Nextel deal could mean more local jobs

A confluence of factors could bring more jobs to Nextel Communications’ East Bremerton call center.

The closure of two of the company’s other call centers, and a new business agreement among Nextel, Denver-based TeleTech and IBM, could boost employment here, officials said.

“We are taking over operations (Feb. 1), and we will be conducting an analysis of call volumes. We do expect to do additional hiring (in Bremerton),” said Chris Arnold, TeleTech spokesman.

Under the deal, worth $1.2 billion dollars over eight years, IBM will provide technological support for the call centers and TeleTech will handle the employee relations, according to Michele Pinnau, Nextel spokeswoman.

The decision was a result of Nextel’s desire to focus on what it does best — wireless technology — and to find new efficiencies.

“Certainly there were cost-saving benefits,” Pinnau said. “We are not experts in customer care, and we are calling upon the people who are so we can give our customers the best service possible.”

TeleTech plans to close two of Nextel’s six call centers and lay off 1,700 employees, Arnold said. This could result in jobs being added at Nextel call centers in Bremerton, Atlanta, Texas and Virginia.

“The decision to consolidate the Denver and New Jersey sites was purely economic. It came down to those centers having higher operating costs,” Arnold said.

He added that labor costs and overhead are low at the Bremerton site.

The transition will be seamless for clients, Arnold said, and former Nextel employees will see few changes under new management.

“All of the policies, benefits and compensation will transfer to TeleTech. The compensation is competitive with what they have been getting under Nextel,” Arnold said.

Nextel paid starting customer care representatives $10 an hour, along with a benefit package that included medical, dental, vision, a 401K, tuition reimbursement and stock purchase programs, Colleen Williams, vice president of Nextel’s Bremerton site, told the Reporter in July.

The center’s employees now work for customer-care specialist TeleTech. The firm does not own the call center, though it will manage it for at least eight years, Pinnau said.

Nextel will pay IBM, which has subcontracted with TeleTech. However, IBM spokeswoman Nancy Kaplan stressed this does not mean IBM is just a middleman.

“We are bringing a lot to the table with regard to technology” including a new interactive voice response system, Kaplan said.

Bremerton’s Nextel Call center opened in July 2001 following two years of recruitment by the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council. Nextel currently employs 450.

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