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Call Center Industry Shifting as Jobs Come Back Home

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September 04, 2012

Call Center Industry Shifting as Jobs Come Back Home

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Outsourcing call center work to other countries – particularly India – was a typical strategy for companies a decade ago to considerable costs while also taking advantage of call center solutions that produced the desired results. In recent months, however, there has been a shift to bring those jobs back to the U.S. where American call center workers pick up the calls. 

According to this article in The Daily Beast, one company alone is bringing around 4,000 jobs back to the U.S. in the next couple of years. Such a move is not only smart strategy for a consumer-based less tolerant of calls transferred offshore, it also helps to boost local economies. 

Despite the fact that a CFI Group study from 2008 showed that customer service suffered when the caller wasn’t able to completely understand the agent, jobs continued to move over seas. According to the study, the disconnect between cultures, and more likely, language, lead to a less than 50 percent resolution rate. Taking call center jobs overseas, according to the study, resulted in hurting the company brands. 

The call center jobs that went offshore were estimated at one time around 30 percent. But that has been reduced by more than half as onshoring call center jobs is picking up steam. Companies are feeling the heat from the consumer and onshoring strategies are proving to be cost effective with the right technology in place. 

The movement back to U.S. based call center operations has not been a well-publicized event. It would mean that companies would have to explain why they took those jobs out of the hands of Americans who desperately need them in favor of a low-wage employee in a foreign land, despite the backlash that occurred when offshoring was gaining steam.

Companies also aren’t touting the return of these jobs in situations where they aren’t paying that well. The average agent at a call center is bringing home about $14 an hour. While the job requires the agent at the call center to have a modicum of customer service skills and an ability to connect with other people, it often doesn’t require any sort of higher education. 

And, a look back at the industry some 20 years ago demonstrates there was once great opportunity and significant pay. Global competition, however, challenged that business model and forced companies to make drastic changes.

Today, Americans are filling the role of the call center agent – just over two million are making a living in the role, according to the last U.S. census. And, for companies seeking optimal performance and the quality customer experience, a focus on U.S.-based agents continues to prove beneficial. 

Call centers learned that saving a few bucks by taking their jobs out of the country wasn’t quite worth it as the brand began to take a nosedive. The next census should show an even bolder return from foreign soil to locally-based call center operations, but will the industry continue to evolve into a competitive environment that draws only the best talent? Only time will tell.

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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo

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