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Call centers are calling for help

Thu., Nov. 2, 2006

Spokane’s low unemployment rate has the region’s two big call centers advertising sign-on bonuses. The two companies are looking for a total of about 375 new employees right now, according to their regional recruiters.

West Corp. is offering a $500 bonus for those hired as customer service representatives for a big telecommunications client and $450 to work for Cingular Wireless, said West’s Rhonda-T Warren, a recruiter for three West Corp. centers in Eastern Washington.

Meanwhile, Spokane Valley-based ICT Group started for the first time last month offering $100 sign-on bonuses, good through Nov. 15, said Jennifer Winter, the company’s area recruiter.

“It’s an applicant’s market and there’s quite a bit of competition out there,” Winter said.

Spokane County’s jobless rate was 4.7 percent in September, lower than the statewide rate of 4.8 percent the same month.

ICT Group has 200 openings on its Virgin Mobile team alone — half permanent and the other half temporary and seasonal, Winter said.

ICT Group also needs about another 130 new people to work for a financial client, Winter said.

Call centers, where the work can be repetitive, tend to experience lots of employee turnover, the recruiters said. Some folks move up the ladder while others build skills and eventually move on to other companies.

Younger hires tend to job-hop.

“They want to be a tattoo artist one week, a lawyer the next and then open a pet shop,” Warren said of those just entering the work force.

Still, both companies have enjoyed strong growth and now have respective payrolls of about 800 employees apiece, up from just a couple hundred when they opened.

Both West and ICT Group’s local operations process only inbound calls.

West starts its new hires somewhere between $7.63 to $11 an hour, depending on several variables, Warren said. The ICT Group offers about $9 an hour to start and offers a raise after 1,000 hours on the job, Winter said.


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