weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Call centers thriving

While the economy and job rates continue to lag in Las Vegas, call centers are adding a boost to the employment numbers. Many local call centers are churning out employees with a solid customer-service base who are receiving not only a well-paid position, but professional training, education and job opportunities in other markets around the country.

A survey by Incoming Calls Management Institute of 771 call centers in the United States found that the median wage was $15 per hour and was one of the most competitive industries for top pay after the recession hit in 2008. Management pay has grown by almost 30 percent as customer service has become vital to corporations after brand-loyalty and Internet ease changed the way many large companies do business. Experts in the call center industry agree that a well-managed center can generate millions of dollars in revenue on a monthly basis, if the employees are trained correctly.

The tourism industry, although hard hit, is thriving in the call center field, said Craig Morganson, CEO/president of Holiday Systems International. HSI provides sophisticated and private-branded technology, phone service and wholesale-direct travel pricing to a worldwide private clientele in five languages.

“Our private-branded services benefit small and large businesses in and out of the travel industry,” Morganson said. “With our technology, service and pricing, a small travel business can appear very large, a very large travel business can reduce overhead and become more profitable, and a nontravel business can provide travel value to their customers and/or employees while receiving revenue sharing from the travel.

Holiday’s private clients include the full spectrum, from travel agents working at home, to the largest travel providers, to large nontravel corporations expanding their employee benefits, and others.

“Our private-branded concept and Internet booking technology has allowed HSI to grow, even during a stressed economy,” he said.

HSI is much more than a call center. It provides a full technology, pricing and service solution for an international clientele and services inbound and outbound calls in five languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German) and provides service to its worldwide clientele by private-branded websites, phone, email, fax and mail. The company does not outsource.

“The only exception is when an existing employee needs to relocate out of Las Vegas and we can allow them to continue to work for HSI remotely,” Morganson said.

HSI will soon be launching three new programs in the U.S. and abroad, not to mention an expansion of its toll-free calling to include Europe. The company has focused more on technology, efficiency, flexibility and strategic alliances in the past few years.

“During a stressed economy, businesses and individuals need more for less,” Morganson said. “There’s no single solution for every situation so our flexibility has been key. We deliver efficiency and profitability to businesses and more value to end-users.”

This business strategy provides the right product to the right customer at the right time for the right price and has allowed HSI to continue its steady growth despite the economy.

“In the midst of cautionary spending, the multitude of satisfied HSI customers continues to grow while the end-users continue to enjoy the guaranteed best rates on their travel spending,” he said.

The company’s customers are based around the world.

“We are a private-client company that does not do business with the general public,” he said. “Our customers become entitled to our services through our business partners and those customers are then authenticated before they are entitled to our special pricing. We provide services to a worldwide clientele and travel many tourists to Las Vegas every year.”

Customer loyalty for HSI is at an all-time high, Morganson said, which can be attributed to its proven business model and the tremendous need for the savings offered by HSI.

Its employees are also rewarded with top salaries competitive with other companies in the field. HSI demonstrates its employee appreciation through a hefty benefit package that includes major medical, dental, vision, etc., employee appreciation parties, free lunches, paid time-off, paid vacations, paid volunteer time, paid educational assistance, discount travel pricing, access to fitness, animal and environmental welfare programs, child care and more that has earned HSI several national awards, including Employer of the Year in 2007 by the America Resort Development Association.

HSI currently has approximately 200 employees located in Las Vegas.

“In spite of the economy our staffing numbers have continued to grow,” Morganson said.

The company is currently hiring.

“We are always looking for superstars at every level,” he said. “Since we service our clientele in five languages, we are always looking for bilingual (Spanish, French, Italian and German) customer service, collections and sales representatives.”

The IT department is looking for .NET programmers and the company’s growth has opened up some new management positions.”

Interested applicants should go to www.hsihires.com to apply.

Once an applicant is found to be worthwhile, he or she is screened by phone, an in-office test, a group presentation and finally a manager interview.

“Our internal training is extensive and will vary based upon the job,” Morganson said. “We have a standard training that every employee completes, which will familiarize them with our business, policies, the employee manual, etc.”

From there, employees partner with training employees within their destination department.

“At each stage we implement written tests and award training sign-offs acknowledging their escalation through the process, including a framed congratulations award when they’re ready to be on their own,” he said. “Almost every formal training program you can imagine is happening somewhere in the company. We have a culture that promotes learning and self-evolution.”

Call centers are growing faster than the professional employment base for that field, said Mark Mikowski, general manager of TraderNet Media.

TraderNet Media is an Internet advertising marketing site for buying and selling vehicles, from cars to RVs and boats to bikes. The company celebrated its first anniversary this month and has grown from one employee to more than 20, with plans to hire between seven to 10 more employees by the end of the year.

“The big difference between us and our competitors on the Net is that we cater to private parties, we don’t make dealership packages,” Mikowski said. “Our business is a syndication model. If you advertise with our competitors, that’s the only place your ad will be seen. When you place your ad with us, no matter what the ad is, we take it and put it on our site and at the end of the day we send it out to 10 partner sites and, before you know it, this person’s ad is all across the Internet.”

This has increased sales for his customers as well as raised his clientele base.

“If someone is shopping for a particular vehicle on the Net, they’ll go to a search engine, like Google, and we can almost guarantee that our ad is going to come up on their search because of our syndication-based model,” he said. “The syndication model is extremely important for us.”

TraderNet Media takes calls from all over the country.

“When someone sells a vehicle on our site, we work with different shipping companies and do everything for them to sell their car or boat or RV to (someone) in the lower 48,” he said.

