Firstsource - beating the recession with a buoyant business

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The fact that Firstsource has expanded its Derry operation more than tenfold in just four years shows it’s a business on the up.

The multi-national telecommunications company which provides business process outsourcing services operates two sites in Derry and has become one of the city’s biggest employers.

At its Northland Road call centre headquarters, Firstsource employs 1,200 people while almost 150 people staff its Spencer Road operation.

And business is buoyant at the minute despite the ongoing global downturn, says General Manager of Firstsource in Derry, Londoner Sean Harnett. Why wouldn’t it be, ranking companies such as Sky among its main clients.

“We supply technical support for number of different clients and Sky is a main client - a company with 10 million customers worldwide - a third of which we handle. The Derry operation is a very successful part of Firstsource’s global operation. We started off in 2006 with just 120 people and it’s grown dramatically from there. We’ve had some great success stories in terms of employees moving up the ranks as well, showing there is excellent opportunities if people want to make the best of them.

“Our first employee in 2006 was Grainne O’Kane as a recruitment executive - she’s now the Human Resources Manager for both Derry sites.”

Mr Harnett admits that call centres don’t always have the best reputation in the job market - but is quick to defend his chosen career.

“Call centres got off to a bad start and in the early 90s there was some very poor behaviour. Many call centres were not run properly and were poorly conceived. The industry has grown up since then.

“For some people working in a call centre is a job between jobs, for others it’s something they do as a student job, for me though it was a career.”

And it’s been rewarding for the local Firstsource chief.

“I joined 15 years ago and like so many others in management now, I started out on the phones. In fact the whole management team here started out on the phones. Many of the people who started at around the same time are now also in senior management positions. I even try to get on the phones again once a year, just to remind myself of what it’s all about and that’s providing a excellent service for customers.”

He added: “I’ve been in the industry man and boy. When I started out people said I was mad but I stuck with it and had a great career out of it.”

Firstsource continues to drive forward despite the bite of recession globally. The company, which has its roots in India, currently employs 26,000 people in 44 delivery centres in India, North America, the Philippines and the UK.

And the future looks bright for the firm’s Derry operation.

“Mr Harnett explains: “For four years here we’ve been very successful and very happy to be committed to Derry.”

He said there may even be scope for expansion in the city.

“Our Springtown plant is full to capacity but there are possibilities for expansion at Spencer Road.”

Mr Harnett said that Firstsource also prides itself on treatment of employee and ensuring the call centre environment is a fun place to work.

As Human Resources manager Grainne O’Kane explains: “We regularly hold events for staff. In fact this week we have ‘Wellbeing Week’ which includes ‘Pamper me day which involves training rooms being set up as treatment room where massages, manicures and pedicures will take place. We have gym instructors coming in to talk to staff - a wide range of health and wellbeing events are lined up.”

Ms O’Kane added that “a massive celebration” was planned to mark Valentine’s Day, including events such as Mr and Mrs, Blind Date and even a Cupid delivery service for special Valentines cards and gifts.

The Firstsource management team believe that such events ensure that the team on the floor delivers the best possible service. Mr Harnett adds: “We continue to get very positive comments from our clients. It’s a hard slog at times for staff and tough discussions have to be had but when our employees solve customers’ problems then are happy with the result and very grateful for the quality service provided .”