Sears Roebuck To Close Call Center

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Citing a tight labor pool that is making it difficult for the company to fill seats, Sears Roebuck & Co. will close its Madison, WI, call center which schedules appointment for customers who need appliance repairs.

Customers from the Madison area who call in will be routed to other locations, with no additional hold time, said the company.

The center currently employs 150 workers, said Peggy Palter, public relations manager for Sears in Hoffman Estates, IL. Ten full-time employees and about 60 part-time workers will lose their jobs, Palter said. Another 60 workers are seasonal employees for the summer only, while 20 others are contracted through a staffing agency and are not Sears employees, she said.

"It's not large enough to make the cost investment effective," Palter said. Another problem has been finding employees. "With Madison's very tight labor market, we have had a hard time keeping it staffed," she said.

Of Sears' nine call centers, the one in Madison -- opened in 1990 - is the smallest. Some employ as many as 1,600 workers, Palter said. The company is "investing heavily in new telecommunications," she said. But the Madison operation is small, and has no room to expand.

Sears will keep its service center at the Fordem Avenue location open . It's not clear yet if that might eventually move, Palter said.

An outplacement service will help the workers find new jobs, some of them at other Sears stores in Madison. In addition, 30 area employers will interview the call center employees at a job fair Aug. 26.

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