Kamloops reels in call centre

Kamloops - a B.C. city best known for its logging, fly fishing and junior hockey team - now has another attraction to add to its calling card. The city, about a four-hour drive northeast of Vancouver, will be the site of...

Kamloops – a B.C. city best known for its logging, fly fishing and junior hockey team – now has another attraction to add to its calling card.

The city, about a four-hour drive northeast of Vancouver, will be the site of a $10-million call centre. Cincinnati-based Convergys selected the city of about 75,000 last month, after local politicians and economic development officials began wooing the company last summer. Convergys specializes in outsourced, integrated customer care and billing services.

‘We were looking for a strong labour pool,’ says Matt Conrad, a spokesman for Convergys. ‘Our customer service representatives (CSRs) are in direct contact with customers, so we needed both quantity and quality.’

The deal is the first to be signed under a provincial business development program called Linx BC, launched just under a year ago. It’s an aggressive joint government-industry marketing campaign that promotes B.C. as a preferred destination for call centres. Costs for the initiative are shared between the provincial government, the telecommunications firm Telus, and the cities of Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George and Victoria.

‘This will give a huge boost to the region,’ says M.J. Cousins, director of the Kamloops Economic Development Corporation. ‘It’s also significant because the centre will be going into a large retail site that is currently empty. The loss of business there meant a downturn for that area.’

Convergys and local and provincial officials expect the call centre to eventually employ more than 600 CSRs. Since about 80% of the company’s work is currently devoted to inbound telemarketing, Conrad says it’s expected that the Kamloops centre will specialize in that, too. The company also has call centres in Halifax and Winnipeg.

All levels of government chipped in with incentives to help attract Convergys to Kamloops. The B.C. Ministry of Employment and Investment is providing over $450,000 for training, while its counterpart in Ottawa is chipping in $1 million to train about 100 workers currently collecting employment insurance. The B.C. government, meanwhile, dropped its seven per cent sales tax on 1-800 numbers. Convergys has promised to invest $10 million in the 5,574-square-metre facility and is expected to begin operating later this year, says Conrad.

‘Call centres can locate anywhere, not just in Vancouver,’ says Mike Farnsworth, B.C.’s employment and investment minister. ‘And we see a role for call centres in our provincial economy. They are labour-intensive and while they don’t necessarily pay high wages, the cost of living in regional centres is lower.’ He added the province will continue to try to lure other call centres to B.C.

At almost the same time as the Kamloops announcement, Convergys said it had won a large piece of business from computer printer maker Hewlett-Packard. Convergys will handle Web-based sales and service for hpshopping.com, HP’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce store. Conrad said it was too early to say if the Kamloops location would be involved in that aspect of its business.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group