Proposed Legislation Would Discourage Call Center Offshoring

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

If a bill introduced last month by U.S. Reps. Tim Bishop (D, NY-1) and Dave McKinley (R, WV-1) is passed, domestic companies that locate their call centers overseas would lose the ability to get federal grants and loans, would be kept on a list at the U.S. Department of Labor, and would have to be able transfer callers to onshore call center representatives upon customer request.

The initiative, called the US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, is an effort to bring home call center jobs and keep them here, explained Bishop.

He was among the speakers at  a press conference held Dec. 7 to promote the bill, which was presented the same day. Other speakers included Ron Collins, chief of staff at the Communications Workers of America; Mike Gendron of CWA (News - Alert) Local 1108, Verizon, (Patchogue, N.Y.), and Vonda Hardy, CWA Local 3640, US Airways (Winston-Salem, N.C.).

“Keeping jobs here in the United States is exactly what will turn this economy is around,” said Collins, who mentioned he used to be an employee of a Verizon call center in Maryland.

Gendron added:“This … bill is exactly what we need now” to aid in the country’s economic recovery, overcome deficits, and restore the American dream.

He also said that Verizon is among the U.S. companies offshoring call center work to countries such as India, Mexio and the Philippines. The communications company’s offshoring, he said, has eliminated close to 5,000 jobs in his Local.

Interestingly, while Verizon was called out for offshoring call centers, at least a couple of the press conference speakers noted that AT&T (News - Alert) has brought back many call center jobs in the past few years, and has committed to returning 5,000 call center jobs to the U.S. upon completion of its merger with T-Mobile. Indeed, AT&T was one of the company’s named in the FCC’s (News - Alert) jobs4america initiative announced earlier this year. The FCC and a coalition of call center companies joined forces on this effort, which aims to bring back from overseas 100,000 broadband-enabled call center jobs in the next two years in the U.S.

What these same press conference speakers failed to mention, however, was that the prospect of an AT&T-T-Mobile (News - Alert) merger as of early December was looking grim, particularly considering the FCC’s recent recommendation that the deal be blocked.

When asked about the telcos and their role in the call center jobs discussion, Bishop indicated the bill is not about calling out any particular company or industry, but rather about keeping jobs at home and discouraging offshoring.

“It’s hard to defend the practice, let’s be honest,” he said.

As mentioned in my October 2011 Logout letter, Kevin Childs (News - Alert), practice leader and contact center lead at Manpower, told me a few months ago that 10 to 15 years ago many people thought contact centers had seen their best days in the U.S., because at the time many contact center work was moving overseas. But that’s no longer the case, he indicated, adding that in the U.S. Manpower employs 10,000 contact center reps and provides contact centers to more than 3,500 companies.

Pointing out that Consumer Reports in July reported that consumer satisfaction is at an all-time low, Childs added that using U.S.-based call center reps – at least for high-value customers; doing performance management; and leveraging state-of-the-art contact centers solutions that don’t remove the company’s line of site to the customer, could help turn that around.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi