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US Call-Center Jobs — That Pay $100K a Year

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the payment-for-the-gift-of-gab dept.

United States 362

bheer writes "BusinessWeek profiles a call center company called iQor which has grown revenues 40% year-on-year by (shock) treating employees as critical assets. It's done this not by nickel-and-diming, but by expanding its US operations (13 centers across the US now), giving employees universal health insurance, and paying salaries and bonuses that are nearly 50% above industry norms. The article notes that outsourcing will continue and globalization will continue to change the world's economic landscape. 'But the US is hardly helpless. With smart processes and the proper incentives, US companies can keep jobs here in America, and do so in a way that is actually better for the company and its employees.' Now if only other companies get a clue as well."

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362 comments

How small is it?!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219699)

CmdrTaco's penis is so small that when he was at the glory hole last night he was mistaken for a 2 year old.

Re: This post is also offtopic. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220537)

Interesting how this gets Offtopic but not Troll. (It'll probably be troll very soon, but as I post, it's offtopic. :)

Um, I'm doubtful (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219727)

A phrase I saw in the summary almost had me sending a note to timothy from the "See any serious problems with this story? Email our on-duty editor" link, then when I RTFA I saw that it was word for word from TFA: "IQor also gives its U.S. employees universal health insurance".

A meaningless phrase, I think. The words "health insurance" suffices; universal health insurance is what Canadian and European residents get from their government. Bad writing at the least, which lead me to suspect that there were bad facts as well. However, most of the rest of it seemed well written.

Sure, some companies, such as Dell (DELL), have moved call centers back home after customer protests.

Makes it look like the customers are protesting outsourcing, when in fact what pisses most people off is that the offshore phone monkeys are completely unintelligible. If you're handling calls from Mexican customers, your call center workers should be able to speak fluent Spanish, not bad Spanish like I speak.

The best of iQor's front-line call-center workers make more than $100,000 per year.

What's the starting wage? TFA doesn't say.

And unlike many of its competitors, and an increasing number of other U.S. companies, iQor offers all its employees good health insurance and generous benefits packages.

Some time in the early 1980s, the head of one of the airlines (that ironically became a union airline later) said "any company that gets a union deserves one". Treat your employees like shit, and they will treat your customers like shit, and may even organize a union.

IQor also invests in technology designed to make its employees more efficient

Gad, there's little I hate worse than robocallers. When I say "hello" you better echo my "hello" PDQ or I'm hanging the phone up. You called me; don't put me on hold as soon as I answer without even responding.

From TFS: But the US is hardly helpless. With smart processes and the proper incentives, U.S. companies can keep jobs here in America, and do so in a way that is actually better for the company and its employees.

That assumes that today's busiesspeople aren't so greedy and stupid that they're like the monkey who has his hand stuck in the jar, too stupidly greedy to let go of the treat inside. A pretty unwarranted assumption, I think.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219819)

IQor also invests in technology designed to make its employees more efficient

Like donuts, and the possibility of more donuts.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (2, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220049)

And unlike Indians, Americans bathe regularly.

Hygenic employees are happy, productive employees. Even American military manuals state that bathing is linked to morale.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219845)

It doesn't matter what the starting wage is, as long as the ladder is there and you can work your way into a decent pay rate.

More companies should consider this, rather than designing their jobs to have a single pay rate with no possibility of advancement apart from leaving to work elsewhere.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (1)

Stauken (1392809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220583)

More companies should also consider making sure that their hires and business moves pay off with more profit. That's why this isn't occurring as universally as we would like -- it has little to do with whether or not this is decent business strategy and a lot more to do with whether or not it can be decently implemented by the general (a.k.a. stupid) population.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (5, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220097)

I'm sure there are some things to nitpick in this particular case, but for all the different ways of crushing souls that corporations have come up with, there are still plenty of companies out there that see value in having happy employees, and with owners just trying to make an honest buck, rather than squeezing every possible dime out of the world.

I guess the lesson at the end of the day is that there's more than one way to run a business. Imagine that.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (5, Insightful)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220185)

The words "health insurance" suffices; universal health insurance is what Canadian and European residents get from their government.

No, it makes sense. Many companies offer health insurance to salaried professionals, but not to hourly employees. Others have different plans available for workers at different levels. In the context of a business, "universal" excludes those cases.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (4, Insightful)

nologin (256407) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220191)

Even though they say that they can give you more perks, the call center jobs still sucks...

Why?

Because when a company is proud that it's turnover rate is only 45% (less than half the industry's average), it tells me that this job is something I would never want to touch with a five foot pole (as opposed to a ten foot one).

A company with 45% turnover on 11000 employees means approximately 4950 employees get churned out in a year. That still isn't very good...

