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December 27, 2013
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No long holiday for Roseburg call centers

A television screen on the wall of John Stadter’s office in Roseburg keeps him plugged into his company, showing him a range of information pumped in from sites in three cities. Thursday, the operations manager of First Call Resolution pointed out a bulge on a graph where the calls started coming in the morning.

“That’s a healthy bump,” he said.

The day after Christmas is always the busiest day of the year for First Call, Douglas County’s seventh-largest employer. The company provides customer service for various businesses — dating websites, insurance companies, a camera manufacturer and more. One of its largest clients, a video game company, sees a huge influx of calls the day after Christmas.

First Call receives between 13,000 and 14,000 customer service calls on Dec. 26 (10,000 is an average day), with much of it compressed between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The company staffs a skeleton crew Christmas Day, but Stadter said most people calling about Christmas gifts wait at least a day to call. He said the next busiest day of the year is the second day after Christmas.

Many callers Thursday needed help downloading a game, or retrieving a password. Some were having trouble with their wireless networks.

First Call had a number of its representatives working overtime and brought them in early to accommodate East Coast callers.

The screen on Stadter’s wall showed the queue of callers on hold. The longest wait had been 14 minutes, with some callers on the line for 8 to 10 minutes. Stadter said the company doesn’t use incentives to speed up calls because it could lead to “bad behavior,” like hanging up on callers to meet a quota.

The company does, however, reward loyalty. Employees start receiving profit-sharing checks after two years on staff. This year First Call gave out a half million dollars in quarterly checks through its profit-sharing program. The largest of these checks came out a few weeks before Christmas.

First Call Resolution was voted one of Oregon’s top 10 workplaces for the second consecutive year, based on employee satisfaction surveys by The Oregonian newspaper.

First Call Resolution employs 800 people at its call centers on Northeast Winchester Street in Roseburg and in Coos Bay and Grants Pass. Stadter said revenues grew by 30 percent last year. The company plans to open a fourth center in Veneta in mid-January, starting out with 30 employees.

Though call volume was the same Thursday as in years past, it didn’t feel as huge to Stadter because the company has taken on more clients that don’t see a Christmas rush. “We’re losing concentration in that area,” he said. “It has more to do with our evolution as a company.”

The next busiest time of year for First Call is August, when two of its clients — a travel website and a textbook rental company — see a large influx of callers during travel and back-to-school season.

Roseburg has proven a suitable home for two call center businesses through a mix of high unemployment, solid broadband service, low wages and a proximity to Interstate 5. Representatives from both companies have said another advantage to operating call centers here is the local workforce’s neutral accent.

Thursday, at Roseburg’s other call center, Telecommunications Management Solutions on Northeast Casper Street, things were beginning to slow down. The business, which relocated to Roseburg in 1994, handles inbound sales calls for about 150 businesses.

CEO Dotty Stapleton said TMS’ busiest time of the year runs from Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — to about Dec. 20. During this time the company receives up to 30,000 calls a day. TMS would probably take about 18,000 sales calls Thursday. Stapleton said this is because right after Christmas, consumers return to purchasing items for themselves after about a month of buying things for other people. She said informercials return to heavy rotation on the airwaves after Christmas, and people return to buying Dyson vacuum cleaners and workout DVDs through TMS.

TMS hired about 200 seasonal employees this year and will keep on about 100 of them. TMS is Douglas County’s fifth-largest employer. Stapleton said revenues grew by 50 percent last year.

“We’re busy pretty much all the time,” she said.

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at gandrews@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Dec 27, 2013 02:01PM Published Dec 30, 2013 07:55AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.