Call Center Dessau-Halle
Interview with Maribel Pietzner
Maribel Pietzner is the Managing Director and Site Manager of the owner-operated inbound call center ja-dialog in Bitterfeld-Wolfen.
Learn about her perspective on the special challenges of running a call center outside the big city.
Ms. Pietzner, in 2018 you took on the challenge of creating an inbound call center "from scratch" in Bitterfeld-Wolfen site. How did this unusual situation arise?
That’s correct, as part of the renovation of the Wolfen Town Hall, we received a lucrative offer to rent an office space. Opening our location here definitely was a risk and in the first few weeks we didn't know if we could sustain ourselves.
With less than five other colleagues, we started operations in the still unfinished space. Today, the comparison to these times is almost unimaginable. In the meantime, we have grown so much that we were able to rent three more spaces to accommodate our constantly increasing number of customer service advisors.
You describe the two factors mentioned as "initial" hurdles. Accordingly, what advantages do you see for your location?
First, I want to make a comparison. Other inbound call centers with several hundred customer service employees and with locations in large cities have the advantage of being able to serv big clients with the corresponding capacity and are able to recruit employees more easily due to the large number of people in the vicinity. However, the Wolfen location does not offer the anonymity of the big city.
In their free time, the customer service representatives encounter each other, and everyone knows each other in the entire city. As a result, we have established partnerships with locally based companies. For some of them, it was even their first outsourcing order to a call center service provider. We have excellent relationships with chambers of Industry and Commerce or business associations, from which sometimes unexpected orders grow and, as a result, new jobs with exciting areas of responsibility emerge in the field of customer service. However, it should also be mentioned that from Central Germany we take on activities for major brands operating nationwide or even internationally and serve a wide range of industries such as energy, finance, tourism and e-commerce.
The local proximity also has an impact on employees. While there is frequent turnover among job applications in the big city, our customer service employees remain with the company for years and demonstrate their loyalty to both to the client and to us as their employer. Overall, there is an almost family-like atmosphere from which all sides benefit.
This sounds as if you have created a unique company with ja-dialog Wolfen GmbH, which offers very special advantages for both clients and your team?
One can put it that way, actually. We offer advantages to both our clients and employees that are not available with such certainty in other inbound call centers.
Through our cooperation with both internationally operating companies and regionally oriented companies in the Halle/Dessau/Leipzig metropolitan area, we understand their needs and requirements, provide them with employees who have stayed with the company for many years and the opportunity for a successful partnership. We are also able to provide advice to those who are undecided about outsourcing and develop customized call center services. In addition, all of our managers have years of experience in the industry, and we offer professional service.
For employees, this results in an attractive workplace that offers long-term prospects, a family-like, value-based environment with colleagues who treat each other respectfully and friendly.
Taking the risk was obviously worth it, but there were certainly hurdles. What hurdles did you have to overcome?
On the one hand, customer acquisition was more difficult because call center service providers are usually located in metropolitan regions that are easily accessible by public transport. We faced direct competition, for example, from call centers in Leipzig and Dessau. In addition, due to the size of the location, it was not possible for us to accept large orders for, say, 50 call center agents. However, this initial limitation led us to develop a strategy of providing our services to several small clients.
In the meantime, employee recruitment has become the decisive factor. While students and young people are often employed in jobs in the field as is customary in the industry, we have a strikingly different target audience. The major exodus after reunification also led to an empty cityscape, which has only really recovered in the last decade. Wolfen has since become an attractive place for families to live. Thus, many of our team members are parents and have settled in the area. As ja-dialog, we are pleased to be able to offer applicants the prospect of a long-term, secure job from the first interview on their way to becoming a future call center agent.
You came to ja-dialog from a much larger company. What made you decide to make such a career change?
I was given the opportunity to lead my own site and shape it according to my own ideas. The processes of a large company certainly make workday easier, but there is a danger that individual employees will no longer be noticed; particularly in large corporations where the individual often falls short and is just a number. Furthermore, these companies tend to sink into bureaucracy and cumbersome processes. As an owner-managed medium-sized company we can do much better.
I maintain a personal leadership style. For me, it is important to create a working environment in which individuals are valued and treated with respect. This is a point of responsibility that I bear, which is critical for the success of the company as well as the satisfaction of the employees. Due to the now strong network across the entire city area and beyond, this responsibility can be extended to the region.