.

To meet the JDIG standards, Verizon needed to create 1,211 jobs by 2006, but they met that goal a year early.

They exceeded the $29 million investment target with $39.87 million by the end of 2005. So far, the company has received grant payments totaling $2.44 million, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

And because of Verizon’s success, Wilmington may now be on the call center map, according to Scott Satterfield, president of Wilmington Industrial Development.

“Clearly, the wide count of employees and the infrastructure it takes and the fiscal environment has been shown here,” Satterfield said. “Honestly, the result of Verizon coming here has probably put us on a radar screen that we haven’t been on otherwise.”

Satterfield said the local collegiate community has adapted to create training programs that support this type of industry.

“Probably most importantly, the training and all it takes to ramp up an operation is essential and clearly the community college has shown it can do that,” he said.

“We have shown that this area can support a quality operation like that.”

Verizon puts an emphasis on having a college-educated workforce and the students at Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) and University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) are a steady supply.

“The model of who we hire changes,” May said. “I have to hire someone with a technical acumen. The advantage to us is having a good, educated workforce to grow the company.”

According to career center officials at the schools, Verizon Wireless participates regularly in job fairs, mock interviews and other hiring consultation practices. CFCC also participates in providing training resources for the center.

“Towards the end of last year we started having some meetings about the number of positions opening up in the call center,” said Matthew Thomas, a career and job placement specialist with CFCC. “Verizon made it very clear that they were going to be very aggressive with their hiring in 2009.”

A motivating factor for students and potential workers is a Verizon Wireless tuition reimbursement program. It offers $8,000 per year to employees that qualify. Last year, Verizon distributed $450,000 in tuition reimbursement to its
employees.

“The advantage to us is to having a good educated workforce, but also to grow the company,” May said.

The employees seem to be enjoying themselves. With flexible scheduling, tuition reimbursement, daycare options and an on-site fitness center and cafeteria, the Wilmington Verizon Wireless call center received the best employee satisfaction results  out of the twenty-two North America call centers. According to May, the call center’s attrition rate is lower than the industry average.

“My goal is to come in here and make this a great place to work,” May said.

“Honestly, the result of Verizon coming here has probably put us on a radar screen that we haven’t been on otherwise.”
Scott Satterfield
Wilmington Industrial Development

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