Springfield call center offers innovative space

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

SPRINGFIELD — It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s a cruise ship… No, it’s a call center. Coming to rest prominently by Interstate 5 in Springfield is the next generation in call sites: Royal Caribbean’s months-old customer care building, with an entrance shaped like a ship’s prow and an interior that boasts ample natural lighting, a spacious fitness center and a cafeteria that would keep Oregon’s most dogmatic vegetarians happy.

The company, which runs cruises all over North America and Europe, began staffing up in Springfield late last year and officially opened up this spring. At full employment, between 800 and 900 people will work there. Already 300 employees are on the site, the vast majority of them service reps, and they are arguably getting the most bang in Oregon for their starting wage bucks: $9.25 an hour (plus benefits). The U.S. Green Building Council recently granted the center LEED gold status for environmental efforts in construction. The layout conjures a cruise ship, with its whitewashed walls, huge portal-like windows, rainbowed tapestries, arching halls and a spiral staircase up to the cafeteria.

“A lot of our employees haven’t cruised yet so we wanted to give them the feeling,” says Lena Kostopulos, Royal Caribbean’s human resources director in Springfield.

A Royal Caribbean employee also collected cruise memorabilia, such as original first-class
china, that is scattered around the center. The motif extends to a collection of eerie mannequins donned in cruise staff wear at one end of the building.

Toward the end of employees’ first year, the company does give them a taste of the real thing with a free cruise. Customer rep Tina Walling, who recently sailed out of Los Angeles, reports that the similarities between the ship and her new home port were uncanny. “The ship was so big — kind of like the center — that I didn’t even get seasick.” In Springfield, she uses a personal trainer in the fitness center and is eating more salads. And that’s helping her keep that cheery phone voice for eight hours straight. “You can’t help but be in a better mood here,” Walling says. “They’ve gone all out.”

— Oakley Brooks

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