Since it is a small, local company, at least for the moment, it receives many walk-in applicants. Mikowski knows what he wants and is pleased with the few he has hired.

“We look for somebody who has inside sales experience, who has sold on the telephone,” he said. “This isn’t telemarketing; it’s a bit more complicated.”

More than 80 percent of his business is a two-call close, he said, meaning the employee will need to call the client back. Telemarketing experience can be a plus, but inside sales experience is the key, as with many call center positions.

TraderNet Media is a commission-based business that is continually looking for potential employees who have solid customer service skills.

“What I’m looking for are true sales people, because if you turn them loose in a commission-based business, they do great,” he said.

Within two weeks of hiring, he can tell if the employee will make it long term within the company or as a call center candidate, or not.

“We pay them compensation for the first two weeks, but you can tell who is going to make it or not pretty fast,” he said. “It’s not stressful. We’re not trying to be stressful, it’s just the way it is. You either have it or you don’t to work in this field. There’s only so much training we can do on our end.”

Training involves learning the product, how to create an ad over the phone using the computer system the company has created and following through with customer service.

“Basically, any call center, customer service is the first thing you look for,” he said. “The second is to have pretty good computer skills. They have to be comfortable with the phone and the computer.”

The recession has assisted in the growth of his company in that many vehicle owners are looking to trade or sell their secondary vehicles to make extra money while others are looking to buy used vehicles to save money.

“Business is good; it’s actually very good right now,” he said. “The used-car market is at an all time high right now for a combination of factors so we’re looking to hire. I have room to put a lot more sales people on the floor here. They just have to be right for our company, and we make sure of that.”

Go to www.tradernetmedia.com for employment opportunities.

A 1999 report by Purdue University Center for Customer Driven Quality reported that call centers have an average annual turnover of 26 percent for full-time representatives, and 33 percent for part-time employees as call center staff either leave or are recruited to another organization in that field. To recruit and train a new employee costs about $10,000 on average, including screening, initial management review, training and salary for those that don’t make it past the probation period, according to Call Center News.

Call centers are a proving ground for those who want to learn skills through rigorous training and education opportunities and better their career options, said Don Winston, director of human resources for Wyndham Vacation Ownership, a Wyndham Worldwide company.

Wyndham is a leading provider of travel-related products and services, from hotels to vacation rentals, for businesses and individual consumers. It is involved with lodging franchising, vacation ownership, vacation rentals and vacation exchange. The company includes Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Super 8 and other internationally recognizable brands.

Wyndham Worldwide is extremely well-positioned to take good care of its employees, Winston said.

“If (employees) show promise and interest we certainly do what we can to groom them for that level, and there are many opportunities for those that stay with us to continue to move up in the company,” he said.

There are two sides to Wyndham’s many call centers based in major cities across the country. On the marketing side, it’s a convergence of leads, setting up appointments for a tour of the properties and following up with those tours for feedback and sales. The marketing call center team’s compensation is based on how many leads are converted to tours, how many of those showed up for the tour and then how many buy from the tour, among other things. On the customer service side, the job is based on the average call time, how the call is handled, scores from surveys customers take after the call as well as dashboard reviews that are handled daily, weekly and monthly.

“We do have a number of different means of people developing, such as internal learning and development programs that are available to all of our employees,” Winston said.

Programs for employees include a My Learning website as well as instructor-led and webinar based programs. Employees can also utilize the tuition-assistance program for those looking to return to college.

“If they complete the class and receive an effective grade, they will be compensated,” Winston said. “And 98 percent of them do exceptionally well.”

In fact, it’s worked so well that he has lost a few employees to competitors when they have gone as far as they can with Wyndham, something Winston is proud of.

Employees can receive professional certifications and/or a bachelor’s degree through Wyndham’s training programs.

The company had a restructuring in 2008 when the recession hit, which he attributes to its current success in a weak market.

“But we have been hugely successful and grown exponentially since that time,” he said. “It was very positive from that point forward.”

The company continues to grow in a steady but controlled basis.

“We’re just extremely fortunate to have a business that is attractive for the public and our employees,” said Winston, who has been with Wyndham for more than a decade.

The company is currently hiring for many positions in its Las Vegas call center as well as other cities. To apply go to www.wyndham.com.

“We are growing in the marketing area as well as some other important areas within the company,” he said. “We look for people who have customer service and sales, preferably.”

The company trains its staff on-site at its multiple call centers in Las Vegas as well as Orlando, Fla. For the marketing and call center, Wyndham is primarily combing its candidates for those with good, solid customer service knowledge first and some phone experience second.

The company’s Count On Me culture concentrates on providing respect for the customer as well as the employee, delivering on promises made and providing a great experience overall for the client.

“So we look for people along those lines and we evaluate behavioral as well as performance backgrounds,” he said. “There is lots of room to move up, or have a strong relationship long term with the company. We like to see people grow with us.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Train derails in Mojave Desert near Las Vegas

A long freight train carrying iron ore has derailed in a remote area of the Mojave Desert but authorities say there were no injuries.

‘Help is on the way’: Daunting tornado recovery in Mississippi

In Rolling Fork, Miss., the tornado reduced homes to piles of rubble and flipped cars on their sides. Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected twisters.

7 victims recovered from chocolate factory blast

By Sunday night, the hope for survivors came to an end, the death toll having risen to seven. The final bodies pulled from the debris were believed to be unaccounted for workers, according to authorities.

Facing potential indictment, Trump holds defiant Waco rally

Trump declared Saturday that his “enemies are desperate to stop us” and that “our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will.”