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (5, Insightful)

Golias (176380) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220625)

A company with 45% turnover on 11000 employees means approximately 4950 employees get churned out in a year. That still isn't very good...

A call-center job, no matter how fun and rewarding it might be, is still an entry-level position. When most of your workforce is already planning on being somewhere else in a few years while you are training them in, a 45% turnover rate is OUTSTANDING.

If you're still holding the exact same position at the exact same company which you took right after graduation, that's not an "entry-level" job, but a "dead-end" job.

A call center is where you work while you take night classes in network administration, computer programming, or towards your MBA, which will prep you for whatever your REAL career will be. Nobody dreams about growing up to deal with angry customers for a living until retirement, unless you mean "deal with" them in the mafia sense of the word.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (4, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220319)

Interestingly enough, the city I'm from had a "near-shore" call centre. I'm Canadian, and we've got the Western Pacific accent here.

They were considered an excellent bargain because the staff spoke fluent, unaccented English. The customers loved it.

It messed up our local economy in a strange way -- West paid $10 / hour to start, which meant that every store in town, from KFC to the Dollar Store, had to pay at least that or they wouldn't get staff. West employed thousands of people, and had a voracious appetite. When you can get $8 frying burgers or $10 + bus passes + tuition bonuses + entry into car draws, we had stores "closed today due to lack of staff".

When our dollar reached parity last year, it became more expensive to run West than it was to just pay for Americans to do the job. They closed.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220889)

Interestingly enough, the city I'm from had a "near-shore" call centre. I'm Canadian, and we've got the Western Pacific accent here.

They were considered an excellent bargain because the staff spoke fluent, unaccented English. The customers loved it.

It messed up our local economy in a strange way -- West paid $10 / hour to start, which meant that every store in town, from KFC to the Dollar Store, had to pay at least that or they wouldn't get staff. West employed thousands of people, and had a voracious appetite. When you can get $8 frying burgers or $10 + bus passes + tuition bonuses + entry into car draws, we had stores "closed today due to lack of staff".

When our dollar reached parity last year, it became more expensive to run West than it was to just pay for Americans to do the job. They closed.

Actually, it had a lot more to do with your management in Victoria being a bunch of assholes who thought they didn't need to listen to the folks that actually owned the company, and instead serve the client alone. Dollar parity was A reason, but not THE reason, that the call center lost money. It's cute they told you that though.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220329)

As a programmer that works directly with the call centers for a Fortune 500 company: there are a -lot- of other pieces of technology that helps efficiency other than robocallers. Live speech recognition to tell what common customer problems are, smarter call routing (you've called recently before, you must have a problem, let's move you to a higher-level agent), even simple things like better screenpops.

As to robocallers, though: Our company uses a plain dialer for contacting customers in collections, but it's fully agent-backed - you never hear a machine voice. Robocallers piss off customers.

But to lump all call center technology into one group of "I hate these things" isn't particularly fair.

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (4, Insightful)

matastas (547484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220531)

Not sure how you made the leap from 'technology designed to make its employees more efficient' to robocallers.

From my understanding of TFA, IQor does customer service type of stuff. So, sophisticated knowledge bases, good front-ends for customer service tools, flexible processes, etc. can all be examples of tech that makes a customer service group more efficient (there's much more). Robocallers wouldn't even apply (the only automated piece of the called is, sometimes, the greeting).

Did I miss something?

Re:Um, I'm doubtful (1)

defaria (741527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220731)

It's not fluent English or Spanish or whatever that I need. Many of these off shore call centers speak English fluently enough. It's that they don't understand the words they are speaking nor do they understand the concepts or customers. Irony is lost on them. Detecting frustration in the voice is also lost. You don't need to understand frustration in the voice when you are told "Look I've been on the phone for 56 minutes now and this really is just a simple problem that should have been solved 50 minutes ago!!!". Parsing that sentence into "Fuck I'm pissed off" does not take rocket science! And spare me the apologies - I don't want apologies - At this point I WANT SOLUTIONS!!!

The Philippines are the worse. When on a tech support call now I immediate ask where they are located and if it's anywhere close to there I ask to be transferred to somebody from outside that corner of the globe. I will not deal with Philippines anymore. In fact, while I was thinking of vacationing there I have decided against it. That area of the world has not progressed because as far as I can tell all of the people there are STUPID! Yeah I know, I shouldn't judge the whole area based just on talking to tech support but it still seems clear to me that if this is what tech support is like then the taxi cab driver's gotta be as much of a pain in the ass to deal with. They really should think carefully about the following sentence: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" and they've already royally blew it when it comes to me and my money!

Why can't I do that outside the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219741)

Why can't I do the same thing in another country and pay less?

Re:Why can't I do that outside the US? (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219833)

Because the USA is a place where you ADD VALUE to you business, not a place where you cut costs.

To keep this going, all we've got to do is stay educated, competitive and open.

Re:Why can't I do that outside the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219887)

Good luck with that, given the state of the public education system now.

Re:Why can't I do that outside the US? (1)

Lost Engineer (459920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220363)

Which one? The turnover rates in India are much higher, leaving you with an inexperienced workforce, not to mention the fact that USians and Indians are barely mutually intelligible in English. What other English speaking countries are so cheap?

This... (4, Insightful)

zulater (635326) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219743)

This is how the small business I work for operates. They treat employees as a vital resource and asset. They know they invest a lot of time and money to hire and train us so they compensate us well according to how well we help the company make money. They know that without the people doing the work the business wouldn't make money. It's how companies used to operate and imho how they should operate.

Sure in the lean times we don't get the nice bonuses we are used to but we get to keep our jobs because they don't squander away money when times are good because they know bad times are coming.

Common sense that seems lost in this day and age.

Re:This... (2, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220139)

As a business owner, I try to do the same thing. It's not difficult, you just can't be greedy. Do well a couple of months? Do go by yourself a brand new $100K car. Shove that cash into reserves, for when you have lean months and don't want to let people go. Good bosses/owners make for great/secure jobs for employees. I don't need an MBA to tell me that.

Re:This... (2, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220431)

Another ditto from a small business owner. What's always amazed me is that most companies, rightfully, put the customer first. Employees should come in second, not executive bonuses. After all, it's the employees who get/interact with those "precious" customers, not the executives.

Re:This... (2, Insightful)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220819)

It's not a simple rank, 'tho. Without employees, customers are useless. Without customers, employees are useless. Without customers and employees, executives are useless. Of the three, executives are most expendable. Or, at least, most of the executives.

Re:This... (3, Interesting)

mansa (94579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220241)

Yep-

And that attitude works on a large scale too... one of my company's founders said this about 80 years ago:

"When all is said and done, this business is nothing but a symbol. And when we translate this, we find that it means a great many people think well of its products, and that a great multitude has faith in the integrity of the men who make this product.

"In a very short time, the machines that are now so lively will soon become obsolete. And the big buildings, for all their solidity, must some day be replaced.

"But a business which symbolizes can live so long as there are human beings alive. For it is not built of such flimsy materials as steel and concrete; it is built of human opinions, which may be made to live forever.

"The goodwill of the people is the only enduring thing in any business. It is the sole substance... the rest is shadow."

They take care of us, and we do our best to make the company successful.

Re:This... (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220277)

They know that without the people doing the work the business wouldn't make money. It's how companies used to operate and imho how they should operate.

When was this a common idiom for business? I am not aware of any golden age when it was common for a person to work his way out of poverty by selling his labor power.

The point of capitalism is not to lift up the employees. The point is to take their work and pay them less than the amount of money it generated for the business, while pocketing the difference. There'll be anomalies here and there, but it's never been normal for employees to be paid in proportion to the value they create.

Re:This... (3, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220579)

The point of capitalism is not to lift up the employees.

You are looking at this through the evil end of the prism. The point of the article is that you can make money *while* lifting up employees, possibly more than if you crush them beneath your booted heal.

Re:This... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220713)

evil end of the prism

great name for a band

Re:This... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220823)

The point of capitalism is not to lift up the employees.

You are looking at this through the evil end of the prism. The point of the article is that you can make money *while* lifting up employees, possibly more than if you crush them beneath your booted heal.

Errhm...There's a reason that so many people have poor experiences with work -- it is almost guaranteed that you will make significantly more money by crushing them beneath your booted heel...Even if you have to pay the government to sell them out.

Those people who think that capitalism is going to save the world are just as bad as those who said socialism was going to save the world.

Re:This... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220729)

They know that without the people doing the work the business wouldn't make money. It's how companies used to operate and imho how they should operate.

I'm hopeful that good employers like that will drive the bad ones out of business. I'm not optimistic, however. Globalization means to most of today's businesspeople "Fuck the customer, fuck the employee, there are six billion more where they came from".

Re:This... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220791)

Henry Ford :
There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.

My how things have changed.

Call-Center Jobs that pay 100 000$ a year (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219763)

What the hell? Why would such a low-end job pay that much? That's five times higher than the poverty level in Canada.

No wonder companies are outsourcing if all USAsians think they have to be overpaid that much.

Re:Call-Center Jobs that pay 100 000$ a year (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220041)

I'd rather have one good ol' American greenback, than 100 grand of that faggy monopoly money.

Re:Call-Center Jobs that pay 100 000$ a year (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220105)

Probably because those people can get people on and off the phone much faster because they have experience in the topic they are supporting. Or they are handling advanced calls for premium customers. It's the point. These people don't have a job of answering a phone, and the management realizes that. They have a job of being a subject matter expert or being great at customer service, or whatever the heck else we stick people behind phones to do. The phone just happens to be the medium.

