How ZVOX "In-Sources" Our Call-Center Jobs: Work-At-Home Moms!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In the past 10 years I don't know how many U.S. call-center jobs have been outsourced to India, the Philippines, and other foreign countries -- but the number must be big. Tens of thousands of jobs for sure. And while it may not be possible, even in this economy, for U.S. workers to compete with the hourly wages paid in Mumbai, it may be possible to shift a large number of those jobs back to this country through a combination of tax credits, on-line education, internet telephone technology, crying babies and PR. Here are my suggestions:
  1. Tax credits. Use stimulus bill funds to offer tax credits to companies who create or shift-back call center jobs in the U.S.
  2. Encourage companies to create on-line self-teach tutorials for their products and services -- with on-line data banks that include searchable FAQ lists -- so that anyone with internet access can learn to be a good call center service representative.
  3. Internet/telephone technology now allows companies, for VERY reasonable prices, to establish "virtual call centers." The VCCs allow an administrator to assign calls in sequential, rotating order (with lots of options...it's amazing technology) to phone lines anywhere in the country. So the "call center" for a company in Austin, Texas (are you listening Michael Dell?) can have service representatives in Cortez Florida, Westminster Massachusetts, Detroit Michigan, Fargo North Dakota, Salt Lake City Utah and Anchorage Alaska. On-line chat services allow these representatives to communicate with each other, or their supervisors, while answering phone calls or emails from customers -- the equivalent of being able to yell to the guy in the next cubicle and ask a question when you're having trouble.
  4. The VOIP technology allows companies to hire work-at-home moms (they don't like the phrase "stay-at-home moms" -- be careful) to handle customer service. This may come as a surprise to many of you men out there, but these women are often remarkably gifted at something called "multi-tasking." ZVOX uses work-at-home moms for customer service and they can control hungry/crazy children, chase diaper-eating dogs (I do not exaggerate) and calm down a frustrated customer who can't figure out a surround sound system -- all at the same time! Really, the most underestimated, undervalued, undiscovered labor resource in this country is work-at-home moms (WAHMs). And because being at home means they don't need to pay the high price of day care and commuting, they can work for less money than they would require under a normal drive-to-work-and-get-back-nine-hours-later scenario. If one were to combine the affordable pay levels acceptable to WAHMs with federal tax credits, this system would provide a reasonable alternative to Bangalore.
  5. PR. Any CEO or Public Relations executive worth his or her salt will immediately recognize the PR benefit of announcing that their company is a) shifting jobs back to the U.S. from overseas and b) hiring apple-pie-baking American moms* to do the job. But really (and you have to trust me on this one), that is just a tiny part of the overall PR boost this scheme will provide. The biggest benefit of this plan is that your customers will love the service they get. WAHMs tend to be happy. They get to spend time with their kids. They don't have to drag their tired bodies home late at night -- and then have to make dinner. There's a lot to be happy about. And happy customer service people are MUCH easier to deal with than well, I don't know how to say this in a nice way, people who are pissed off that they have to be customer service representatives (does this resonate with anybody out there?).
Bottom Line: cool internet/telephone technology and WHAMs can give your company better service for less money and provide a PR bonanza and barrels of "thank you" emails from happy customers. Get the government to subsidize the concept with tax credits out of the stimulus fund, and we could create many, many jobs.


Kate Connors said...

I for one agree with what you've said and appreciate your distinguishing between a SAHM and a WAHM. I was just talking to a customer today who was asking about our "call center" and I explained to him that our jobs are a win-win for the company and for us. The multi-tasking and kid chasing/call answering can be stressful and we still sometimes have the guilty situations of interrupting story time to take a call but it blows away the alternative and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I know a number of other moms who have asked me if we are hiring! Anyway, thanks for the props.....and for the opportunity to be a "WAHM" who isn't wiping other people's kids' butts or transcribing medical notes or selling "Lia Sophia" jewelry.

Stacy Jordan said...

I have never baked an apple pie.

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