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‘We look forward to growing our team,’ says NEW executive

While NEW Customer Service Companies Inc. officially opened its eighth U.S. customer contact center in Tupelo January 31, customer care representatives had already been busy at work, handling more than 160,000 calls since its initial staffing this fall in the Tupelo Furniture Market’s Mississippi Complex.

“We did a lot of homework beforehand, and we are excited to be here,” said Ray Zukowski, NEW’s senior vice president of customer experience who lauded the area’s work ethic and what he deemed as its multi-faceted approach in working with companies. “We look forward to growing our team in Tupelo.”

NEW executives began recruiting in the area for customer care representatives and other center operations staff last fall. While the company set out to employ 250, to date, employment is already around 350. Officials said that they are contemplating the possibility of adding as many as 100 additional jobs at the center in the future. “The applicant flow is still strong,” Zukowski noted.

Headquartered in Sterling, Va., the privately-held NEW is an independent third-party administrator of extended service plans, buyer protection services and product support programs that serve many of the top consumer electronics retailers. Founded in 1983, the company employs approximately 3,700 overall, and NEW handles more than 15 million consumer calls annually through its contact centers, according to information provided by company officials.

Zukowski said that NEW surveyed more than 200 locations during its selection process, and Tupelo emerged as the winner from five eventual finalists for a variety of reasons. First, Zukowski cited the quality of education in the area as a top priority, as the company needed people who could handle its rigorous training and the technical troubleshooting that accompanies the job. Availability of workforce candidates, a strong work ethic that matched NEW’s own organizational culture and a willingness of local and state officials to work with NEW were all deemed as major factors in Tupelo’s selection. And while NEW executives made official visits with leaders in the region in their evaluation process, they also assessed their own customer service experiences at Tupelo hotels, restaurants and retail establishments as an indication of the area’s service culture.

David Rumbarger, who heads the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation (CDF), said that the type of diversification in jobs that a company such as NEW brings to the region is extremely important to the local economy. “This contact center provides good paying positions with advancement opportunity, a promote-from-within philosophy and outstanding benefits,” Rumbarger said. “It fills a niche in terms of skill set that we have been actively pursuing for some time.”

Rumbarger added that CDF had many partners that were essential in the recruitment of NEW, “including our local business and industry who were willing to assist and provide information to NEW in regards of workforce and what the business climate is like in Tupelo/Lee County.” Other partners who were crucial in the effort included Itawamba Community College, Three Rivers Planning and Development District, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (WIN Job Center), the Mississippi Development Authority and Gov. Haley Barbour, Rumbarger concluded.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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