Have you ever called in for customer service and been greeted by someone who barely speaks your language? Many consumers today have, since many U.S. operations have exported their call center function overseas to save money.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the "Show Me" state, wants the government to show her constituents some new jobs -- perhaps at call centers. She is drafting legislation that would require call center agents working beyond U.S. borders to reveal exactly where they are located.
"I don't know about you, but I have called for help sometimes and I can't get them to tell me where they are, (in cases) when I've been frustrated because there's been a language barrier," said McCaskill during a news conference on the floor of the call center at Missouri Book Services in Columbia. "I think (the legislation) gives a boost to American-centered call centers because I think most Americans would prefer to use a call center that's located here in the United States," she told the Missouri News Horizon.
Calling On Talent
McCaskill told her listeners that the number of call centers in Missouri has declined from 13,000 in 2007 to 9,000 today. She points to call center outsourcing to foreign countries as the culprit.
"These are good jobs, and as we are trying to grow jobs, if we can do something that's not expensive that helps promote jobs growth in America, I think we need to jump on it," McCaskill said.
Outsourcing is big business. The Philippines contract center industry alone grew 15 percent annually from 2006 to 2010, according to a recent market report from the Contact Center Association of the Philippines. The industry there is expected to grow in the next five years, climbing from approximately $6.2 billion in revenues in 2010 to about $14.7 billion in 2016. And that's just the Philippines.
"Depending on the company, there's been a lot of interest in bringing call centers back on U.S. shores, for the most part because there's been a real problem with talent retention overseas," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "When you get someone trained in English and trained in the technology, they often get a higher paying job at some other company."
A New Movement?
Call centers have been a hot topic in recent months. In a move to sweeten its T-Mobile acquisition proposal, AT&T in August promised to bring back to the United States 5,000 wireless call center jobs that are currently outsourced to other countries, if the deal goes through.
What's more, AT&T said the 5,000 new wireless call center jobs would offer among the nation's most highly competitive wages and benefits. The company did not say where those jobs would be located, but the announcement was the largest commitment by an individual American company to bring jobs back to the U.S. since the economic crisis began in 2008.
"Customer satisfaction scores tend to go up when you have domestic talent as opposed to outsourced talent, and customer satisfaction tends to lead to better customer retention," Enderle said. "So there are a number of other reasons beyond legislation to actually bring call centers back to the U.S., which is probably why AT&T doesn't have a problem doing that."
Posted: 2011-09-29 @ 10:17pm PT
Wait, so a Republican wants to tell businesses how they should be run? Has hell frozen over? This is stupid - you think if "Bob" admits he's in India (which I totally didn't figure out from his heavy accent), that makes a difference? I'm not stupid - I didn't assume there were pockets of Indian and Filipino people somewhere in the US, just to work in tech customer support. The quality of support you receive depends entirely on how much the company is willing to pay for it. Go figure that telcos and OEM computer manufacturers cheap out on it. What do they care? Your phone will break, tech support won't be able to help, and yet you'll be back at the AT&T store to get a new one, because you're on contract and can't afford to take a righteous stand, as that means AT&T will give you a righteous bending-over.
Posted: 2011-09-29 @ 5:43pm PT
I'm certain she will receive a great deal of support from the people who stand to benefit, and no support at all from the corporations who stand to lose money by "insourcing" their call centers. We all know who chooses the gov't in the good ole USA, and it sure as hell isn't the people.
I think she's right, but it won't matter when big business starts threatening politicians with reduced campaign contributions.
This will go nowhere.