Alliance Data Systems Corp., the Plano, Texas-based credit-card, customer-service call center operator, has expanded its Coeur d’Alene operations by moving into an additional 75,000-square-foot building, and intends to add 200 more employees there by the end of 2016.

Derrek Thomas, senior director of operations at Alliance Data’s Coeur d’Alene call center, says the company has been growing rapidly there and expects to continue doing so.

“When we started two years ago, we had 25 employees (in Coeur d’Alene), and ended that year with 180,” says Thomas. “In 2015 we added 200 more, and now we have 430.”

He says the majority of the company’s new employees so far have been added to its account protection and customer retention groups.

“Growth in those areas provided the need for our second building, which includes a full gym, as well as cafeteria area to help support associate needs,” he says.

Between its two buildings, the company’s Coeur d’Alene call center, now has 120,000 square feet of space, which can accommodate up to 700 people.

While its goal of adding an additional 200 employees this year would put the company’s buildings near capacity, Thomas says it also plans to extend its work-from-home program, which would further add to its employee total.

“We now have 25 people who were working in the Coeur d’Alene facility who have since transferred to working from home,” he says. “By extending the work-from-home offering to more employees, we could even go beyond that 700 capacity.”

Alliance Data operates customer loyalty programs and branded credit cards for about 150 businesses, including J. Crew and Pottery Barn, among others.

Operating through three branches—LoyaltyOne, Epsilon, and Card Services—the company focuses on managing interactions between its clients and their customers through in-store, online, mobile, direct mail, and telemarketing efforts.

In all, the company’s card services arm has about 6,700 employees spanning across 14 locations nationwide. While company headquarters are located in Plano, Texas, its retail headquarters operate out of Columbus, Ohio.

“I like to say we’re the largest company no one’s ever heard of,” says Thomas. “It’s always been our goal to put the clients at the forefront.”

He says the list of brands the company serves is also continually growing. Having started out serving private-label credit cards, it has since added co-branded credit cards, as well as other markets, including airlines, travel and automotive industries. Co-branded cards are sponsored by two parties, one being a retailer and the other being a bank or credit card network.

“We’ve seen double-digit growth the last few years, and currently have over 44 million active card members,” Thomas says.

According to Thomas, Alliance Data’s card services is expecting 20 percent growth in credit sales and accounts receivable this year, which will come from a combination of new client acquisition, new card members, and increased activity from existing card members. He says the company’s goal by 2020 is to have $20 billion in total credit card sales from customers.

Having already worked for Alliance Data for 18 years, Thomas moved to this area in 2014 when the company first opened its Coeur d’Alene location.

The company began its call center there by leasing a 45,000-square-foot building at 745 W. Hanley, which originally was intended for use as a data center by Coldwater Creek Inc., the Sandpoint-based women’s clothing and accessories retailer that filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2014.

“We heard about the space being available and saw an opportunity to expand our Pacific Coast operations,” says Thomas. “We have a long-term lease, so we’re committed to being here for quite a while.”

Thomas says the company’s goals include continuing to expand its account protection services and bringing in more customers.

“With the growth we’re projecting this year, we’ll need even more space and the right people to fill open positions. It’s a nice problem to have,” he says.

According to Thomas, an average employee at the call center makes about $45,000 annually, including benefits, incentives and other compensation.

“Part of our focus here in Coeur d’Alene was also to become a part of this community,” he says. “The people here met our skills criteria, and they also have a certain level of passion for both their work and giving back to their community.”

Thomas says since the call center location opened in 2014, it has donated $120,000 to the United Way, $15,000 to the Post Falls Food Bank, and partnered with Family Promise of Northern Idaho, participating in the organization’s food and clothing drives as well as its domestic violence awareness campaign.

“It’s nice to see the company gaining these community partnerships as we continue to grow,” he says.

Thomas says that the Coeur d’Alene call center, though still quite new, has been performing well.

“We’ve only been here for two years, but we’re already performing at the same level as other company locations that have been operating for 15 years or more,” he says.

In its first quarter earnings report, Alliance Data listed net income of $159 million, down 4 percent from $165 million for the same quarter last year. The company reported $1.68 billion in revenues, up 5 percent from $1.6 billion in the year earlier period. Within the report, the company’s card services branch reported $836 million in revenues, an increase of 17 percent over first quarter 2015.

Thomas says he attributes the company’s continued growth to its commitment to providing good service.

– See more at Spokane Journal