Contact centers are one area that continues to grow and hire amidst a dismal economy that has seen massive layoffs and closures in retail and in other fields. Here is a recent sample of the expansions that have been taking place:
* United States
Affina plans to hire 100 people for inbound sales work at its El Paso, Texas contact center. USA 800 is hiring 150 people in Kansas City, MO, which will be working in a new building, after landing several accounts. The firm told WDAF-TV that it experienced 20 percent growth last year and is forecasting 25 percent in 2009.
OneTouchDirect, is adding more than 700 agents at two Tampa, Fla. area contact centers over the next three months. OneTouch recruiting manager Dixie E. Glisson Jr., in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times cites growth in two recession-proof and recession-driving products: wireless communications and supplemental health insurance coverage in the event of layoffs.
“’Right now, in the worst recession in 30 years, people aren't giving up their cell phone, and they can't give up Internet and cable because that's their connectedness to the outside world,’” Glisson told the paper. “’It's a great space to be in.’”
Other greenlighted and possible contact center projects represent re-use of former contact centers and offices.
The News Journal reports that Barclaycard, the U.S. arm of U.K. financial services firm Barclays, will open a new contact center just outside of Newark, Del. in April, creating 300 jobs initially and 500 in the next five years. The company will fill the Iron Hill Corporate Center, property that was previously occupied by Bank of America and MBNA.
TV station WMBB revealed that 300+ new contact center jobs could be created in Marianna, Fla. at the former 900-seat Sallie Mae contact center. Grace Realty Group manager Bryon Ward confirmed that his firm is negotiating with two different centers interested in the site, which it has built out and which has usable contact center infrastructure.
A press release from the firm cited by the station said that it was negotiating with another teleservices firm in Washington, D.C., interested in relocating their operations. They need 50,000 to 70,000 square feet of space, which would nearly fill out the Sallie Mae project.
“’We have had numerous inquiries on the call center (building) and those continue to happen every day,’” Ward told WMBB. “’We do not have any deal set in stone with anyone. We are negotiating with people ... two separate call centers right now. If we could lock either one of them in, it would certainly bring in over 300 jobs.’”
* Northern Ireland
The BBC News reports that two teleservices firms are expanding there. Gem is adding 900 jobs at undisclosed new facilities by 2012. The firm, which is headquartered in Northern Ireland, has three contact centers there: two in Belfast and one in Londonderry and currently has 1,000 employees.
Teleperformance is adding at 610 jobs at its Newry facility that will bring the total number of employees there to over 1,000 by 2011. The firm also has a contact center in Bangor. The expansion at Newry will bring Teleperformance’s (News - Alert) staff roster in Northern Ireland to nearly 2,000.
Northern Ireland, like many parts of the world, has been hard hit by the downturn, just as it was recovering from years of political strife. Contact centers very early on saw the potential benefits of locating there, chiefly an available, customer-service-and-sales-oriented and affordable workforce, as the accords between the factions and the British and Irish governments were being hammered out. New facilities began to open beginning in the late 1990s, aided by government financial incentives.
Teleperformance was one of those companies, opening its center there in 1998. The recent expansion has been supported by Invest Northern Ireland (News - Alert) (INI) which gave more than £3m [US$4.25 million] towards the investment.
“’[The government’s] offer of support, combined with the availability of suitable property and our positive experiences in Northern Ireland over the past 11 years, resulted in our decision to invest further in the Newry site, ‘"Teleperformance chairman and chief executive Jeff Smith (News - Alert) told the BBC.
Gem opened its doors in 2000 to capitalize on the skills and quality of the local labor force by working with local colleges and universities to target graduates as part of its recruitment program. It is receiving a £5.5 million (US$7.8 million) contribution from INI for the new positions, which are being generated by expected contracts from the Euro-zone which includes the Irish Republic. The firm told the BBC that it would generate £14m (US$ 20 million) annually in salaries.
“"Gem has proved to be a home grown success and we intend to continue to build on that," said gem managing director Philip Cassidy.
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi