As Barry Felix passes Chris Spano at the StubHub operations center in East Granby, he asks whether Spano had seen the price fetched for the
That's a big number, they agree. But at this office, it's something more than just idle chatter between a supervisor and a new employee. Felix is head of corporate and inside sales at StubHub, and Spano just joined the company in sales development — from his previous job working with the Padres.
Part of the allure of working at StubHub — this year's winner of the Courant/FOX CT Top Workplaces competition among midsize employers — is that the job puts the staff in a business they love. They're dealing with tickets to events they care about, not, say, curtain rods from a catalog discounter.
"You get to come in and be around people all day that are talking about sports and entertainment," said Spano, who will work on a special project to add travel and hospitality offerings to some ticket packages.
The culture reflects the entertainment topics. Felix, who was among the early wave that joined the Connecticut StubHub operations center after it opened with 30 people in 2006, describes a blend of cool and laid-back, California style, with a drive to excel by motivating employees — who call themselves, affectionately, "Stubbers."
Today, StubHub, owned by
At its heart, StubHub's Connecticut operation is a call center, but far from having rows and rows of automatons giving scripted answers, the place is set up with smaller areas of specialization and expertise.
"We put our best people in areas where they can have the most impact for our fans," Felix said.
Fans? Yes, he says. "We're all fans."
That's a bit like all
It's an open culture, with two big exceptions — the fraud investigations unit, in a sealed room, and the strict policy that all visitors show a picture ID. In the main rooms, the openness is built into the space, which features brightly colored walls adrorned with giant quotes from customers, such as, "You guys have excellent service. I was very happy and I'll recommend you to a lot of my friends."
There's a well-appointed break room, where it's clear, as Felix puts it, "foosball, pingpong and basketball are nothing new to StubHub." And employees get a paid month off after five years on the job, in addition to regular vacation time — creating a happy problem for management: trying to manage sabbaticals among the many employees who joined the company in its ramp-up of 2007, said Marty Pelosi, senior manager for facilities and quality and training.
Another ramp-up is coming, much of which will be managed by Theresa Gentile, senior manager for customer service.
But far beyond having a motivated workforce, the purpose behind the culture is to empower employees to build trust among the customers for some 30,000 events at any given time — customers who, in many cases, are new to the idea of buying event tickets on the secondary market. In StubHub's model, the company does not own tickets. It runs an online marketplace, charging a fee from buyers and sellers, with a system set up to guarantee that buyers get their tickets on time.
"If you work in customer service, you're never going to be in a better customer service position than here, because we don't put a monetary value on customer service," Pelosi said.
He explained that reps don't have the sorts of limits on how far they can go to satisfy customers that other call centers impose. "You don't have the one thing that really hindered you –'Man, I couldn't help that guy.'"
Pelosi spends a lot of time working to improve the employees' experience, including, for example, classes on using the
"We highly encourage all our employees to go to as many events as possible because we want them to understand the fan experience," Pelosi said, adding that employees are also encouraged to work major events where StubHub has a presence, such as the Super Bowl.
Val Storer, of East Granby, who manages the company intranet, pushing information out to the reps, was among the first to be hired at the center and has spent 17 years in customer service. "I honestly feel valued," she said.
"I've worked at a lot of companies where you feel like a number."
Yes, employees get a small discount on the buyer's fee, but no, they do not have an inside track on prized tickets. Storer has won Toby Heath tickets from StubHub, and she has many ticket stubs at her cubicle — a bit of an irony, since online ticket buyers on the secondary market don't typically get the original ticket.
For Arnold Campos, a five-year employee from Manchester who works inside sales, talking with customers who need a guiding voice, the job offers a chance to speak with people from many cultures.
"It's state-of-the-art here," Campos said. "If you fail in here it's because you don't have a work ethic."
StubHub at a Glance:
Business: StubHub operates an online marketplace for sports and entertainment tickets, with its main operations center including call center in Connecticut.
Town: East Granby
Employees in five-county area: 206
The staff in East Granby includes two people who are on-air radio personalities at top-ranked radio stations in their other jobs.
StubHub is on track to sell an average of one ticket per second in 2012 — at least 31.5 million in all.
Why the Company Won:
Employees cite a supportive environment at StubHub, a team approach that's all the better because the subject matter is fun — sports and entertainment events.
Employees are encouraged to "fly the flag" of their favorite teams, bands or other entertainment — and they do, making the office a colorful place to be.
"It is laid back and there is constant positive reinforcement. Everyone is always willing to help each other so that we can all grow as a company."