Miami-Dade County doesn't join in gain as call center jobs return to US
By Meena Rupani
Call center jobs are coming back to the US, countering the outsourcing trend from years ago. In Miami-Dade, however, the number of call centers has decreased but wages are on the rise.
"It appears that large establishments in the county shut down or relocated just prior to the recession," said John Cunningham, statistician for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "However, average weekly wages did increase slightly from $585 to $596, and total wages paid industry-wide held fairly steady."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York unveiled a bill June 2 geared to help bring call center jobs back from offshore markets.
His proposed legislation would force call centers to disclose to their customers that the call is being transferred abroad and would impose a per-call excise tax on companies that transfer domestic customer service calls to foreign call centers.
"This excise tax would actually benefit our company since we have a 100% US client base. Call center jobs need to come back to the domestic market," said Joseph Pores, CEO of Health Care Answering Services/Call 4 Health in Boca Raton, which has 50% of its client base in Florida and the rest across the country.
"Money is tight for people now and they want their services to come from a local place that understands their needs," Mr. Pores said. "There are many cultural differences when dealing with other countries."
Mr. Pores and his team have been reaching out to the disabled workforce when hiring instead of outsourcing jobs.
"It is frustrating to see call centers spending billions of dollars in outsourcing when many disabled people, especially veterans, are in need of work locally," he said.
Recognized for its efforts, Call 4 Health was named employer of the year in 2009 by the Disabled Workforce Alliance.
Precision Response Corp., a Fort Lauderdale customer-service company that employs about 5,000 in eight locations throughout Florida, is also looking to recruit within South Florida and has begun to fill 110 jobs for its new Tampa location, according to the corporation.
"Our current hiring need is not only an indicator of PRC's growth, but is also an example of the company's long-term commitment to Tampa area," said Brian Russell, regional vice president of the company's Central Florida operations. "We're pleased to offer additional job opportunities to the local community during this tough economic climate."
In addition to expanding its Tampa call center, last year PRC invested $1 million in upgrades to its Jacksonville center that include new employee workstations and technology and computer upgrades.
PRC's Miami-Dade locations in Cutler Bay and Miami Gardens are also faring well.
In both sites, the company says it is adding 250 sales specialists who will focus on inbound sales for DirecTV. They will be paid about $35,000 to $50,000 a year, according to the corporation.
Other Miami-Dade call centers include Quality Call Center, World Call Center and Marketing Call Center.
Like Precision Response, Call 4 Health and HealthCare Answering Services has also done well despite the tough times.
"Since 2005, our business has increased 25% to 30%," Mr. Pores said. "The recession has helped us because healthcare has become such a hot topic in the recent months."
Mr. Pores is looking to elevate service given by his employees locally and hopes to see more call centers doing the same.
"Most call centers have given up on marketing themselves because of the recession, but… the [service] level given by each company is what separates one from the other."
Although PRC is doing well, employees in the call center industry countywide have decreased dramatically since 2007, according to Mr. Cunningham.
"In 2007, employment dropped to 3,784 and to 2,491 in 2008 in Miami-Dade," he said. "Although the statistics are limited, it appears that statewide the industry didn't change much in the earlier stages of the recession, but significant changes occurred in the county. Statistics for 2009 and 2010 won't be available for a couple months, so it is hard to tell what is currently happening countywide."