Within the Home Depot contact center in Business Depot Ogden, service representatives field calls and web chats 24 hours a day, 364 days a year (the center is closed for Christmas).

For the past year, a 700-strong workforce of mostly young adults has handled Home Depot’s online business, as well as for its specialty brands such as Home Decorators and B2B.

Orange aprons are still prevalent, and there are walls splashed with Home Deport orange, but instead of the lumber and tools, there is the sound of keyboards clicking and the buzz of phone conversations.

“I love the little nuances,” the center’s director Dawn Colwell said. “The orange paint and all that, it feels like Home Depot.”

The Home Depot contact center is one of many call centers around the state.

Besides Home Depot’s online business, Ogden/Weber Area Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hardman said the area attracts call centers supporting a variety of sectors.

Call center employees in the Top of Utah assist with everything from the sale of infomercial products, to financial services, to insurance.

There are even smaller operations that offer specialized professional help, including legal and medical, Hardman said.

And more national companies are looking to open call centers or expand their operations in the area.

Last October, Allstate subsidiary Esurance announced that it was opening up a new call center in Ogden.

The new call center, scheduled to be open this year, would bring 700 new jobs to the area by 2016. Esurance officials said it will be one of its largest offices in the country.

Market research company Global Knowledge Management announced that it plans to hire 60 employees for its Layton office and all of its Layton agents will receive an increase of 20 percent in their hourly pay rates.

The longtime Ogden call center mainstay Convergys also has news.

Joe Thorton, a corporate communications manager for Convergys, said the company bought the company Stream in a $820 million deal that closed on March 3. The deal expands Convergys’s coverage area across the country.

Company officials said the merger will not affect the five sites in Utah, which include Ogden and Logan.

“It just expands the reach of the company in pretty exciting ways,” Thorton said.

The Convergys offices in the Ogden area deal with the automotive industry, cable companies, financial services, telecommunications and the tech industry.

Utah’s business friendly environment is a big draw for many of these operations.

The state Office of Economic Development said Utah offers a low cost of doing business, including low taxes, low property prices, low utility costs and low regulation. However, wages tend to be lower as well.

Colwell said Utah’s time zone also makes it easier to do business in the western United States. Home Depot has a sister center in Tennessee.

Aside from the low cost of doing business, Utah has an abundance of young adults.

“We have a young, well educated workforce and many centers are pulling kids that are already in university,” Hardman said.

Hardman said call centers provide good employment and many provide benefits, such as medical, dental and vision.

At the same time, because it is a field dominated by young adults, it is a business with a high turnover.

Kevin Madrigal spent about three years working in two different call centers in the Top of Utah.

He said the call centers offered a laid-back environment and it was easy to get hired on.

It also paid well. He made close to $11 an hour at the time and most offered benefits either immediately or within a month.

However, he said the work gets tiresome very quickly.

“I think in phone service, you get the mean customers, you get the people that just want to complain. It takes a lot to go through that,” Madrigal said. “You are made for that or not. Some people can’t sit on the phone all day. It can drive you insane after a while. I know it drove me insane.”

To combat the stress, call centers have tried to foster the laid-back environment and make the centers more welcoming.

But Madrigal said foosball tables and snack bars mean little for someone who dislikes the work.

Madrigal said he knew a people who tried to make something of the jobs, quickly advancing onto management, only to later resign their promotions.

“I’m a patient man; I can take a yelling; I deal with customers,” Madrigal said. “I manage a store with four other people. It’s brutal, but I’d rather do that than be a supervisor at a call center. In a call center, I think getting yelled at by a customer is worse.”

Even with all of the problems, Madrigal said it is a good place to get started.

He remembers all of the people he worked with fondly and said he learned valuable customer service skills.

But for him, and others in the field, it was just a transition period until something else came along.

“It’s kind of a gateway until you find something better,” Madrigal said.

Contact reporter Jesus Lopez Jr. at 801-625-4239 or jlopez@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @jesuslopezSE.

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