The Internet allows companies in some customer service fields to use workers scattered around the country, if not the world. California-based DirecTV thinks, however, a better approach is to hire people from a region with a reputation for diligent workers.
The satellite-delivered TV programming company and its customer-service partner, Convergys, are establishing a virtual call center, in which customer calls will be fielded by employees working from their homes. The voices that customers hear on the other end of the line will have similar accents because the first 100 hires will be from Southwest Virginia.
Gary Qualls, vice president of business and operations development for DirecTV, says that the company decided to hire in Southwest Virginia for three reasons: an underemployed but skilled and educated work force, a well-developed broadband infrastructure and a strong network of work-force development and training organizations.
“A lot of companies cast a broad net when looking for virtual employees, but we wanted to stay out of the shotgun approach and focus on an area where we know we’re going to have a solid work force and where we know some key criteria are already going to be checked off the box,” Qualls explains.
By allowing employees to work from home, Qualls thinks DirecTV will hire better employees and realize a much lower turnover rate than typically found with brick-and-mortar call centers.
“We see this as a new kind of model that we’re establishing: to go identify a district or region for its strong work force and infrastructure,” Qualls says. “So we’re going to evaluate it over the next year or two and see it if makes sense to expand it either in Southwest Virginia or to other parts of the country.”
The new employees, who will earn $10 an hour, are expected to be begin taking customer calls by early July.
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