North End Teleservices 11/7/16 11/07/16 10:48:49 AM
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The North End Teleservices team is made up of “future leaders” who are being offered “a lot of employee development.” As client numbers expand, so too will the employee base, with as many as 200 hires.
North End Teleservices
Chamber Small Business Winner
Serving Clients, Impacting Lives
By Dan McCann
The Daily Record
A bright orange “word cloud” in the break room reinforces the company’s core values, including truth, integrity and improvement. In another part of the state-of-the-art call center, a larger-than-life rendering of Warren Buffett’s face is paired with one of his famous quotes: “Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depended on your success.”
Inspiration is not only stenciled on the walls at North End Teleservices (NET), the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Small Business of the Month for November; it is embedded in the company’s foundation.
“We do great work taking and making calls, but there is something we are doing here that is much bigger: we are changing lives. We are helping people have hope, learn a marketable skill and for some, get the first ‘win’ in their column,” said Doug Hibbeler who handles business development for NET.
Launched in August 2015, NET was founded in partnership with the Omaha Economic Development Corporation (OEDC). It is a telecommunications call center with a broader goal of hiring and developing underutilized talent in northeast Omaha, offering a good wage and comprehensive benefits closer to home.
“Northeast Omaha tends to be one of the most marginalized areas in the Omaha community. Part of our mission, in addition to providing the best possible customer serv-ice out there, is to elevate, educate and create future leaders by doing a lot of employee development,” said Keisha Thomas, NET’s human resources project manager. “We can employ 75-to-200 people with jobs that pay above the average for the call center environment here in Omaha.”
The genesis of the company dates back to November 2014. OEDC engaged the consulting services of Carmen Tapio, a seasoned industry professional and consultant, to establish a sustainable business model for northeast Omaha.
“As we explored different opportunities for OEDC, we landed on a call center – Omaha being a hotbed for the call center industry and really having a huge impact on business process outsourcing in terms of the call center industry in general,” Tapio explained. “So, a call center just made a lot of sense because of the variety of jobs and the career path that is available through it.”
The business plan for North End Teleservices was complete by February 2015. After the design and build-out of the 10,000 sq. ft. facility at 1500 N. 24th Street, Tapio took on the role of president and CEO.
“Saying ‘no’ was not an option,” Tapio said. “This brings together my many years of business operations experience and my passions for community, responsible business, and social responsibility. It’s really the perfect combination for me.”
NET offers call center services that range from customer service and tech support to lead generation and sales.
“It’s a family,” Tapio said. “We care about each other. We take care of each other, and we help each other to grow and improve. On top of that, we provide exceptional serv-ice to our clients.”
By all indications, the “family” is poised for growth. When the time comes for additional hiring, Thomas said NET will be looking for “people who want to do better, people who are not content with the status quo in their lives. They may not have the background to do this, but they have the desire to learn, and an aptitude and an attitude to do better.”
To help ensure the most successful hiring matches, NET embraces an extensive screening process that goes beyond an application, background check and drug test.
“We’re really looking for the best of the best,” Thomas said. “Everyone is used to taking typing and data entry tests for call center work. We go a step further. We have added a 93-question cognitive assessment. That really gives insight into how potential employees view life and view working in a team. That’s one thing we really stress – everybody is here to win so we are a team.”
She continued, “We look for those intangibles and those attributes we feel will fit in well here: high in teamwork, high in ability to handle stress, high in working together, high in really wanting to learn and being benevolent also. … We invest more on the front end to find those people who are going to deal well with the culture we are expecting and creating.”
As soon as an employee is hired, the development begins.
“We spend a lot of time on the person. We spend a lot of time helping them find their voice, their confidence and their potential,” Tapio said. “It’s about developing the person for the future.”
Thomas continued, “We tell employees from the beginning, from the very first time they step in the door, that they are professionals – and we treat them as such. We do SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals here. We teach them what professionalism is, what it looks like and what the expectations are. We even have classes where we go through professionalism, culture and customer service with them in-depth.”
Often times, according to Tapio, Thomas and Hibbeler, the people NET employs are those who have never been told that they can succeed.
“We have one gentleman who probably would not have been able to go to any other company and gain employment because of his background and history – non-violent but some minor run-ins with the law, a young person who was just misguided and misdirected. He needed an opportunity to show who he is and what he can do. That individual was employee of the month for us two months ago. He’s one of our best employees,” Tapio shared.
Hibbeler recalled his experience during a calling campaign for BMW Toronto: “The first day went well; we hit the goal for the client. On the second day, one of our employees was struggling a little to make the goal. I gave her a couple tips and told her, ‘You can do this. I know you can.’ … She told me that nobody had ever told her she could succeed at anything before.”
Thomas added, “If you give somebody encouragement who’s never had encouragement before, they’ll want to repeat what worked so well for them in the first place.”
Beyond their drive to “elevate the standard of service” in the call center industry, the NET leadership team knows the company is elevating lives – and the entire north Omaha community by extension.
“As we were building out, people would stop and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’ and we’d give them a little background. They’ve welcomed us and know we’re here to improve lives in the area. You pay people a fair wage, they’ll spend it in the community and that elevates the rest of the community as well,” Thomas said.
Hibbeler added, “The ability to change lives is itself tremendously rewarding – we see that happening a little bit here, a little bit there every day. … We have one employee who has a 27-second commute. She got her GED since she’s been here. She just started at Metropolitan Community College and bought her first car. She’s not shy about telling her story.”
NET is not shy about laying out a bold vision for the future.
“We see North End Teleservices; we see South End Teleservices,” Tapio said. “What we’re doing here, we really believe, is creating a model. Other communities can do this as well, and we plan to lead the charge in making that happen. We see growth and lots of potential for other facilities in other locations.”
For now, the team is reveling in being named the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month for November.
“Once we got engaged with the Chamber, it has been so supportive. We are thrilled to be working with them,” Tapio said. “To have them give us this recognition is more than we could ask for. It’s incredible.”
Hibbeler followed, “It’s a wonderful feeling to be part of something bigger than yourself. All the employees feel like we’re family, but we’re also part of the community as a whole. That keeps us engaged. We’re trying to lift the bar. Every client we’ve gotten in the door, we’ve been able to grow business with. As we’re able to do that, we’re able to bring more people onto the life raft and help them out.”
United Republic Bank sponsors the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award. To nominate a small business online, visit www.omahachamber.org. Nominees must be current Chamber members with 50 employees or less.