Dressing (The Contact Center) For Success

By TMC  |  August 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Locating and designing contact centers are very much like recruiting staff. Both have to be the best fit for the enterprise and the applicants as to what they can offer each other, who must appear as professionally as they perform. And if you look good and feel good you will act accordingly.

NOVO 1 provides a case in point. It provides inbound and outbound BPO services from four U.S. locations: its Fort Worth, Texas headquarters along with Billings, Mont., Waukesha, Wis. and, since July 2010, Holland, Mich., with workforce totaling over 1,700 agents and supervisors, with 300 in Holland alone.

Faced with growing demand from existing and new clients, including work being repatriated from competitors’ offshore contact centers, NOVO 1 began looking for a new contact center in October 2009. After an extensive search, it chose Holland, in the western part Michigan, in February 2010. Jack Wilkie, NOVO 1 CMO and senior vice president of business development, cites the city’s available work force, low attrition, high education level, neutral accent and an incentive package.

Wilkie recounts that Holland exceeded the BPO firm’s standards of a two percent or less saturation rate, specifically, the number of people employed by contact centers, to minimize employer-jumping and an 85 percent or better high school graduation rate to ensure quality staff. The city and surrounding area had suffered badly in the economic downturn, with layoffs that resulted in a 14 percent unemployment rate. The local workforce also had the maturity and responsibility it sought in communities, with a labor pool that was predominantly 30 years-plus.

 “Culture is also a critical component of site selection,” explains Wilkie. “We look for a community that possesses a strong work ethic and the ability to cope with weather conditions. Holland fit the bill perfectly. The community was well-equipped to handle winter snow and is a vacation destination most of the year. The area is listed by Gallup and Hathaway as the ‘happiest and healthiest’ place to live and work in the United States. These traits are naturally conducive to service. The populations’ neutral accent was also a plus for our clients.”

Building Design

During the site search, NOVO 1 found the facility that best fit its needs, a two story office building with 37,000 sq.ft. of space and plenty of parking. The BPO firm then invested over $2 million to design and furnish the contact center. Federal, state and local governments pitched in some $1 million to cover some of these costs, financed road improvements and paid for new hire-training; the city of Holland granted the firm tax abatements worth $115,000 over the next nine years.

NOVO 1 fitted the contact center with 300 agent- and 21 team lead-workstations, 22 nesting positions and one lead station, 72 training seats and three training instructor seats, five training manager and four client cubicles, six operations and three scheduler positions. It also had carved out three lounge areas, 10 offices and three conference rooms and a reception lobby.

The floor plan featured a spacious and open design to facilitate collaboration with team leaders and agents. Color, lighting and other features were selected to dampen the typical call floor stress. Walls and floors were painted comforting colors like “tupelo tree,” “sage green,” “storm cloud” and “Navajo white.” The lounge spaces featured comfortable furniture. 

Productivity including encouraging employees is integrated into the design. The private training rooms feature state-of-the-art instruction technology. The workstations are grouped in pods with a team lead station surrounded by 15 agent desks. Large photographs of top-performing staff are displayed throughout the center with company values and client fan mail. 

Built-In Security

Conscious of IT security threats and wanting to give its clients that protection, NOVO 1 had built layered security. To prevent agents or others from getting into the PCs and to prevent network intrusion and data theft, Interior Concepts (, which is based in nearby Spring Lake, was called on to build custom-designed workstations that have locking mechanisms.

NOVO 1 also specified PCs that had no CD, DVD, media or USB thumb drives. Data cables from network/systems equipment to computers and cables are buried in a concrete floor in underfloor conduit to prevent slicing and tapping. There is CCTV, access control and locked cabinets; burglary and fire monitors are in place with door alarms and monitoring. There are no visual obstructions or power poles in the facility. AT&T (News - Alert) connected the facility with voice/data including a secure fully managed VPN service; it enables this site to virtually travel to others through its AT&T Connect conferencing solution.

Going Green

NOVO 1 rewired the building with flexible, expandable plug-and-play wiring. It refitted the structure with a new self-contained and more efficient HVAC system. It also bought Energy Star-compliant computers and monitors. Interior Concepts’ furniture is also MAS Certified Green. The carpeting is 100 percent recyclable.

Backing up the contact center is a new UPS using green technology. This UPS system relies on a small, quiet and very efficient flywheel, unlike most others that are energized from lead-acid batteries that are toxic, require special ventilation, must have spill containment and have large footprints. A new diesel-powered generator was installed to handle longer power outages.

Results and Growth

NOVO 1’s Holland contact center opened July 12, 2010 and it has been a success since.  The firm had forecast that it needed 125 agents to start; several months later it reached the 300 mark. In part, Wilkie credits the design and the Interior Concepts furniture. Now his firm is looking to expand into other communities, building on the methods, techniques and technologies proven out in Holland.

“Our employees and clients enjoy a pleasant and efficient worksite that offers comfort and security as we work to deliver the ideal customer experience for our client’s customers,” says Wilkie. “NOVO 1 has a unique team lead and production design and Interior Concepts worked with us to develop a tremendous solution. In fact, they suggested the lock-down security features we desired that surpassed our expectations. We believe that Holland is a dream center and much of the credit goes to Interior Concepts.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi