Alabama Call Center Stays Operational

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AnswerNet Network, a teleservices firm with 1,600 workstations nationwide, is routing many calls from its Mobile, AL, contact center to one in Indianapolis to continue providing service to its customers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


But the company is still fielding calls in its 20-employee Mobile center despite patchy phone service and power being restored only on Sept. 2. The site had worked on a backup generator since Aug. 29, but the air conditioning system was not plugged in.


"So the site was like a hot box, and there was not a portable AC to be found in Mobile," AnswerNet president/CEO Gary Pudles said from the company's Princeton, NJ, headquarters. "It's incredible the conditions our employees are dealing with and still handling calls.


"On a personal level, many employees had damage to their homes, but we've confirmed that no one lost their home, so we're pretty happy," he said.


The Mobile center is taking calls for a regional utility company and physicians. It's certainly more fortunate than several other call center operations in Alabama that now are flat on their back.


"So many it's incredible," Pudles said. "The answering service industry has created a fund to help displaced telephone operators."


AnswerNet has 53 call centers nationwide and in Canada, most in the 25- to 30-seat range. The Indianapolis center has about 30 employees.


The situation turned sour for AnswerNet soon after Katrina made itself felt in Miami as it crossed Florida into the Gulf Coast. The company's call center there lost power and phone service. Many employees' homes were flooded and damaged. But Miami operations returned to normal Sept. 2, with some cleaning up to do.


Shifting calls to other centers is not new to AnswerNet. The company had contingency plans in place last year for Hurricane Ivan.


Pudles said AnswerNet is standing by Mobile.


"We stand committed to continuing to be in that market," he said. "The people there need the jobs and our service now more than ever. We would not give up on them due to this."


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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