As more corporations and businesses experiment with flexible and remote working arrangements, Verizon Wireless is planning to shutter its football field-sized calling center in Little Rock and shift more than 600 employees to 100% home-based locations by late fall, Talk Business & Politics has learned.
Verizon spokesman Jeannine Brew told Talk Business & Politics Wednesday (Feb. 28) the New Jersey-based wireless giant will fully transition the company’s sprawling 200,000 square-foot-plus facility at the former Alltel Corp. headquarters to the company’s home-based agent (HBA) model by the end of October.
“They will continue being Verizon employees. The only thing that is changing is their work location,” Brew said. “Our goal is to always provide the highest levels of service to our customers and we believe this flexible work environment will improve both our customers’ and our employees’ experiences.”
Brew added the Verizon-owned call center located at the former Alltel headquarters on One Allied Drive in Little Rock will remain open and continue to house other employees with other staff functions. She emphasized no employees are being laid off, saying all 600 will have the choice of transitioning to the HBA mode, relocated to another brick-and-mortar site in another state, or accept a severance package.
The Verizon call center is located in the 11-story office building that also served for more than nine years as the Alltel executive offices for the former Alltel headquarters in Little Rock’s Riverdale community. Built almost 20 years ago, the centerpiece of the Verizon campus overlooking the Arkansas River is part of five connected office buildings where more than 4,000 employees once worked for the nation’s fifth-largest wireless carrier nearly a decade ago.
At its peak in the early 2000’s when the Little Rock wireless giant had over 13 million customers and more than 20,000 employees companywide, Alltel’s campus included Building One completed in 1982; a second seven-story tower and a two-story adjoining facility, completed in 1992; and a six-story addition completed in 1995. The 11-story executive offices were completed in 2000 at a cost of more than $20 million.
LAST OF ALLTEL REMNANTS NOW GONE
In 2009, Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon Communications purchased Alltel in a deal then valued at $28.1 billion. Although most of the former local Alltel employees lost their jobs or found work with other Alltel spin-offs such as Windstream and Allied Wireless, the local call center remained intact and served as one of Verizon’s flagship customer service operations.
At one time shortly after the Verizon-Alltel transaction closed, there were plans to have as many as 2,000 workers at the Little Rock operations center, which included a major call center, engineering and IT jobs. Before the Alltel deal, Verizon was created after Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. joined operations, creating one of the largest mergers in U.S. business history that had 180,000 employees nationwide with operations in nearly 50 states.
As Verizon began to focus most of its business operations on the growing wireless industry over the past decade, the former Bell conglomerate first began to consolidate the company’s nationwide call center division in 2014. At the time, Verizon closed five of its customer-service call centers in the U.S. and consolidated seven others in the restructuring efforts.
However, the Little Rock campus was unscathed by that downsizing and actually added 300 jobs to its Little Rock regional campus following the completion of a $30 million expansion and renovation in 2012.
In Verizon’s latest move, the Little Rock campus is among a large wave of call center closures among the wireless giant’s 16 customer service facilities across the U.S. Besides the 600 affected workers in Arkansas, Verizon is also moving to the HBA business model in Mankato, Minn., North Charleston, S.C., Huntsville, Ala., Albuquerque, N.M., Hilliard, Ohio and Franklin, Tenn.
According to local media reports in those cities, all of the home-based transitions that will allow employees to take customer service calls at home are expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter. The Mankato call center is also a former Alltel location that was acquired after it purchased rural carrier Midwest Wireless for $1 billion in 2005.
Not all Verizon employees are pleased with the shutdown of one-third of the company’s brick-and-mortar call centers. On one online bulletin board detailing the recent closings, commenters claiming to be Verizon employees say the wireless giant’s ongoing efforts to trim overhead and real estate expenses has led to layoffs and firings of some workers having difficulty with working remotely.
Last week, Verizon Communications reported quarterly profits of $18.7 billion on revenue of $34 billion, with nearly $24 billion in wireless revenue. The East Coast wireless giant said $16.8 billion of that net gain resulted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted by Congress in December.
For the year, Verizon reported full-year revenue of $126 billion. The company expects to spend between nearly $18 billion in 2018, including the commercial launch of 5G wireless service. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in a conference call last week that the corporate tax cut legislation will have a positive impact to cash flow in 2018 of nearly $3.5 billion to $4 billion.