Life's a beach at SalesForce

Auckland call centre SalesForce is celebrating its second birthday in this country, reports rapid growth and new clients, and far from being call centre 'battery hens', staff apparently love the place.

Life’s a beach at Auckland call centre SalesForce.

The company, which is celebrating its second birthday in this country, reports rapid growth and new clients, and far from being call centre “battery hens” - the company prefers the term contact interaction centre - staff apparently love the place.

Managing director Michael Masterton says SalesForce staff work for specific clients, so they can understand them better and focus more on delivering service quality rather than quantity. They have their own internet café, boozy parties, car rallies, fun days and even an indoor beach with the building's best view (down Grafton valley) to reward the highest achieving worker.

The policy seems to work. Since launching in 1999 with one client - Mobil - and four staff, SalesForce has grown to 150 personnel and eight clients including FlyBuys, Ericsson, SkyTelstra, Compaq and Air New Zealand. Over the next year SalesForce plans to open a Wellington office to add to its Christchurch centre and staff numbers are expected to double. The Australian firm, owned by communications group DDB, is working with Trade New Zealand to attract work from overseas firms.

The company claims a staff turnover rate of 5%, low for the industry, with many workers joining the firm through word of mouth. Managers are usually promoted from within. Masterton started as a administration assistant in 1991 at SalesForce’s Melbourne office, which started with ten staff in 1989 and now employs 3000.

Pay is “just above [market] average”, Masterton says, but “more focus is given on creating a great environment”. Unions have said "sweatshop” conditions and wages as low as $9 an hour are fuelling a drive for unionisation in the New Zealand call centre industry (Unions extend hand to call centre 'sweatshops'), but Masterton says staff felt there was nothing unions could do for them at SalesForce.

The mostly young and casually dressed staff spoken to by Computerworld seem happy with in their job.

Stephanie Erskine is enjoying her first-ever job and “loves coming to work here everyday”.

Henry Gray started two years ago. “They allow initiative from employees, let them take ownership of a project,” he says.

Justin Liu takes 70 to 120 calls a day and says his work can be stressful and repetitive, but it is still exciting. “I have friends who work at other call centres. They deal with a far higher volume of calls. Compared to them, we are stress-free,” he says.

Customers seem happy too. Fly Buys commercial manager Gary Hooper says the company has a “unique culture and enthusiasm they apply to all of their clients’ business”.

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