Why Call Center Jobs Are Coming BackShare on Twitter
An Indian outsourcing company is bringing 1,000 call
center jobs to Texas. Matthew Zeitlin looks at why insourcing is replacing
On Monday, Aegis, announced it will add 1,000 new jobs in the "Dallas
Metroplex" as part of a pledge it made last year to hire "more than 4,000
workers in the U.S. over the next two years." The jobs, according to Aegis's
announcement, are a mix of full- and part-time and of sales and customer
service: 230 of the new employees will be "licensed full‐time sales
representatives," 600 will be customer service representatives, and the
remaining 250 will be "nonlicensed sales representatives."
This is actually part of a
small trend in the outsourcing and customer service world. For years, the
inescapable logic of economics drove call-center jobs overseas. People in India
or the Philippines would field customer gripes for a much lower hourly rate
than Americans would. But the logic of customer service-and growing knowledge
about the importance of customer interactions-is helping to bring call center
jobs back to the U.S.
In January, Mary Murcott, the CEO of the Fort Worth-based
outsourcing firm Novo 1, declared at a panel discussion of CEOs at the White House that call
center jobs are "coming back, but nobody's talking about it." She estimated
that at one point, 30 percent of call center jobs for high-tech firms were
offshore; now, thanks to onshoring, or insourcing, it's more like 12 percent.
Murcott pointed to a distinction in the call center world:
between the simple calls and complicated calls. It used to be that you had to
call a customer service representative for something as simple as resetting a
password or placing an order for a product. Now many of those services are
automated, meaning only more complex tasks are left to customer service
representatives in call centers. These calls are "context-sensitive," meaning
that the person on the other line has to help solve a particular problem based
on the specific information a customer supplies. Effectively doing this kind of
call center work requires both an advanced knowledge of the products and
communication skills. A phone-basher has to understand what the person on the
other line is saying and must be able to be understood.
At the forum, Murcott said that "people
have done a lot of brand damage by putting their call centers over there."
Strangely enough, Murcott argued, companies don't necessarily advertise that
they are bringing call centers back on shore. After all, if the quality of the
service has gone up, and there's a negative perception of foreign call centers,
there is no need to publicize that previous service calls went overseas. But
the call center industry, much maligned as a symbol of how globalization has
reduced the quality of service while taking away American jobs, is of course
happy to let people know when it is hiring in the country. Thus, Jobs4America, the group founded
by dozens of outsourcing and customer service companies last August, which has
a widely publicized goal of creating 100,000 jobs in the U.S.