Presque Isle company partners with UMPI on certification course

Posted Oct. 28, 2011, at 5:25 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A software development and customer service center that opened last year and quickly gained traction despite the sluggish economy is partnering with the University of Maine Presque Isle to create a certification program to train new employees in the field.

During a press conference Friday morning, officials from the service center BalanceBPO, UMPI, and TxVia, a New York City-based digital payments company, gathered to launch the Business Process Outsourcing Certification Course.

Officials said Friday that the first-of-its-kind 75-hour certification course was designed with the help of UMPI professors and is geared toward preparing students for the highly skilled work currently under way at BalanceBPO and TxVia. Beginning in January, students enrolled in the course will undergo training at UMPI that will center on providing excellent customer service and resolving customer concerns on the first contact.

BalanceBPO is a customer service organization that partners with Fortune 500 and blue-chip companies to handle inbound customer service and technical support calls across multiple channels, including telephone, email and online chat. The teleservice company, based in Texas, shares its facility on Green Hill Drive in Presque Isle with TxVia.

After it opened last September, BalanceBPO implemented its Balanced Service Process, which dramatically improves single call resolutions within customer service centers by ensuring that agents have the tools to resolve customer concerns on the first contact.

Tim Lavin, co-founder, president and CEO of BalanceBPO, said Friday that Balanced Service Process is currently in U.S. Patent Pending status, and the Presque Isle center will serve as a location where companies interested in testing it out can do so.

“We are going to invite Fortune 500 clients to test our Balanced Service Process here, and if they like it, they can implement it using our software, and we get the licensing fees,” said Lavin.

Lavin said the move will allow the career path at BalanceBPO to extend beyond wide-scale phone agent work. When that happens, the company will need software developers, consultants, business development professionals and administrators all based in Presque Isle. Similarly, TxVia employs highly skilled individuals working in diverse areas including identity verification and fraud detection. They also need similarly highly skilled employees in Presque Isle.

That is where the certification course comes into play.

Lavin said that UMPI President Don Zillman approached him soon after BalanceBPO opened and suggested the two institutions work together to create educational and economic opportunities for Aroostook County.

Faculty members from UMPI’s business, graphics and media, and English and communications departments worked together to develop the certification course. It will be open to students currently enrolled at UMPI and the general public, and especially to those seeking employment with BalanceBPO or TxVia. In the near future, the course will be made available online, allowing BalanceBPO and TxVia, and their clients, direct access for use in their own recruiting and training endeavors outside Presque Isle.

“Students will spend 75 hours learning about customer service, methodology, training and recruiting, operations management and more,” said Lavin. “Those who graduate from this course will be well-trained experts, not only in customer service and contact center operations, but also within the industries of the clients that we serve. Similar to our first contact resolution process, the BPO Certification Course is highly targeted and creates immediate value for us and our clients, and represents an amazing game changer in our industry.”

Lavin said that students who graduate from the course and who seek employment with BalanceBPO can bring their certificate of completion to the interview.

“With that, there is a very good chance they will be hired by our company,” said Lavin.

Lavin lauded the new program as unique because it was designed by a state university with input from everyone from the president down.

Carolyn Dorsey, assistant professor of business at UMPI, was heavily involved in the project.

“The BPO Certification Course creates such a powerful avenue of learning for UMPI students, those in the community that want to be a part of this exciting industry, and eventually, BalanceBPO and TxVia clients who wish to access the course online for their own use,” she said Friday. “A project that could have global reach — and make such an impact on the lives of those who attend, and the businesses that find value in it — is something that I am proud to be a part of.”

Matthew Nyren, senior vice president of managed services at TxVia, also praised the certification course, saying that it “aligns perfectly” with the company’s strategy to offer meaningful careers and exceptional customer service.

Gov. Paul LePage also lauded the certification course in a written statement, calling it “a shining example of the University of Maine System working closely with private industry to provide the work force with the tools they need to enhance their careers in Maine.”

Together with UMPI, BalanceBPO and TxVia are finishing the curriculum on the run up to the January 2012 launch. Information on how to sign up will be posted on the UMPI website in the coming weeks.

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