BANGOR – By this time next month, some customers of L.L. Bean will be placing orders with staff at the Maine outfitter’s new customer service center near Bangor International Airport.
Renovations are nearly complete on the company’s Bangor facility, a former Irving Oil Co. office building at the corner of Maine Avenue and Godfrey Boulevard.
The building’s interior has been repainted, new carpets and furniture have been installed and 390 workstations are being assembled in the facility’s main and overflow work areas. Soon, the workstations will be equipped with telephones and computers.
“We’re obviously excited about coming into Bangor and can’t wait to get things under way,” L.L. Bean spokesman Rich Donaldson said Friday, while conducting a tour of the company’s newest call center.
The Bangor operation joins existing call centers in Portland, Lewiston and Waterville, Donaldson said.
In addition to a sea of cubicles, the Bangor customer service center will include a kitchen and dining area, an employee fitness center and a display area that will contain one of virtually every item being sold in a given season’s catalog. The idea, Donaldson said, is that being able to see and touch an item can help employees better answer customers’ questions.
The retailer is leasing the building from the city of Bangor for five years at $19,375 a month, with options to renew the lease. The city bought the building from Irving for $2.7 million. The city also is providing a total of $981,900 for building improvements and will add 300 more parking spaces.
The facility will house the 600 to 700 employees L.L. Bean plans to hire to work its seasonal sales peak, which runs from September through late December. After the holiday rush, 50 to 100 workers will stay on board as regular, year-round employees, Donaldson said.
“We’re over halfway toward meeting that goal,” Donaldson said. “We’ve been delighted with the quality of the applicants so far, and based on our past experience, we’re confident that we’ll be able to fill [the remaining] positions.”
The company, he said, has held four job fairs to date. Applications are still being accepted.
On Sept. 12, training will begin for the center’s first 30 employees, he said. Topics to be covered during the 40-hour program will range from customer service to company history and corporate philosophy.
The Bangor staff will be handling orders and customer inquiries from 6 a.m. through 2 a.m. daily, to accommodate customers from time zones around the world.
The first employee brought on board for the Bangor center was David Eckert, who said Friday he requested a transfer from the company’s Portland location.
For Eckert, the Bangor center offers an opportunity for him and his wife to come back home. Both grew up in the Bangor area.
The first calls will start coming into the Bangor Center on Sept. 19, a week before the company’s much-anticipated Christmas catalog begins hitting mailboxes around the world.
Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Freeport, L.L. Bean is known around the world for its durable, high-quality sporting goods and casual clothing and footwear, among other things. It also is famous for its liberal return policy.
Among the latest products for which call center employees will field orders this season is a new line of outerwear developed by L.L. Bean and designed by American Skiing Co. for the ski company’s on-snow resort employees, who include ski instructors, lift operators and ski patrol personnel.
American Skiing is one of the country’s largest operators of alpine ski and snowboard resorts. Its holdings include Maine’s Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA.
L.L. Bean products also will be seen on The Weather Channel, Donaldson said. The Maine company has become the network’s official outfitter.