By DEVIN HEILMAN
In 2016, the global company Qualfon acquired the San Antonio center services company Culture.Service.Growth.
Now, about a year after that acquisition, North Idaho's Qualfon centers are experiencing their own growth.
"We're hiring 100 people in the next few weeks for this site," Coeur d'Alene site director Graham Johnson said Wednesday. "Hayden is hiring also. Between the three sites, I'd say we're adding 300 people within the next few months."
Johnson said Qualfon is always hiring, but it will be doubling its hiring at the Coeur d'Alene, Hayden and Liberty Lake sites as its facilities allow.
"We have room within our sites to grow," Johnson said. "Our client forecasts are increasing and we have a need for an additional headcount at the moment."
Qualfon is a provider of contact center, back-office and business process outsourcing services. The company was founded in 1995 and operates from Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, the Philippines, Guyana and Mexico. It acquired Center Partners in 2014, adding 2,500 Idaho, Washington and Colorado employees to the Qualfon team.
With an average of about 40 new employees being hired every couple months, growing seems to be a natural Qualfon trait.
But not just Qualfon. Amber Conklin, business relations and communications officer for the Coeur d'Alene Area Economic Development Corporation/Jobs Plus, said companies in that industry, both regionally and afield, are experiencing an upward trend.
"It makes sense to me that call and service centers are continuing to expand their job base as more and more of us are doing business online and via the telephone,” Conklin said.
She said Coeur d'Alene Area EDC/Jobs Plus frequently receives inquiries from call and service centers about doing business in North Idaho, and she's not surprised by the interest.
"Part of our draw is the quality of life, and some companies may want this specific time zone because they need to be able to provide service to customers all over the United States," she said, adding this area also has "incredible connectivity."
"We have great fiber for Internet locally," she said. "That is a huge benefit for call and service centers."
Johnson said hiring 300 employees isn't that unusual given the high turnover rate of call centers, but the company is going into a "tough hiring time" when competitors are also seeking to increase their staffs and teams. He said Qualfon is now conducting walk-in interviews from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep a strong flow of applicants.
Conklin said as the demand for call and service center employees increases, so does the need to keep them.
"A lot of companies we have been working with have been doing really exciting things to attract and retain employees," she said. "Some have gyms on site, cafeterias. A lot are thinking outside of the box and offering a variety of tuition reimbursement. They're offering educational opportunities for their employees, and many have internal training programs so they can work their way up in the company."
Conklin pointed out Coeur d'Alene's academic presence also contributes to the desire for call center work.
"It's a good job for college students and people not looking for a traditional 8-5 schedule," she said. "I think there's a significant portion of our community that does work for call and service centers, and they're on the rise."