Child Care Helps Charter Staff Center

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Once a bit player in the West, Charter Communications Inc. now has 750,000 customers in the region from former Marcus Communications, Falcon Communications, American Cable Systems, Sonic Communications, Marks Cablevision and swapped AT&T Broadband systems.

To serve those customers efficiently — and keep a close eye on rollouts of interactive TV, video-on-demand and high-speed data — the region has centralized its telephone call-in infrastructure. Charter recently opened a $50-million "customer contact" center here, about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Open land is scarce in the part of Los Angeles County where the company hoped to build.

Irwindale — an industrial suburb known primarily for a futile 1980s bid for the Los Angeles Raiders — was about the only choice, said Peter Eliason, the region's vice president of operations.

The new site allowed Charter to close its call centers in San Luis Obispo, Glendale, Alhambra and Long Beach. Executives had to convince as many employees as possible to agree to locate to the new facility.

Spaciousness was a selling point, but other factors convinced employees, too. For example, the new facility will have an on-site cafeteria.

For families, the biggest selling point may be a feature that is a Charter first: on-site day care, expected to be operated by a national chain of day-care providers. The MSO has completed the space and has been certified by state officials. The center can accommodate 80 children, from potty-trained infants to age five.

The center is located next to the lunch area, so parents can check on their children and eat meals with them. Charter employees will be charged rates comparable to those of other area day-care providers. The center will open in the second quarter and operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to customer-contact center director Kevin McClafferty.

Charter also has installed "sick bays," where parents of sick children in need of isolation can work, while tending the child, in private rooms equipped with phones and customer-care stations.

88% OPTED IN

The new center's perks persuaded 88 percent of the displaced workers to transfer over. Eleven workers even relocated their families from San Luis Obispo, 225 miles away.

The service center can house 140 customer-care workers supporting high-speed data services and 350 employees in the video call center. Ultimately, workers will be able to handle 2,500 calls a day from Charter Pipeline data customers and 10,000 cable calls.

The new center's workers are still settling in, but results are already encouraging. Average time spent on the phone has already dropped to 5.5 minutes per call, from 7 minutes earlier this year, McClafferty said.

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