Industry Research : Some Call Center Work Heads Back to U.S.
You're a Sirius XM Radio customer in Cincinnati calling to renew your satellite radio service. Or your subscription ran out and you get a telemarketer call at your Winnipeg, Manitoba, home, trying to get you to re-up.
That phone traffic across the U.S. and Canada likely is coming from or going to a Henrietta strip mall. And in 2012, DialAmerica plans to move to larger space on Brighton-Henrietta Townline Road and add to its staff by as much as 40 percent.
These are boom times for many call center operations. Verizon Wireless' Henrietta call center employs about 1,200 people, up from 900 five years ago and 100 in 2000.
Pioneer Credit Recovery employs some 1,000 at its Wyoming County operations in Perry and Arcade, about double what it did a decade ago, said Debby Hohler, a spokeswoman for Pioneer parent SLM Corp. Pioneer does not only collections work but research and account management work — specialized functions beyond traditional call center operations, Hohler said.
Business process outsourcing company Sutherland Global Services Inc., which employs 2,700 locally primarily in its call center operations, received tax breaks from Monroe County earlier this fall as it plans an expansion in Gates that will see it add 250 positions.
Between 4 percent and 5 percent of the workforce in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut works in call centers, according to industry research firm ContactBabel's 2011 U.S. Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide.
Throughout the U.S. and Canada, call center work is growing as some operations that had been sent to cheaper locales overseas are returning, said Colin Taylor, CEO of Toronto industry consulting firm Taylor Reach Group.
Call centers "have always followed the cheapest labor opportunities," from popping up in secondary or tertiary U.S. markets like Omaha 25 to 30 years ago to Canada in the 1990s and then, a decade ago, nations like the Philippines and India, Taylor said.
But growing costs and competition for the best call center talent overseas, along with rising consumer and political pressure, has brought some of that work back to North America, he said. And a number of call center firms, including DialAmerica, have made the fact they have no operations outside the United States a key part of their marketing.
"In the call center environment, we're dealing with live interactions," Taylor said.
"If the agent handling the call doesn't have the cultural context, you end up with huge miscommunication — the calls take longer and are more expensive and generally a less satisfying experience. The decision to outsource in the future is going to be more balanced with price to quality," he said.
New Jersey-based DialAmerica, which employs 250 at its Monroe County call center, all part time, plans to move by spring and add as many as 150. With the relocation, DialAmerica's local operation will go from 10,000 square feet stretched between two locations in a Jefferson Road strip mall to one 15,000-square-foot site, said Ed Popil, director of contact center operations.
"Our clients are knocking on our door for us to expand," he said.
DialAmerica has call centers in 13 states, its New York operations being in Henrietta and the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville. Its Henrietta location, which focuses primarily on Siriux XM and credit card operations of a major retailer, opened in 1999.
But since privately held DialAmerica's founding 54 years ago, "we've sold pretty much anything you can purchase," Popil said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011