StarTek adds 600 workers just since November
Busting at the seams to handle loads of new business, North Avenue call center StarTek has hired more than 600 new, mostly full-time employees since November and plans to hire at least 50 more in the short term, company site director Dennis Foos said.
The booming business, which now boasts 800 workers, faces growing pains as it considers expanding into a 16,000-square-foot former supermarket and adding 200 cubicles to its already large Eastgate Shopping Center facility.
The increase is due in part to the decision by several technology companies to cancel their offshore contracts and bring business back to the United States, Foos said.
Tech companies selling essentially the same products are starting to realize a good way to distinguish themselves from competitors is to provide help lines staffed by U.S. workers, most of whom speak English without an often difficult-to-understand foreign accent.
“For a lot of years, everybody was moving offshore,” Foos said. “Well there’s actually, now, a move back on shore ... customers have kind of spoken.”
Foos said StarTek is well-positioned to take on the returning business.
“We’re never going to be cheaper than anybody offshore. We can’t pay you $4,000 a year like we might pay in the Philippines, so we’ve got to be better. If we’re better and more efficient, then we can beat the offshore sites.”
Proof StarTek does it better came in June when the 2013 Call Center Excellence Awards named Foos Contact Center Leader of the Year, recognition for his distinctive management style by a panel of industry experts from around the world.
“We are very proud of Dennis,” said Chad Carlson, president and CEO of StarTek. “It was not surprising that he won the award. He has been an outstanding leader of his team and their performance through an impressive growth period deserves all of the recognition this award represents.”
Other signs of Foos’ success were everywhere during a tour of the StarTek “contact center” earlier this month, so called because these days, customers ask for help via email and texting in addition to the traditional telephone call.
The hum of hundreds of human voices answering questions about everything from computer software to credit card bills rose and fell, the cacophony somehow calming, a tribute to StarTek training that emphasizes warmth and optimistic enthusiasm.
Foos stood chatting in a sport shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots, greeting each casually dressed employee by name.
“People start out as front-line agents,” Foos said. “They’re the folks who are doing the work. They are the most important people in the building. This is an inverted pyramid, man. I’m the least important. They’re the most important. And we make sure everybody understands that.”
More than words, StarTek backs up its modern leadership theory with a living wage that averages around $11 an hour, paid holidays, paid sick leave and other benefits.
“He takes care of us,” said Bonnie Howard, an 18-month StarTek employee who won promotion to supervisor earlier this year. “Anything we ask for, he’s always there. Anytime we have a concern, his door is always open.”
Foos speaks from personal experience.
“Most of us, unfortunately, have had a bad boss, worked for a bad employer or had a bad experience at work,” Foos said. “There’s no way that we’re perfect here either — without a doubt there are people here that aren’t happy — but we have a very high level of people who are.”
“It’s never going to be the best place to work in the world, but it can always be a better place,” he said.