No wonder companies are outsourcing if all USAsians think they have to be overpaid that much.

Apparently you missed the bit where they said they were deliriously rolling in piles of money because they treat their people right and get high quality work in return.

Re:Call-Center Jobs that pay 100 000$ a year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220497)

That's what the company is offering to pay for specific jobs in the call center, not what is being demanded for entry level. There might only be one or two people getting that total.

Who pays for it? (0, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219785)

What industry finds call center work so valuable that they can pay iQor enough to pay its employees so well?

Re:Who pays for it? (0, Flamebait)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219825)

I'd imagine ones that have had to receive tarp or some other government bailout.

Re:Who pays for it? (4, Insightful)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219873)

Hate to say this, but the company I work for (pick any 3 letters), and any other IT company ends up doing the same thing as this company.

Either they get competent staff on the front lines, or your back end Sys Engineering staff ends up supporting issues they should have been handled at the front lines.

Re:Who pays for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220389)

You would be shocked. Its actually cheaper to hire a call center than it is to pay an employee. I work for a call center and we charge by the minute (Roughly $.80) and with the amount of calls, someone normally pays us 13k a year versus paying an employee to answer its phones 20k a year.

Re:Who pays for it? (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220597)

They should find it valuable. Having done technical support for a number of years on the front lines I was always amazed by the amount of contempt the parent company treated us - especially as we did the vast majority of their PR work for them.

Yes... the sods doing technical support for 350$ a month (or less) in India are often the first people they will ever contact and talk to from your company.

Dress up a pig (0, Offtopic)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219853)

You can dress up a pig, give it makeup and perfume, but it is still a pig. Giving telemarketers decent pay and health care doesn't make the job any less vile.

Re:Dress up a pig (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219945)

What does this have to do with Sarah Palin?

Re:Dress up a pig (2, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219987)

They do outsourced customer service, ie support calls, not telemarketing. They also do collections, which I guess is pretty shitty work.

Re:Dress up a pig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29219999)

I believe the phrase that you were looking for was "lipstick on a pig"

Re:Dress up a pig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220053)

Yeah, except these aren't telemarketers, you fool.

Re:Dress up a pig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220365)

IT admin at a Call Center chiming in:

There is a difference between a telemarketer and a Customer Service Rep.

Telemarketers are the ones who are setup on a dialer. The dialer calls a random number in a list, and forwards the call to an agent. That is why there is a delay usually from when you pick up to when someone says hello.

CSR's are the people who YOU call. When you call M&T bank to ask a question on your checking account, do you really think you are calling a M&T employee? Hell no, that is outsourced most of the time. Geico is a good example of a company that does NOT outsource.

Now to throw in a wrench, There are also outbound campaigns that are there to INFORM customers of a new service, or a recall, etc.

M&T may setup a outbound campaign to notify all its business accounts that the interest rate on it has changed. Basically outbound isn't _always_ bad, only sometimes!

last, and shittiest of all, is collections. These agents have to call numbers and ask these people to settle on debts. They get paid crap wages usually + bonus's based on how much they pull in (bigger bonus means you are a bigger scumbag IMO).

Wishful Thinking (4, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219865)

1. Call centers are in the more depressed parts of the U.S. I have a sneaking suspicion the workers are happy-ish to be there, but aren't part of a healthy middle class.
2...U.S. employees universal health insurance. What kind? PPO. I'm tired of hearing this topline chant when the details of the policies are depressing.
3....and pays salaries and bonuses that are nearly 50% above industry norms. So, are the call center workers still the working poor?
4. The best of iQor's front-line call-center workers make more than $100,000 per year The best one serving an uber-tight niche. More spam.

That's Ironic (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219907)

The CEO of this company was born in India!

I think it says something very nasty about U.S. corporate culture that it takes an immigrant the see value in hiring Americans.

What a load of crap... (1)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219917)

So if I am on the call with a "support representative" for 1 hour, it would cost them $52 in raw employment costs?? What type of service could possible afford this structure other than the financial services industry??

They dont outsource because they are evil. They do it because they are trying to reduce the cost of things.... Yes, the model is flawed, however, and I suspect that in 10 years a computer will be the new support representative. Then I can tell it how bad I hate the company it works for while not feeling bad about it...

Re:What a load of crap... (3, Funny)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220115)

I suspect that in 10 years a computer will be the new support representative. Then I can tell it how bad I hate the company it works for while not feeling bad about it...

Just don't tell it how you feel about Windows 8 :P

Re:What a load of crap... (2, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220153)

I suspect the fact that these people are incredibly efficient and good at their jobs means that you're less likely to be on the phone for an hour, which appears to be the point. They may get paid 4x more than the average phone jockey, but if they can handle 5x as many calls, then they are a better deal.

