Innovative Call Center Design Boosts Agent Retention: At Risk of Losing 40 Percent of Its Agents, Bell ExpressVu Reinvents Its Call Center

Article excerpt

Bell ExpressVu, a division of Bell Canada, prides itself on its ability to retain agents. Its annual agent attrition rate generally hovers at about 16 to 18 percent and only 3 percent of promoted agents leave the company annually. In January 2002, however, this nirvana was threatened.

As sales sizzled at Bell ExpressVu--Canada's largest satellite provider--it soon became evident that to meet customer service demands the company would have to double its customer service division to 400 employees, which was impossible to do in its existing Toronto offices.

So the company moved its customer service center to another of Bell Canada's multitenant buildings, a 60,000-square-foot facility about four miles away from its headquarters. This added some 20 to 30 minutes to employees' commute due to the highly congested roadways around the larger facility. "That's enough to get some people to quit," says Mark Knapton, vice president of call center sales and customer service at Bell ExpressVu. In fact, Knapton was expecting to lose as many as 40 percent of the customer service reps.

To make matters worse, he adds, agents were to leave a "highly desirable location," which featured a satellite dish farm outside and a "funky interior" in the single-level, converted warehouse. "[The previous call center] represented our culture: a fast growing, modern company with a high-tech feel to it."

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Bell ExpressVu executives were concerned about the harder commute and the new environment, which Knapton says was "too uniform and too rigid." The larger office space "had a huge floor plate, which was a great opportunity," Knapton says, "but how do we create a sense of belonging and community in a space that large?"

Bell ExpressVu chose to hand over the project--its largest structural project to date--to architectural firm Julian Jacobs Architects Ltd. …