Feature Article

If You Build It, They Will Come: Contact Center Outsourcer Caleris Answers the Call in Iowa

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

IP technology is often heralded as the key to enabling contact centers to work in a more distributed fashion - say, as far away as India. But one company, called Caleris, is leveraging the benefits of IP in its contact centers right here in the U.S. of A.

Not only is Caleris a U.S.-based call center company, it is located in the nation's heartland.

Co-founder Sheldon Ohringer says that instead of going to India, Caleris set up shop in low-cost areas in Iowa, through which it offers technical support services, content moderation and business processes to service providers and other high-tech types. Ohringer has a lot of experience working with service providers, having previously had employ at FirstWorld Communications, where he was president and CEO; ICG Telecom Group, where he served as president; and US Long Distance Inc., at which he was senior vice president.

Five-year-old Caleris, which got its start using customer base assets that Ohringer and co-founder (and fellow Iowan) Rick Grewell picked up from ECI, offers high-end technical support for about 40 different service providers, which range from ISPs to VoIP providers and independent telcos. It's also been able to attract some pretty high-end companies elsewhere in tech, including Sony.

Caleris serves its customers out of contact centers in Jefferson, Iowa, at which 90 people work; Manning, Iowa, which houses 50 employees; and Newton, Iowa, a former Maytag call center housing 150 workers. The centers, which are managed as if they're one, not only handle voice, but they also use IM and chat as well, so call center reps have a great ability to maneuver requests, says Ohringer.

"We bought our new server-based software ACD call center platform from ADS Softswitch, which is now part of Siemens (News - Alert) Information Systems," says Ohringer. "It has both IP and T-1 connections. We love the flexibility of the IP routing and software menu systems. It gives us maximum flexibility to route calls inexpensively using IP and maximum flexibility to adjust to all call situations as well as unlimited ACD capability."

This high-end technical assistance capability paired with IP-capable communications has enabled Caleris, which is profitable and has no debt, to grow its business several thousand percent over the past five years. As a result, Caleris was able to add two more business process outsourcing centers and increase its employee numbers from 30 to 250 full-time workers. That's been good for Iowa, which lost 5,000 jobs in Newton alone when Maytag shut its doors at that location.

Ohringer says while we've seen a lot of businesses close down or move abroad, he's seen a lot of business coming back from India. And while a $10 clock radio probably requires a lower level of service, high-end technical assistance such as that offered by Caleris is being seen as an important component of delivering technical support for things of value.