Re:What a load of crap... (2, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220567)

The only problem with that theory is that the people calling in will be just as dumb and angry as ever, so even if the guy in the call center is great he probably won't see the massive increase in productivity that you would expect.

It seems to me that this company is the perfect "second tier" tech support line. The first tier being the guys in India who just go down the list regardless of what problem you have because 75% of the time it's the same dumb problem again and these guys get paid way too much to spend all day telling people what a mouse pointer is or how to double click.

I've always had the fantasy that if I owned a tech company that had direct contact with customers, that I would have two support lines. The first is right on the front of the support page and sends you to "first tier" support in India. They can escalate your call to second tier, but only after going through all of the easy fixes. The second tier support would have its number listed at the end of the FAQ/support database. People who went through the online support and still had to call would be send directly to the second level techs.

Of course I tend to have this fantasy every time I call tech support and are forced to go through everything their FAQ already covered that I already tried before they send me off to someone who can actually help.

Speaking From Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220855)

I once worked at an IBM call center (occasionally taking calls FROM India, and why I don't know) and after it was all said and done, I and all of the other employees there 'made' about $25.00 an hour. Our clients included a company that made medical equipment for burn wards, several restaurant chains, a couple insurance companies, and Apple. (For some reason.)

We saw, depending on how generous our contractors were feeling, between $8.00 and $11.00 of that. (lol Manpower) It was never more than half of what IBM was actually paying per hour, and with the call center's massive turnover (due to abject mismanagement at every imaginable level) very few people got to come close. After I left, the base pay rate declined. Some of their positions are now literally minimum wage, as per the new minimum. The contractors - the people IBM outsourced their HR to - take most of the money IBM puts up for each person, and I've heard they haggled the price per head down to the previously mentioned $25.00 an hour due to the high volume of people at the center.

The benefits from the contractor were slim to nonexistent, and they were typically very slow to answer important questions or, you know, send me my damn paycheck. The contracting company - the 'headhunters' mentioned in the article - makes a goddamn killing. A gargantuan goddamn killing. Manpower has hundreds of people at that call center, each earning them between $10.00 and $15.00 an hour give or take when you subtract the non-pay benefits. They're making millions from that site alone, and IBM is all too glad to shovel money toward them. The call center, in spite of being a last refuge for the Rust Belt's unemployed and one of the worst workplaces imaginable, is astonishingly profitable for IBM - and they closed three other call centers to open it. That's right. It was a consolidation of three profitable call centers into one big one with far fewer staff than the rest put together, further lifting their bottom line. (Some of the people sent to set it up came from far out of state, and also informed us that after years of dutiful service with practically no advancement they were being laid off after the new center opened. True story.)

So yeah, when you call for support and get routed to a call center, that call costs a pretty penny, and that's just for the people answering the phones. If IBM kept its HR department in-house it could afford to pay employees a heck of a lot more and get better equipment and training materials too, but by holding the call center up by shoestrings and screwing the employees in the process, they walk away with fatter wallets and fewer liabilities. As a result, the work environment is piss poor, their infrastructure is unreliable, their employees are unmotivated and usually leave within six to eight months, and said employees have barely adequate training to handle what were some very difficult clients. (We had to log into company intranets and do all sorts of data entry and account management for them as well, which was a lot more complicated than it sounds, in addition to technical support covering many dissimilar clients.) Yet they still make money, boatloads of it, which then set sail for Asia.

I can believe iQor's story and I hope to your deity of choice (or chance, if atheist) that their business model becomes the norm. I can't begin to describe the god awful experiences I've had with CSRs that either didn't want to or didn't know how to do their jobs, and actually investing in these people instead of treating them like second class citizens or disposable answering machines could rectify these problems. I know a lot of IT bigwigs will balk at this, but forget everything you've learned about the workplace since 1980. Until we get fully sapient androids to do all of our work for us, the most important asset in any domain of your workplace (especially ones that interact directly with the customer) is not the technology, it's people.

HIdden Cost (2, Interesting)

gers0667 (459800) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219925)

I won't name names, but one of our competitors does this. The down side, they over-inflate their prices to the customers to compensate for 6 digit salaries for sales people. They are lucky to be in a business where they can pull this off because of the complexity of pricing, but as with any market, the margins get thinner and thinner and they just won't last.

Re:HIdden Cost (1)

Rip Dick (1207150) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220121)

That's right... root for the competitor to fold, then your company can afford to pay you even less due to lowered competition.

