How do you design student-friendly call center space?
Is this something you’ve ever really sat down and thought about? Depending on your role and day-to-day work, it’s likely you’ve never needed to. However, for many of us on the Education at Work (EAW) team, this is a large priority and requires attention and energy.
The EAW model relies on the ability to successfully create dedicated call centers and office spaces on university and college campuses across the US, where college students can work in part-time positions on behalf of clients. Today, EAW operates on-campus call centers at three universities, and is completing the build out phase at the University of Utah, as well as a second space at ASU. Even though one of two on-campus locations was previously configured as a call center, it must be customized to create optimal work environments for our collegiate workforce.
To determine a “flow” which encourages student-employees to balance their time and manage their priorities at work, EAW’s Chief Operating Officer Renée Kuwahara says that it is necessary to have members of the EAW team visit the centers before any construction or infrastructure work begins. She explains, “By walking through a space where EAW student-employees will one day work, it becomes easier to ask, ‘What would I want if I worked here?’ and ‘How can this space add to a successful experience for both a student-employee and a client?’ From there, critical decisions can be made and my team can move forward optimizing the space.”
After this visit (and many thoughtful conversations) the construction begins!
One way in which this flow is constructed is in the placement and rules around student-employees’ belongings. Typically, call centers have very strict rules and regulations around the type of items agents can have, even when they are on breaks. For example, it’s not uncommon for agents to not be able to use their cell phones and other electronics when they are in break rooms. However, because the agents working at Education at Work are college students, they often need items like these on breaks – and not just for socializing, but for completing assignments, doing research, and studying for upcoming tests. This means EAW’s centers have break rooms and lockers which are outside of the secured production area, so that student-employees can focus on studying when they’re not hard at work for a client.
In addition to having a center which focuses on student success, EAW’s centers need to have every possible measure taken to ensure that a client sees its business needs met and goals accomplished. One of the best ways for EAW to do this is by maximizing the number of student-employees who can work comfortably in the space. Agents sit in shared desk spaces and close to one another, creating both efficiencies and promoting team building.
One of the most unique aspects of our design process is creating the branded culture elements of the center. EAW works with a client’s marketing and brand team to create graphics and other collateral to decorate centers. Visual items help student-employees connect with the brand they represent and experience the company’s culture. EAW’s Vice President of Client Partner Development Tim Moore summarizes it in this way: “While EAW employs standards developed over the past five years, we work hard to partner with our clients to ensure our on-campus centers look, feel, and operate much like their in-house operations. Our ultimate goal is to marry their culture with our unique student-powered model, leading to a consistent customer experience at each interaction.”
In 2012, our founder Dave Dougherty had the resourcefulness to pose that the business process outsourcing industry could be utilized to reduce student debt and increase job-readiness skills. Today, his vision is being realized through the creation of these student-friendly call center spaces, built through using our proactive and strategic approach. We are proud that these spaces are maximizing both student-employee and client success, and are helping brands utilize the talents and future full-time potential of a collegiate workforce. We can’t wait for you to see them!