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November 2001

Busting Site Selection Paradigms


It's time for site selection assumptions to be revisited. Site selection experts can tell you the demographics needed to place a new grocery store in the neighborhood or whether the traffic passing the gas station meets minimum traffic requirements, but what happens in call center site selection when the same old formulas are used by consultants nationally? The same cities are selected until call center congestion prevails and the competition for employee resources becomes excessive. This has driven the desire to move centers to suburban and rural locations that can attract employees and cost less to operate. As the economy tightens, companies are looking to move their centers to more cost-effective areas of the country as well as international locations that can provide lower hourly wages, less expensive real estate costs and the ability to attract a population of employees.

In New Mexico, we have learned three basic premises that impact the ability for a state to attract and maintain more call centers. First, we believe call centers are not competitive in and of themselves, their industries are. The term 'call center' implies that a particular industry is conducting its services over the phone. There are more than 30 call center locations in the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho metropolitan area that are thriving. In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, there is a wireless service center with more than 1,400 employees, a computer services center with 500 employees, a retail catalog center peaking at 800 employees along with a bank staffed to 550 employees within a five-mile radius. All have been successful in recruiting employees. The city has found distinct movement among call center personnel when new centers open; however, after the initial fallout, the movement is minor and manageable. This is because there is little movement of employees between the businesses once they are established. The conclusion is the industries are vertical columns attracting different employees based upon their skill sets and desires, and by locating different industries with different skill sets, the competition is lessened. Recruiting capability is determined by several factors. Employees can be attracted by image of the company, the qualifications required, benefits, discounts on goods and services and even hours of operation. Companies with 24-hour schedules continue to attract those who may not be seeking regular daytime work. Therefore, New Mexico feels companies can successfully target and co-locate their centers nearby others, as long as the business looks and feels different from the center next door. This balance is critical in developing within a metropolitan area and relies on not locating near a center that is struggling to maintain its staffing.

Second, and more important, New Mexico has learned that bringing in businesses such as contact centers requires the state to support the incoming business with incentives that are in direct competition with other states as well as foreign countries. Companies that use account-based modeling to determine the cost of their customer-facing hours will be more attracted to states such as New Mexico that offer lower operational costs. States that are already economically developed and have a higher standard of living may not be able to attract new businesses as easily.

Currently, New Mexico offers several incentives that were designed to attract new businesses. There is funding for in-plant training that provides a state refund for companies that formally train their employees. This rebate returns operating expenses back to the company, offsetting migration and training expenses. The rebate is seen as an investment in New Mexico employees. In addition, New Mexico offers incentives to build in rural areas that offset the cost of starting a new business and guarantee a captive staffing pool.

Along with both of the above premises is how state and local education centers support the development of resources that can be recruited into a call center environment. In New Mexico, several institutions offer sophisticated contact center training. Traditional training techniques are not adequate to prepare representatives for the contact center environment. The increasing complexity of technology systems requires new strategies for training. State-of-the-art simulation technology, unlike traditional classroom training or conventional computer-based training (CBT) systems, turns information and knowledge into experience. The training assists students in attaining such skills as multi-tasking, critical thinking and computer screen navigation as well as traditional skills such as handling an upset customer. The training incorporates state-of-the-art customer relationship management methodologies that affect customer loyalty and profitability in a contact center. Customer service is today's battleground for winning market share and increasing revenues. These programs are cutting-edge in terms of training in that they offer an integration of high-technology and modern psychology that will quickly and effectively produce skills that would otherwise take weeks or months to accumulate on the job. Training in New Mexico for contact centers is designed to address the needs of the telecommunication industry and other businesses requiring competent use of computer-based customer service/support programs.

Kathie Lehner, consultant, works with Economic Development for New Mexico and may be reached at [email protected].

Re: Locations Headlines

Former AT&T Call Center Executives Launch Customer Interaction Center
Talk2Rep, Inc., a new corporation formed by former AT&T call center executives, announced it has opened an integrated contact center in Tamarac, Florida to provide outsourced customer sales and support via voice and the Web. The Talk2Rep Advisory Board includes IReality Group Inc. CEO Harold Gubnitsky. IReality is an international e-consultancy firm based in Florida. According to Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Talk2Rep, the company plans to expand quickly from initial operations of 50-75 employees and has stated that its ultimate goal is to offer world-class customer interaction management for other businesses. www.talk2rep.com/866-856 2Rep

InVision Envisions Northern Ireland
German software developer InVision Software AG has chosen Derry, Northern Ireland as the site for its new development center, which will be responsible for development and programming of new modules for the company's workforce management product. 'A decisive advantage of the location is that the university graduates are very young in international comparison,' said Matthias Schroer, chief technical officer of InVision Software. 'They have a solid education upon which one can successfully build.' InVision expects a total of 30 employees to be working at the Derry facility by 2004.

AFFINA Is Texas Bound
Teleservices agency AFFINA -- The Customer Relationship Company has announced plans to open a new customer contact center in El Paso, Texas that will employ nearly 200 customer service representatives and other staff. Cindy Blackburn, vice president of Operations and Human Resources, said, 'We are committed to providing the best professional services to our clients and their customers, and are confident that the workforce in the El Paso area will help us realize this goal.' The addition of the El Paso customer contact center adds to AFFINA's network of contact centers, which includes three in Peoria, as well as sites in Suffolk, Virginia; Waterloo, Iowa; St. Louis, Missouri; Montreal, Quebec; and Battle Creek, Michigan.

StayinFront Opens In Singapore
StayinFront, an enterprisewide customer relationship management (CRM) applications, decision support tools and e-business systems provider, has opened an office in Singapore. 'At a time when many CRM vendors are retrenching in the Asian market, StayinFront continues to gain new clients, invest in infrastructure and confirms its long-term commitment to Asia,' said Tom Buckley, chief executive officer for StayinFront. John Connell has been appointed general manager for the Singapore office.

Aegis Locates In Rocky Mount
Aegis Communications Group, Inc., a provider of multichannel customer relationship management, market research and customer care services, has opened a new, 60,000-square-foot customer service center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The fully integrated, Internet-enabled facility will have a 600-seat capacity. Herman Schwarz, president and CEO of Aegis, said the new center 'will open at full capacity to fill the demand created by a multiyear contract signed with one of the world's largest telecommunications companies.' Nationwide, Aegis has approximately 6,700 people utilizing more than 6,100 workstations.

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