Not helpless, but uninterested and clueless (4, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29219957)

Quote: "But the US is hardly helpless. With smart processes and the proper incentives, U.S. companies can keep jobs here in America
.
Managers rarely care, and even more rarely, have the technical expertise to handle labor decisions in ways that benefit themselves and the country. Their entire focus is getting that next bonus. If they have to move 75% of their operations to lower Slobbovia to do it, they will, rather than spend the 15 minutes of googling and thinking that would allow them to do the job more efficiently and cheaply in the USA.
.
Unfortunately, in the USA, most managers have MBAs but nothing else, an education which seems to leave most of them with the ability to do almost anything financial except understand and run a business in real time.

Re:Not helpless, but uninterested and clueless (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220195)

And let's not forget that with 'smart processes and proper incentives', it's even cheaper yet to outsource.

Re:Not helpless, but uninterested and clueless (5, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220215)

An MBA is like a pilot's license where they only trained you to fly into the ground. With your grade being based on how quickly you can get to the ground.

wealth generation by industry (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220025)

When you hear about these compensation packages the execs are getting, it makes you wonder how far that could stretch if divided equitably amongst the workers.

The sad truth is that people don't seem to want to pay more for quality, they'll only pay more for fashion. When Macs were sold based on their utility, they eventually lost out to the up and coming Wintel systems that weren't as good but were a whole lot cheaper. The Mac CEO at the time was advised to cut the price and he said "No, people will pay for quality." No, they didn't. Not enough of them. And Mac didn't really make a comeback until Steve Jobs made them sexy again, made technology dance to the same tune as fashion. Suddenly Apple is chic and cool and people are happy to pay ridiculous gobs of money.

Go figure.

Re:wealth generation by industry (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220183)

To be fair, in Apple's tougher times, they were selling a lot of crappy products. OSX isn't just more "fashionable" than MacOS 9 was, it's a whole lot better.

Re:wealth generation by industry (1)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220225)

Completely true. Americans want cheap; they don't want quality. How else does Wal Mart make so much money? Most of its products are cheap, not of high quality. Everything is disposable, like a Bic razor. You pay next to nothing (relatively speaking) for it, so when it breaks, you just buy another one.
The problem is that labor is now being viewed the same way.

Re:wealth generation by industry (0, Flamebait)

markringen (1501853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220369)

luckily for you the rest of the world doesn't want cheap... nowhere in europe you will see products as cheaply made as in America. motherboards and electronics which don't even comply with EU law is being dumped in the US, so there is a big fat market out there for quality products and apple proves it.

Re:wealth generation by industry (1)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220897)

luckily for you the rest of the world doesn't want cheap...

Erm... I'm in South America here, and yes, we do want cheap. So does Asia last I heard (excluding Japan and the "tigers" I guess), and probably Africa too. What was the "rest of the world" you were talking about?

Re:wealth generation by industry (3, Insightful)

Lost Engineer (459920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220673)

The widening income gap has left a huge hole in consumer items, particularly durable goods. High end goods (ie durables that actually last) are many multiples of the price of cheaper goods. Somehow luxury and utility/durability have merged. If you don't believe me go try and buy a set of knives. Your choices are: a) bendy throwaway toys at walmart/target/whatever or b) half a paycheck at some kitchen boutique.

My policy now is that if something is supposed to last (and I can afford it or afford to do without it for a while) I make sure to buy well and buy once. It sucks though that I have to do so from brands and places that have outrageous markups though.

This is common sense! (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220031)

You know, if you treat your customers right and treat your employees right, you don't need (or want) to work off of price.

Just look at Nordstrom.

I remember a similar story in 1998, when I read an article (I still have clipped) from Fast Company Magazine (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/21/sanity.html) where they were exceptional to their employees. They had free onsite daycare, free clinics, a mandatory gym...

As a result, they were reported to keep thier employee turnover rates down, had happier customers and saved a bundle in the long run.

Dell's a great example. (4, Interesting)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220045)

They moved their first call center out of Austin not because their employees were demanding high wages, but because they'd so pissed off everyone even remotely technical in town that they couldn't hire anyone in the first place.
The great thing about following Dell is at least you know you're going to go into bankruptcy really, really slowly. I guess that's a business plan.

Re:Dell's a great example. (1)

Lost Engineer (459920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220715)

A dell bankruptcy would be tragic, in the literary sense. They will have driven computer prices so low as to put themselves out of business. However it ends, that is quite an accomplishment.

Universal health insurance (4, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220101)

In addition to these benefits, the company also offers world peace, satellite launches, and ponies.

Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220111)

...just ditch the regulations that drive companies overseas in the first place - minimum wage, and regulations based on political pull (e.g. govt-union partnerships), for starters.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (3, Insightful)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220247)

At the very least, minimum wage should be decided at the state or local level. What constitutes a "fair" minimum wage in B-F-Nowhere, Ohio sure as hell isn't a "fair" wage in New York City.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220645)

Uhh it is... Minimum wage in San Fran is higher than state minimum wage which is higher than federal minimum wage. Have you ever worked in your life before? I guess not because every business is required to have a bug federal/state minimum wage poster in the lunchroom. Federal mimimum wage is the bottom we as Americans are willing to let people work for. Small thing called standard of living. If you have ever seen that TV show 30 days where this guy tries to live on minimum wage for 30 days, you know it is nigh impossible.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220685)

Minimum wages are set locally. Large cities frequently have higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. The government's minimum wage is what is considered fair for an American, regardless of where you live in America. It's not really in the people's interest to create a serf class of actual Americans. At least with illegal immigrants you can deport them if they start causing trouble.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220817)

Columbus is hardly B-F-nowhere, Ohio. For Ohio, it's about the only place that's *anywhere* when it comes to jobs. For the rest of the US, though, you may have a point. The fact that New Yorkers choose to live in a city with grossly inflated costs of living just so that they can be smug about how sophisticated they are is their own problem. If you are making minimum wage in NYC, leave! The snobs will realize that they can't keep drawing 500,000 a year for a pedestrian job, when the garbage collectors are *demanding* 400,000 a year because all but a few have left town. The bubble just might burst on that little slice of ridiculous, but minimum wage legislation won't help it out one bit in the meantime.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220553)

Yeah stupid regulations like OSHA, pesky workman's compensation and disability. Great until you get hurt on the job and have to take a minumum wage job at mcdonalds. Oh yeah there is no minimum wage so you will be dumpster diving from the McDonalds trashcan for dinner!

You must be a conservative trust fund kid.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220637)

Yeah stupid regulations like OSHA, pesky workman's compensation and disability

You must work in construction. Strawman construction.

Re:Keeping jobs in the US is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220663)

There's a reason why Mexican and Chinese factory workers are so much cheaper. And it's not just because those countries are overpopulated, and wages are driven down. It's because they don't have even the most basic of labor safety laws. You know, those regulations you so despise.

That's why it's not surprising to visit a Mexican factory, and find a worker dead from a piece of metal hitting him on the head, or a worker with no genitals because acid splashed onto his penis and scrotum.

India isn't as bad, but they still have computer programmers working far too many hours per week.

But America should be above that. Regulations are part of what makes America a First World country, rather than a Third World country. Get rid of regulations, and America will soon be like Mexico.

Once I did (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220171)

Really.
Once I had a hamster.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

CWA 1701 (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220205)

I know at IBM, most mainframe operators (including myself) made over $100k. It wasn't that hard. IBM just worked us to death, and paid us time and a half over 40. When you're working 12-hours a day 7 days a week (84 hours), the dollars add up ($27 RG, $41.50 OT). Add in the fact that I worked the night shift at the time, so I literally couldn't spend the money I was making. I left after a few years.

I imagine a call-center like this is counting those 6-figure salaries in the same way. They pay their top employees to work 70 / 80 hours a week.

Google the title. I agree that any company that gets a union deserves one.

Suprise! They are a collection agency. (1)

wernox1987 (1362105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220221)

Those great salaries are likely paid to the employees most willing to berate someone into giving them their kids lunch money.

Commission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29220517)

Collectors get a commission on what they collect. They frequently break the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, bully people into paying things that they don't owe, and in some cases, outright fraud - demanding a checking account number and then taking everything even if it's more than what's owed.

Meh (1)

Niris (1443675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220271)

I work for a subcontracted dispatching company for Dish Network technicians called Linkus, and I can honestly say customer service would be a Hell of a lot better if they actually paid us more for the bullshit we have to deal with on a daily basis, and stopped trying to fit more tasks in for us to do on top of the already horribly busy day. As it stands, it's a dollar over minimum an hour to work a 10 hour day of listening to yelling customers, angry technicians, recording stat information from jobs, and making a precall just to say "Hello, your technician is on his way" and get some customer who wants to share their life story, which sucks because you cant hang up on them. Most of the time we don't even bother to call customers when a tech is running a bit late because it's just a solid bitchfest, and the pay isn't worth it, aside from the constant "do this or we're going to fire you!" attitude of the managers. Systems set up to treat employees like cattle seem to only work decently in other countries, which just makes me even more angry with whoever makes the decisions on how to run things, and whether to outsource or not.

Check back in 5 years (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220321)

Much like the rest of the IT industry, mediocracy will become the norm and rewarded with ever growing salaries until the business becomes unsustainable and goes under. HR, diversity requirements and threat of lawsuits will not allow for an elite class of worker who makes exorbitantly more money, forcing the bar to be lowered.

Only works when customer service actually matters (4, Insightful)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220609)

There was a brief time when companies considered high-quality customer service to be a competitive edge. This lasted from the beginning of large-scale DP in the 1970s until sometime in the early 1990s when most industries started to see customer service as a cost to be reduced.

