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Call Centers Serving U.S. Clients Mostly at Home, Says Study

Contrary to what many people think, most call centers serving U.S. customers – service centers in remote locations that handle telephone and Web-based inquiries – are operated in the United States, not in India or other overseas locations.

The study, “The Global Call Center Report: International Perspectives on Management and Employment,” was a collaborative effort involving more than 40 scholars from 20 countries and examined call center management and employment practices in Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Europe, covering almost 2,500 centers in 17 countries.

According to Rosemary Batt, the Alice H. Cook Professor of Women and Work and professor of human resource studies at Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School and a lead author of a report, call centers have become a major source of employment and job creation both in the United States and around the world. Managing call centers, she added, can be challenging because of their high turnover rates, which often lead to lower service quality.

“Consumers want good service, and they typically express the lowest levels of satisfaction with call centers,” said Batt. “But companies continue to shift more of their customer interactions to call centers because they are very cost efficient. There is growing evidence that centers that invest in the skills of the workforce and provide discretion to solve customer problems have lower turnover, better service quality and higher revenues.”

Some of the study’s other key findings: The large majority of centers around the world – except India – serve their own domestic markets and consumers. There is no common global face to call centers, since they tend to take on the character of their respective countries and regions based on that country’s or region’s laws, customs and norms. Most call centers are relatively new and have emerged across the globe at about the same time, within the last five to 10 years.

Two-thirds of all call centers are in-house operations, serving a firm’s own customers. In-house centers across all countries have lower turnover rates and higher quality jobs than subcontracted ones. Turnover rates in the United States range from 25 percent to over 50 percent per year, depending on the sector. Taking lost productivity into account, replacing one worker costs the equivalent of three and four months of an average worker’s pay.

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– Diverse Staff Reports

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