Contact Centers and Economic Development

Contact center services are providing one of the few bright employment spots in a dismal economic climate, what with retail bankruptcies and closures and manufacturing shutdowns.

Firms are opening new facilities, such as IBM in Iowa that is reported that will employ 1,300 people, plus a delivery center in Michigan that will employ about 100. There are the home agent additions that seldom get reported but which are spreading across the U.S. and in Canada, and which will be the future of contact centers because they provide maximum performance and productivity at least costs with optimal flexibility and business continuity.

Group Publisher Rich Tehrani in his blog points out that there will always be a need for live agents to handle calls. For that reason, economic development agencies (EDAs) need to start looking at contact centers again as a growth area. They can fill in the growing dark spots at malls and in power centers that will help surviving merchants with near-captive markets.

Rich is right. Even in a recession people need to obtain service and buy products and services. There is also a growing need for contact center agents to collect on past-due accounts.

At the same time contact centers need to get their acts together to be courted by EDAs. They must beef up their screening, supervision, and management to cut turnover, which is still appallingly high despite high pay, even though the economy is weak. Many outfits also need to polish their images by moving their smoking areas to the rear of buildings. Having gaggles of butt-chuffers on the street-facing sides of buildings looks real good.

Contact centers need to show more community commitment. EDAs have been burned in the past by some teleservices companies that have taken hard-earned tax dollar-financed incentives like tax breaks and new buildings and ran. I've heard the names at site selection conferences and in chats with EDA officials and I won't repeat them; the guilty know who they are and so do the agencies, and they talk amongst themselves.

Contact centers have earned a bad rap in many host communities for such reasons to the point where they rank close to the bottom of the scale of outfits that they want in their towns. Such practices do not exactly make senior government level legislators inclined to back off on laws and measures to tax and restrict inbound and outbound teleservices, so let's cut the nonsense, folks.

That's why the ATA's SRO program is so helpful, and timely. Bringing contact centers to high standards can help grow the industry and enhance its reputation that will enable creation of more jobs at formal contact centers and at homes.

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