What’s Left for America?

Two more telemarketers have announced layoffs and closings since DM News wrote a week ago about the effect the Federal Trade Commission’s no-call registry has had on U.S. call centers. Still, these 600 or so jobs mentioned so far are nothing close to the 2 million the American Teleservices Association has said will soon be unemployed because of the list. It’s interesting that some telemarketers are blaming the registry for lost jobs in America, yet they’re the ones leading the migration out of the United States. It’s a convenient excuse.

The allure of overseas call centers is hard to ignore. Big companies like General Electric, America Online and Delta Airlines have moved part or all of their customer support operations to India, the Philippines and the Caribbean. Though not blamed on the DNC registry, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that AT&T Wireless expects to lay off 3,000 workers and outsource the jobs to companies that employ people in India and other overseas locations. Why are so many companies taking their support centers off U.S. soil? It boils down to saving nearly 50 percent in their operating costs to have an Indian worker answer a telephone instead of an American. The move to overseas call centers started three years ago and has already become a billion-dollar business because a call center rep in India makes $2,800 to $8,000 (many with college degrees) vs. $30,000 to $45,000 for comparable American workers (who often have only high school educations).

Congress is beginning to worry about the loss of these jobs and has ordered the General Accounting Office to look into how many positions are being lost. Funny, didn’t Congress give the legal go-ahead for the FTC to create the no-call registry in the first place, and now lawmakers are concerned about losing telemarketing jobs? It’s probably because they’re worried that more high-paying, high-tech jobs will follow suit. If things keep going in this direction, there won’t be any jobs left in America except for Wall Street, Hollywood and the U.S. Postal Service’s unions — though I’m not sure what they’ll have to deliver or to whom.

The Direct Marketing Association released a study last week outlining the effect that the DNC list will have on the telemarketing industry. It also mentioned significant challenges: better targeting and focusing on demographics to tailor products to meet the public’s needs. Isn’t that what DM is supposed to do?

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