January 2009 | Volume 27 / Number 8
On The Line
Let the predictions begin!
1. Minimum wage is going to go up. If re-distribution of wealth is the real stated and understood goal of this new administration, we can expect to see wage increases over the next several years. Although the money is going to be hard to find, government is going to expect “real wages” to effectively rise at least 15% over the next few years for those that are in the bottom quartile of the employed population. This means that we can expect to see a great deal of pressure to cut costs and decrease service levels in contact centers to manage for this expense increase. The push for higher wages will have the effect of increasing pressure to either send jobs offshore or to employ technology at a much higher rate. Either way, left to its own devices, those elements which increase cost are going to have the unintended consequences of driving employment in the contact center industry down in the United States.
2. Unions are going to enter the contact center industry in a big way. With 5.3 million employees in the contact center industry and a revitalized CWA emboldened with new union forming tools and powers, we would be foolish to think that this is not going to happen. Keep in mind that the new President of the United States took $80 million in campaign contributions from this constituency, and they are going to look for some payback. The Employee Free Choice Act is designed to make it very easy to organize a union and almost impossible to remove one.
4. Consumers are going to enjoy unbalanced representation as well. Consumer protection is an easy segue from employee protection. For this reason, we can expect that legislation the American Teleservices Association (ATA) has been predicting concerning severe limitations on cross-sell, up-sell, and the use of the existing business relationship are going to be turned from idea to law.
5. The ATA’s petition for federal exclusive jurisdiction will be answered . . . and we will win! This is the hardest prediction to make, but it is probably the bright silver sliver in a cloud filled sky. Centralization of regulatory authority makes tremendous sense to an incoming government which feels that laissez faire and state driven regulation have been ineffective at curbing corporate abuse in almost every area of business. By centralizing authority, it will make regulation much easier to pass and implement. The sour taste you are experiencing is the knowledge that the decision to support exclusive jurisdiction will be for the regulators’ benefit, and not the industry’s.