New Brunswick has long been recognized as a North American leader in the customer care industry. Opportunities NB (ONB) continues to build on that success, creating a more robust business services sector offering New Brunswickers excellent career opportunities.

Air Canada, Canada’s largest full-service airline, operates a number of customer service centres around the world, with its Saint John-based centre among its largest. Today, the company announced it will expand its Saint John operations, creating up to 227 new jobs over five years with support from ONB.

ONB spoke with Michael Tremblay, Director – Contact Centers, to learn more.

ONB: Why are you making this announcement now, and what does this mean for Air Canada?

Tremblay: Air Canada continues to grow and even though technology continues to evolve many customers continue to prefer communicating with us by phone. We have also rationalized our global contact centre network over the last few years and now operate fewer but bigger centres. With upcoming renovations in Saint John, we have the opportunity to expand the seating capacity of our contact centre so we will be able to grow it significantly.

Can you expand on the renovations you mentioned?

The Saint John office is in need of modernization as it has been several years since any updates have been made — it is a 24/7 operation so that takes its toll on a facility. Our updated office will be completely renovated with new carpet, paint, desks, lighting, washrooms and employee amenities. They will bring our contact centre into the modern age and we are happy to be doing this for our employees. The work will be done by local trades so it ultimately supports the Saint John economy.

What benefits has the company seen from operating in New Brunswick?

Our Canada/US contact centre operation operates on a network so customers who call us may ultimately speak to someone in Saint John, Montreal, Toronto or Tampa. The culture is different in each city so it allows us the opportunity to have a very diverse workforce. One thing we like about our Saint John workforce is their significant ties to their community. They are by far the contact centre with the most community involvement and show great pride in working for Air Canada.

There are misconceptions about customer care operations coming to the province for incentives and then leaving. In fact, most companies, like Air Canada, remain. Why stay for over two decades?

Air Canada is Canada’s flag carrier and we take pride in the fact that we provide service to all Canadians throughout the country.  We do a significant amount of our flying in Atlantic Canada and are proud to have a contact centre in the region. While incentives may have been one factor in our opening a contact centre in Saint John more than 20 years ago, there has never been a reason to leave.

ONB has always been welcoming to Air Canada and a pleasure to work with. We appreciate their continued support and we are happy to do business in the Province of New Brunswick.

For anyone that may consider applying for a job at your Saint John location, can you describe a day in the life of one of your agents?

It’s never boring! Working at a contact centre is not easy as every customer contact provides a unique challenge. Airline customers, however, are travelling for a variety of reasons – maybe it’s a business trip or a vacation or maybe it’s someone going to visit someone is very ill; in all of these cases we have the opportunity to help people who are often a little stressed about air travel and that’s a very rewarding feeling. In Saint John, we have the benefit of some employees who have been with us since we opened more than 20 years ago and these people are a great resource for the new employees who join us. Working for Air Canada is like having a second family.

Written by Jason Boies

Cover image via Flickr