Location Scouting with a Microscope

Paul Nelson and the TeleTech real estate team have enhanced the company’s site-selection process, putting a greater emphasis on labor-market numbers, spatial efficiency, and sustainability

TeleTech’s zigzag workstation systems in its contact centers help employees feel less cramped as they resolve calls with their clients’ customers.

For Colorado-based TeleTech Holdings, Inc., a lot more goes into its real estate site selection than “location, location, location.” Founded in 1982, the firm is a global business-process-outsourcing company that provides strategy-consulting, technology, care, and growth services for customer-experience management—a dynamic business sector where growth, change, and process improvements continuously challenge the organization to be strategic and long-term-oriented. And, just as its sector has changed over the past two decades, so too has the way TeleTech goes about finding its sites.

TeleTech in a Box

To develop some consistency among TeleTech’s locations around the globe, Paul Nelson created the “TeleTech in a Box” concept. The inspiration came from his experience building and maintaining retail automotive facilities in the United States.

“When you go to build a Chevrolet or a Volkswagen dealership, they give you a manual, and it tells you everything,” Nelson says. “How the building will look from the outside, what goes in it, the lighting—I mean, every single detail about what goes inside that you can imagine.”

TeleTech does the same; by the time one of its sites is ready to open, everything is set: the graphics, the kitchen, the eco-friendly features, even the paper clips. “Lack of standardization is the fastest way to drive up cost,” Nelson says. “Using the TeleTech in a Box concept has enabled us to reduce cost by 17 percent on our first-time capital-build cost. The added advantage is that, from an operational side, we are now able to also drive cost savings with our vendors to maintain our sites.”

Originally, the company chose its locations more on an emotionally based process, without the aid of significant input and analytics, but that changed when Paul Nelson, TeleTech’s vice president of global real estate, construction, and facilities, joined the company. TeleTech added him to a cross-functional team that completed a 115-step process to help the company gather the appropriate data needed to more effectively select a site.

Today, one of the biggest factors TeleTech looks at is the labor market. Nelson and his team examine where the labor is in a particular market, they break down education levels and price points in the given market, and they find out how long people in the area tend to stay with an employer. For example, if TeleTech is looking to open a new contact center somewhere, it does so with the understanding that it may have higher turnover in the area because of its industry. That’s why it looks for a labor market that is as sustainable as possible.

“[The labor market] is the oil in TeleTech’s engine,” Nelson says. “The most challenging part of the site-selection process is getting all the data. For example, this year, we’ve researched probably 12 countries and 30 states within the US, and we’ve boiled that down to what we classify as approved places to go to next, once we have the customers or the business need.”

Once TeleTech has found the ideal location to set up its next site, its leadership team designs a work environment that will best accommodate the business unit that’ll be working there. TeleTech consists of four business units—consulting, technology, care services, and growth services—as part of its holistic customer-engagement platform. The forms and functions of these units are different and require unique work environments. TeleTech’s real estate team will deliver these spaces with the right use in mind while ensuring that they all feel like part of the larger TeleTech family.

For example, though consultants are not in the office too often, their work space is set up as a collaboration space to make them feel at home when they are present. Technical employees, who are writing software, are mostly in quiet places, preferably dark rooms with not much lighting and a lot of computer screens, and Nelson and his team design those environments as well.

The contact-center environment might be the one Nelson is most proud of. Unlike most contact centers, which are just rows and rows of desks and chairs with little room to operate, TeleTech contact centers feature a serpentine row where employees are never sitting directly behind or in front of somebody else. “It’s a unique approach to the way we lay out our centers,” Nelson says. “Consequently, we are not able to fit as many people in our centers as some of our competitors because we are trying to create an environment that’s better for our agents and also beneficial for the clients we represent.”

TeleTech standardizes its locations with the appropriate signage and materials. It’s helped the company reduce first-time capital-build costs by 17%.
TeleTech standardizes its locations with the appropriate signage and materials. It’s helped the company reduce first-time capital-build costs by 17%.

TeleTech spaces are also designed to make employees’ time at the office as comfortable as possible. They include lounges and what the company calls “decompression rooms,” where people can sit and read, watch a movie, or play a video game.

“A lot of the clients we have are … mobile phone, banking, [and] cable companies,” Nelson says. “Do you ever call those companies and say, ‘You’re doing a great job’? At the end of the day, these people are resolving difficult conversations for eight hours a day, so what we’re trying to do is allow them—every two to four to six hours, depending on their shift—to go to a space and relax.”

So, TeleTech selects its sites wisely and designs them to fit specific employees’ work needs in the best way possible. Some companies would be fine to stop there, but TeleTech also has its eye on its environmental impact. It didn’t have a sustainability program that it shared with the outside world when Nelson first came onboard, but he’s changing that. He and others recently created a sustainability platform, and once all the necessary data has been completed, he will share it in 2015.

Some of the steps Nelson and his team have taken with regards to sustainability have included working with vendors to obtain sustainability certificates for the products the company puts in its sites, converting its sites to LED lighting, offering incentives for employees to use mass transit to get to work, and recycling computers.

“We’ve invested a lot of money in that,” Nelson says. “It’s twofold: obviously, you invest to be a good steward [for the environment], but the beneficial piece of it is, there is a cost saving; you invest to save. But, I don’t think it’s about just saving money; it’s about saving the planet.”