Strong relationships key to success for Tahoe Call Center

Physicians Jorge Santibanez and Gloria Arriaga, like many of their peers, worry enough about the future of their chosen profession that they are looking to diversify their business interests.

So the couple — he’s an internal medicine specialist who works as a hospitalist at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center and she’s a specialist in family practice — decided a while back to launch a trucking company in Mexico.

Next up? A call center in Reno.

“Naturally,” laughs Arriaga, the managing director of Tahoe Call Center.

A year after its launch, Tahoe Call Center has grown to 18 employees and serves a cross-section of national accounts such as those television advertisers who want viewers to call in the next 10 minutes and local firms who use the firm to generate leads or provide customer service.

A growing subset of the business provides bilingual services for medical offices.

Natives of Mexico, Arriaga and Santibanez figured that a call center that provides bilingual services — about 80 percent of the staff is fluent in both Spanish and English — would find a niche in the U.S. market.

The firm promotes its staff as “accent neutral” — English speakers don’t hear a Spanish accent when Tahoe Call Center picks up a call. Arriaga acknowledges, however, that Spanish-speaking callers are likely to hear traces of an English accent as most of the staff are second- or third-generation North Americans.

But as the couple began building a client list for the call center, they found that bilingual services weren’t nearly as important as good personal relationships, whether the client is a big television advertiser or a Reno-based carpet cleaner.

“The relationship becomes really personal,” Arriaga says. “We try to keep them very happy.”

In fact, Tahoe Call Center was launched in Reno as the couple sought to further increase the happiness in the most important relationship of their life — their relationship with their 15-year-old son.

They previously lived in Roseburg, Ore., and visited Squaw Valley on a family ski vacation. Their son fell in love with mountain sports, and Santibanez and Arriaga were enthusiastic about an airport that provided far easier access to their families in Mexico.

Looking around for a business to start in Reno, they were struck by the region’s high unemployment rate.

That meant that they wouldn’t have problems recruiting workers, and it meant that a labor-intensive call center could make a difference in rebuilding the region’s economy.

The company’s facility at 280 Brinkby Ave. has room for 32 stations, allowing Tahoe Call Center double its existing staff without the need for a larger space.

As Santibanez and Arriaga planned the new business, they turned to the counseling of the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I’m so grateful to them,” says Arriaga — and not just for good counsel.

Abby Bartholet, the daughter of NSBDC counselor Gracie Bartholet, heard from her mother about the new company and signed on as its business development leader.

And even while she focuses most of her attention on development of Tahoe Call Center, Arriaga keeps her medical training in use. The center’s employees, she says, almost always have questions for her about their personal health — questions she’s well-qualified to answer.


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