The construction of Walmart’s new corporate campus in Bentonville will take years to be achieved, and is just now in the early stages of development.
On Wednesday (Aug. 14), company officials provided a glimpse into what some elements of that design may one day look like.
Walmart held a grand opening for its new contact center at 2800 S. Thompson St. in Springdale. Employees have been working there for the past three weeks, following the completion of a massive remodel of a 130,000-square-foot building that was once a Sam’s Club store. It was most recently a layout center for Sam’s Club.
Company officials did not disclose the investment amount for the project. Nabholz Construction Corp. of Rogers used a building permit valued at $11.8 million to complete the redesign. Nielsen Architecture in Bentonville was the architect.
“This feels like ‘new’ Walmart; this feels like the next generation,” said Mark Ibbotson, the executive vice president of U.S. central operations, who also heads up the retailer’s realty division. “This facility is commensurate with the people who work in it. If we are going to invest in our people, this is how we’re going to do it.”
Greg Foran, the president and CEO of Walmart U.S., also spoke at Wednesday’s event. He called the building a “wonderful example” of where the company is headed. The building includes a number of amenities for employees including a 24-hour fitness center, full-service café, outdoor patios and dedicated spaces for training and employee development.
Steven Welch, a senior director at Walmart who oversees the contact center, said the company launched its first call center in 1995. It has been housed in four different locations, including about 200 workers who staffed a site in Hattiesburg, Miss. That site was open for 12 years until the retailer closed it in September 2016 to centralize all call center operations in Bentonville.
Welch said he has enjoyed seeing the project for the call center’s newest home come to fruition from “lines on a piece of paper.”
“It has been great to see the associates’ reaction to everything [at the new call center],” he said. “The previous call center I would call functional. Whereas this facility is really purpose-built with the associates in mind and how Walmart is being intentional about the design and workspaces. It’s the first taste, maybe, of some of the elements and processes that will go into the new home office.”
Walmart officials announced almost two years ago the company was going to build a sprawling new corporate campus in Bentonville. As part of that master development plan, several buildings in the approximately 350-acre footprint will be razed, including the previous call center.
The new call center, dubbed the Walmart Contact Center by the company, is operational 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It employs about 950 people (95% full-time) who answer inquiries by telephone, email or chat from Walmart customers, employees or store management throughout the country. Calls can range from answering customer questions about private brand products to assisting store management with inventory level inquiries and supporting employees with onboarding.
Walmart officials say the call center handles roughly 6 million contacts annually, all supporting Walmart U.S. operations.
“They are the most passionate group you can imagine,” said Julie Murphy, executive vice president of Walmart’s U.S. people division. “Think in terms of the nearly six million [contacts] they serve a year. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and passion to be able to do that. They know they are the Walmart experience to that customer they are on the phone with. We want to recognize and appreciate what they do.”
Welch said Walmart is hiring and will scale up to approximately 1,200 workers who will staff the call center. At its peak workforce, he said about 1,000 to 1,100 workers will be working at the building during any given point in the day. The workforce begins to scale down between 9 p.m. and midnight, with roughly 65 people working overnight.
“This is great for our community,” Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said at Wednesday’s grand opening. “And I hope that as you [Walmart] look back on this, it will have been a great move for you. And I think it will.”
Walmart officials also presented a $20,000 check Wednesday to the Springdale Chamber of Commerce to support the organization’s workforce development and job training programs.