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OM in the News: U.S. Call Centers Dial Up Employee Service

November 30, 2013
Handling a customer call at PNC's new Pittsburgh center

Handling a customer call at PNC’s new Pittsburgh center

In Chapter 2, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing such “non-core” functions as call centers to countries like  India and the Philippines. But despite the offshoring of some call centers, it is still a big business in the U.S., reports The Wall Street Journal (Nov.27, 2013). As of last year, 2 million Americans worked as customer service representatives, many of them in call centers. That was up 6% from a decade before. About 68% are women.

“Companies are more likely to keep call center operations in the U.S. today than they were 10 years ago,” says one industry expert. “Workers have become more available amid a weak job market, and employers like the idea of having more control over their call centers.”

Companies also are striving to avoid being blasted on Facebook or Twitter for lousy service. As a result, they are making more efforts to recruit and retain high-quality call center people. Those efforts sometimes include offering something more than “nondescript buildings in nondescript locations.” Upgrading call center workspaces makes economic sense. They tend to handle more complex customer questions and problems than they did years ago. Customers get basic information from websites, and that leaves the more complicated matters for the call centers.

For example, in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, call center employees of PNC Financial just moved into luxurious space inside a 6-story granite building that once housed Mellon National Bank and later served as a Lord & Taylor department store. The newly renovated Classical building features the original marble columns and 32 foot ceilings. The new space is so bright and white that “it feels like we’re in the Apple Store,” said one of the 700 PNC employees.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why are companies “nearshoring” their customer call centers?

2. Why upgrade call center workplaces?

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