If you've already made a decision to provide crap customer service (an MBA would call it "minimizing service cost to the extent feasible"), it is cheaper to do this from locations with low labor costs. Most companies still prefer to provide crap customer service, and if you call almost any company selling cable, wireless, credit card, satellite, ISP service, banking, or insurance of any kind this is what you're likely to get.

I presume that iQor is working with clients in high-value segments where high-quality customer service still matters. At this point, such a market is relatively small. There's no doubt it costs more, because you have to be able to retain the good reps, which means you can't put as much pressure on them to meet quotas, and you have to pay them more, and generally put up with things like doctor visits and bathroom breaks that drive down productivity. And you have to hire managers who actually know how to manage and motivate people. Compared to low-wage offshore locations, you end up paying 10x or 20x as much per call (I'm guessing).

The wireless places and the banks and credit cards aren't, at this point, willing to do this. They model how much churn they're going to get, and what it will cost them, and decide that it isn't worth it. So it's a niche, where if you've sold someone a $20,000 injection molding machine or something, you feel more compelled to have someone on the phone who can actually figure out when it's going to ship.

I'm not convinced that that changes anything, because niches by their nature do not scale well.

And I don't think that my cell phone company is going to start having live humans making $30 an hour answer 611 calls on the second ring, either.

iQor a call center? (1)

KraftDinner (1273626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220635)

Unless this is a completely different iQor(I don't think it is) then they aren't exactly a call center. My company creates software for use by clients and collection agencies and they are one of our collections agencies we work with.

Nickel chasing scumbags, IMHO (2, Informative)

Obstin8 (827030) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220681)

Our cable company (Rogers) decided to bill us for a non-existent mobile phone account, apparently because the phone subscriber's last name and ours were similar. Spent months talking/fighting/threatening Rogers to get them to cease attributing these bills to us, and we finally succeeded.

Fast forward 6 months, and all of a sudden we're swamped with 5-6 automated voice messages daily (!) from Iqor. They'd obviously bought the bad paper and were trying to collect. I called them back and explained the situation, and the nice, reasonable, well-paid agent said they would clear it up internally and stop contacting us.

Fast forward another year, and we've only recently stopped being harrassed by these dirtbags. It was an unending litany of lies from their agents, off-hour calls, up to a dozen automated calls per day, etc., etc. Only when I asked them for all documentation pertaining to the alleged debt, their legal Canadian address where they could be served, and declared my intent to file suit and/or lodge complaints with every authority I could contemplate did they finally manage to stop the calls.

Rogers and Iqor - a fucking scumbag match made in heaven!

HP Way (2, Interesting)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220689)

Even HP/Agilent have lost their way after the founders left. Back in the 50's-80's when the founders still called the shots they valued people (down to the janitors), treated them well, and fostered an environment that was aimed at excellence (i.e. you were inspired to keep up with your coworkers, not constantly dragged down to their level). Once the MBA's got in charge it has been steadily downhill.

The lure to cut costs vs. the hard to quantify benefits of nurturing employees through creating a rewarding work environement is one few business majors who have not come up through the ranks can appreciate. Sadly it feels like virtually all corporate cultures have succumb to the dark side.

I used to work 60 hour weeks happily, but having been outright screwed by too many MBA driven nickel and diming fiascos I no longer do. I work my 8 hours and go home, keeping my head down the whole time. I pour my creative juices into home projects instead of unrewarding work ones (3 industrial sewing machine actually come close to the fun of microwave IC design, who'd of thunk?).

"companies" may get a clue - executives won't. (3, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220697)

I hope one day people will realize that most executives (in publicly-traded companies) DON'T have the companies', the investors' or the employees' interests at heart. Most of these executives gained their position due to crafty manipulation and NOT by actually, really improving a product or product line, increasing profitability or market share. But they were and will be always great at presenting their (short or very short term) results in the best light possible, and excellent at knowing and manipulating the right people.

This breed of executives will outsource to poor countries (thus providing a short-term, fleeting increase in margins), lower salaries and/or fire employees at home (thus providing a short-term, fleeting increase in margins) and eliminate R&D and products/services (thus providing a short-term, fleeting increase in margins) - which will look good for a short while. Long enough to get a new promotion or a job at another company, after cashing in.

Please do yourself a favor and have a glance at this book. [amazon.com]

And then what? (2, Interesting)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29220901)

This whole offshore call center crap may, as a practical matter, push Congress too far one day. Which is to say, push (us, lower-case note) Americans who vote for cretins too far one day.

Sooner or later a power-hungry politician will come along and note, loudly and rhetorically, that some businesses are turning into giant wads of foreign money using computers and hirelings to harass Americans by phone call, from outside the country.

What happens then is anybody's guess. If I could insert an "eating popcorn" emoticon here, I would.

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