Business & Real Estate

Folsom call center blossoming as Silicon Valley seeks high-quality service

It doesn’t look like the traditional call center with endless rows of drab cubicles.

With its open spaces, bright colors and a pool table that resembles a mid-1960s Ford Mustang, the customer-service call center rapidly taking shape in Folsom would look more at home in Silicon Valley than greater Sacramento.

Its owners want it that way.

Voxpro Group, an Irish company that provides tech support and customer service for tech-oriented companies, is establishing itself as a major Sacramento-area employer. The company, which opened in temporary quarters in Folsom in November, just moved into its permanent space. It has ramped up to 200 workers and expects to employ as many as 700 by the end of the year.

Voxpro, which serves clients such as Etsy, Google and Airbnb, chose the Sacramento area for its first U.S. call center because it’s close to Silicon Valley.

“A lot of (clients) are weary of taking plane journeys to remote parts of the U.S.,” Dan Kiely, Voxpro’s founder, co-owner and chief executive, said during a visit to the Folsom facility.

Kiely and his wife, Linda, the company’s co-owner, said they were dazzled by the reception they got from Folsom officials and the city’s business community, which enabled Voxpro to set up shop quickly.

“The red tape in (Silicon) Valley would be greater,” Linda Kiely said.

The company operates a small sales office in Mountain View, but Folsom represents its first big facility in the United States.

So far the Folsom facility is dedicated to serving one of Voxpro’s customers: Nest Labs, a maker of thermostats and other home products. Dan Kiely said other clients are expected, and he said the Folsom facility will help expose some big Silicon Valley companies to the Sacramento region.

“They might actually see the attraction of opening up a center … in Folsom or Sacramento,” he said.

Voxpro in Folsom is an example of what economic-development specialists called “reshoring.” Call center jobs, which had migrated to low-cost locations in Asia and elsewhere a decade ago, are returning to the United States because companies are rediscovering the importance of high-quality customer service.

Linda Kiely said Voxpro is determined to end the “low-end cattle herd” reputation of call centers.

The company’s new facility speaks to that aim. Many of the workstations are close to windows. The miniature auditorium for staff meetings is stuffed with pillows. Two small conference rooms resemble booths at retro diners, while the center is decorated with Andy Warhol-style portraits of celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, pop singer Debbie Harry and, well, Andy Warhol. The Mustang pool table, smack in the middle of the center, is beneath a disco ball.

The colorful decor has two purposes. First, it’s designed to make Voxpro’s tech clients feel more at home.

“Our partners are seeing this as their center, not our center,” Dan Kiely said.

Second, the layout is expected to boost morale among the workforce.

“This is a very tough job; being on the phone is not easy,” said Jon Ward, general manager of the facility and Voxpro’s North American operations. “We wanted to create a space with a little bit of fun.”

Voxpro jobs in Folsom pay from $32,000 to $150,000 a year. Ward said the company promotes from within and an entry-level job can lead to something brighter at Voxpro.

“What we’re offering here is a career,” Dan Kiely said.

The company hasn’t yet posted the jobs it plans to fill in the coming months, although jobs are expected to be listed soon on Voxpro’s website.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler