By Dominique Cantelme
From the September/October 2014 issue
While an estimated five million Americans are employed in call centers, the trend has been to outsource most of these positions to countries like India and the Philippines to reduce labor costs. However, recent actions by some major companies have shown a new trend in bringing these jobs back.
Changes in technology, rising overseas labor costs and language barriers leading to customer dissatisfaction are some of the reasons for the reversal. Returning calls centers to the United States can help alleviate some of these issues while also helping to improve a company’s image.
A company’s inbound call center administers incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers, while its outbound call centers are operated for telemarketing, solicitation of donations, debt collection and market research. A contact center is a central point of any organization from which all customer contacts are managed; customers can contact companies by methods that include telephone, e-mail, chat and fax.
Some of the company’s lending a hand to the U.S. call center/contact center resurgence include TeleTech, S&P Data and TSYS.
TeleTech Holdings, a leading global provider of analytics-driven, technology-enabled customer engagement solutions, announced plans to hire 300 people at its expanding Melbourne, FL call center. The same day it was also announced that the company would be hiring for 300 new jobs at its Customer Experience Center in Hopkinsville, KY. TeleTech also recently opened a new customer experience center in Sherwood, AR with 250 new jobs and a second site in Jonesboro, AR creating 150 more. Its Ennis, TX contact center and Paducah, KY location heard similar good news this year. Most of these positions will service TeleTech’s clients in the healthcare industry.
“We continue to experience growth in all markets,” said Todd Baxter, senior vice president of global operations for TeleTech, “but we are particularly proud to have created nearly 3,000 new jobs in the United States in the last 18 months.”
S&P Data LLC, which provides contact center solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the United States and Canada, plans to bring 425 new jobs to Rio Rancho, NM with annual salaries averaging $38,000 plus benefits. The company intends to hire 100 local employees during its first year in the state.
“First and foremost, our decision to locate in New Mexico was based on the quality of the people and the availability of technology, research and development,” S&P Data CEO Dan Plashkes said in a September news release.
According to the release, “In New Mexico, S&P Data will be hiring contact service representatives to provide service and sales to inbound inquiries via telephone, e-mail, chat and social media for an existing Fortune 100 client, with additional clients to be added as the employment level increases.”
S&P Data also announced an expansion in Troy, MI to service newly acquired contracts from two major mobile companies. This investment will total $4.4 million with up to 420 new jobs created.
TSYS, a global processor of credit cards, electronic payments and prepaid cards plans to open a 62,000-square-foot customer service center in McDonough, GA. The facility will employ up to 450 people. Most of the jobs created will be for customer service representatives.
“The McDonough Center will mirror the service offerings of our Columbus [GA] center and will also provide continuity and disaster recovery services in case of an emergency at our Columbus center,” TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims said.
Richardo Layun, director of operations at the Melbourne eBay Enterprise center, said technology can handle the simple questions but… “The types of calls that are coming through to our agents today, regardless of the client, are more complex, and it’s requiring that higher caliber associate. You get a much higher quality associate onshore than the experience I’ve had offshore,” Layun said.
Confusion or dissatisfaction can cause a company sales, so Paul Stockford, director of research for the National Association of Call Centers in Hattiesburg, MS, says, “The higher the value of the customer, the more likely the job will be in the U.S.”
LA JUNTA STEPS UP TO THE PLATE—FIVE YEARS, NO RENT
Known as the breadbasket of Colorado, Southeast Colorado is in the process of reinventing itself by targeting the call center, and advanced manufacturing industries.
“After a decade long drought has caused the agriculture business in Southeastern Colorado to struggle, we realized that we needed to diversify our workforce and have other industries that we rely on,” stated Ryan Stevens, La Junta Economic Development Director. “Fewer acres are being planted and technology is replacing farm jobs causing the populations in cities and towns in the region to shrink.”
However, the City of La Junta and surrounding towns are bouncing back by establishing themselves as a great place to do business, especially in contact center environments. Contact centers have traditionally been located in communities that have a military presence but they also pair well with rural communities that have a strong manufacturing base. That pairing provides a very diverse offering to a community with a disproportionate number of blue collar jobs.
The City of La Junta used an old Air Force training facility to establish a 1500-acre industrial park just north of town. Within the industrial park there is a golf course, restaurant, day care facility, municipal airport and over 500 employees who work in the service and manufacturing industries. Here is where you will find two, turn-key call centers. The 180-seat center is 10,200 square feet and designed for production. Double doors separate the production floor from the training facilities, break rooms, conference room and office space. A keyless entry system provides security for the building. The building is brick on three sides. The back wall of the building is steel, which will allow for easy expansion. The 300-seat center is housed in a brick, 33,750-square-foot building. It is designed for multiple departments, corporate and community meeting spaces, employee common areas with kitchenettes, as well as the production space. Each of the centers has dedicated data center spaces, emergency generator power, lighted parking lots and xeriscaped front yards.
Contact center employment, with its flexible schedules and wide array of necessary skills, is desirable in Southeastern Colorado. The workforce that would support these contact centers comes from a population of 30,000 people in a three-county area and includes junior college students, parents of school-aged children as well as paraprofessionals looking for part time employment. The commute time within this area is 30 minutes or less one-way. The contact centers easily partner with Otero Junior College for computer, software and technology training.
The Colorado Workforce Center provides recruitment and testing services. The Workforce Center will use a company’s core employment requirements and match them to potential applicants; rigorously test the applicants; and conduct the first interview before referring them to the job site. Through the Workforce Center’s training programs, employees or potential employees can learn to master soft skills needed to provide excellent customer care.
Historically, using these recruiting and training venues, turnover rates are well below industry averages while customer care scores exceed client expectations. Another benefit is La Junta’s proximity to Pueblo’s burgeoning call center industry.
The City of La Junta helps drive economic impact for the region by offering favorable lease agreements and new business incentive plans. Tuesday, September 2, saw La Junta’s City Council show their enthusiasm for supporting call center businesses in La Junta by approving a call center incentive for five years of no rent.
La Junta (Spanish for “the Junction”) is a historic town in Colorado’s Southeastern plains. Established as a trading hub at the intersection of the Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River, La Junta still plays a key role as a retail and industrial hub for the region. La Junta is located in Otero County along Highway 50, one hour east of Pueblo and is home to nearby attractions such as the Koshare Indian Museum, Bent’s Old Fort, Otero Museum, Dinosaur Tracks and the Comanche National Grasslands. La Junta also plays a key part in the cultural heritage of the area through its links to agriculture, local artisans, the Picketwire Theater and the Ed Stafford Theater. With events like the Kid’s Rodeo, Farm Days, the Chuck Wagon Cook Off and Early Settler’s Day, there is always an event tying the region back to its roots.
In the next five years, La Junta Economic Development has its sights set on four key industries: Advanced Manufacturing, Food Processing, Traditional Manufacturing and Contact Centers. To learn about their five-year, no rent Contact Center Incentive go to www.LJED.org/BF or contact Ryan Stevens at 719-671-9499.