Interior Concepts Brings Customized Furniture Solutions to the Call Center
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Interior Concepts specializes in space planning and customized furniture solutions that enable companies to make the most effective use of floor space – a key consideration for organizations looking to reduce operational costs.
To find out more about the company and its products, TMCnet recently interviewed Jennifer Way, marketing manager for Interior Concepts. What follows are excerpts from our interview:
TMCnet: When was Interior Concepts founded and has the company always been focused on call center furniture?
TMCnet: What does the company’s product line include?
TMCnet: Do you offer furnishings for outside of the call center market?
TMCnet: Is it typically a “one-off” type of business, where once you make the sale, you don’t have to provide a lot of support to your customers?
JW: Yes and no. Our furniture comes with a lifetime warranty and it’s extremely durable. Unlike other furniture systems very little maintenance is needed. Our system does not have parts and pieces, so there are no loose kick plates or missing panel covers to replace. We support customers who have our furniture – some of whom have had it for 10 or 15 years or more. Some of our customers have multiple sites – we serve a lot of outsourcers -- and sometimes they have to move. So we’ll help them move the furniture and reconfigure it. We keep all customer records electronically so we know what they have and how to move it and reconfigure it.
TMCnet: Who manufactures the furniture – do you work with major brands or do you manufacture the furniture yourself?
JW: We’re the manufacturer – it’s Interior Concepts product line. No other brands are included in our systems furniture product line.
TMCnet: How do you handle sales?
TMCnet: How big is the product line – in terms of number of models, styles?
JW: That’s the great thing about our cubicle workstations – our product is “built to fit.” We talk to our customer and look at their sites to gather information from them to define their requirements. Then we discuss what size stations are needed and design them for their space. We work in one-inch increments so we can build a station in any dimensions. In our literature and online, we have what you might call ‘idea starters’ that customers can use to choose furniture, and from there we can customize the dimensions based on their needs and budget.
TMCnet: Since the furniture is manufactured on demand, what’s the average turnaround time from designing, ordering, shipping and installing the furniture?
JW: Our manufacturing time is four weeks and depending on the size of the project it can take anywhere from one day to a week for installation. Considering that most manufacturers producing standard workstations have a four to six week turnaround time, so our lead-time for a custom product is pretty revolutionary.
TMCnet: How do you handle the logistics piece?
JW: Shipping is included in the price for delivery within the 48 continental states. If outside of this area, additional freight costs may be incurred.
TMCnet: What about design – how do you handle that?
TMCnet: How big are the installations you do – how many seats?
JW: We’re happy to service customers with 10 to 20 stations – and we’ve had customers with 600 to 1,000 stations – so we run the gamut in terms of the size of the customers we serve.
TMCnet: What about the issue of ergonomics – how important is that in the design of call center furniture?
JW: Ergonomics is definitely important – and we always try to encourage our customers to incorporate accessories like flat screen monitor arms and keyboard mechanisms – but to be honest some people are more concerned with cost. We always try to include those ergonomic accessories because they are incredibly important – and it does make a difference – various studies have shown that ergonomic accessories make agents more productive and help to reduce turnover. But we also have to consider the cost of the designs – some companies are trying to keep the cost as low as possible. We try to educate people about the importance of ergonomics – but it really depends on the customer.
TMCnet: What are a few things to consider when designing a workstation?
JW: It really depends – we have some customers who want plain, 3- to 4-foot wide workstations with just enough room for the phone and the keyboard. And some want larger stations with adjustable keyboards, paper management, and storage space. It really depends on task requirements of the employee. Some centers don’t want their agents to have any personal storage space, some need paper management systems to hold notes and forms. It just depends on the needs. Some centers want to be able to see all of the agents, so choose a lower panel height, or workstations with clear panels at the top so they have the visibility factor. There are a lot of different considerations when it comes to design.
TMCnet: Where do you put yourself on the scale in terms of quality and cost of the product?
JW: We’re a mid-market product, in terms of cost – and as far as quality is concerned, we offer a very durable product that has a Lifetime warranty. Our system doesn’t have loose pieces and parts – for example, there are no kick plates or corner caps on the panels that will fall off.
TMCnet: What about things like color schemes, fabrics or the aesthetic design of the furnishings – how much does that factor in with the design?
JW: Sometimes customers want what they’ve always been ordering – their standard grey or brown -- but for others, color can be a big factor. We offer 49 fabrics, 29 laminates, and 5 frame finishes that are standard with no additional charge. With other manufacturers, you might only have only five or six different laminates and maybe 10 fabrics to choose from. A lot of people like having more color options.
TMCnet: What are some of the main trends you’ve seen in the call center furniture space during the past few years – obviously a lot has changed in the industry.
JW: One of the biggest trends has been the increase in the size of the workstations. About ten years ago, when there were many outbound centers, the stations trended to be smaller. But now that a higher percentage of centers are inbound, stations have gotten larger – and people are starting to ask more questions about things like ergonomics and keyboards. Other trends include the movement toward more “green” materials used in the furniture – and better ergonomic options. And we’ve included more colors and fabrics to keep up with the demand for certain aesthetic qualities as well.
TMCnet: How has the downturn in the economy affected your business? Have you been finding that a lot of companies are downsizing their call centers and therefore have less need for furnishings?
Another differentiator is that we’re 100 percent focused on the call center. We’re not like other furniture companies that say ‘we can do contact centers’ – we offer a much wider selection of furnishings that are designed exclusively for the contact center. Other companies might have furnishings and cubicles that they say are for the call center, but they don’t bring the level of expertise that we do to the market. There’s no one else out there, design-wise or knowledge-wise that has our level of expertise in the call center furniture market.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard