Maine's Contact Center Jobs Remain Despite Closings
February 29, 2012
With contact centers in Maine opening, closing and changing rapidly, some may think contact centers are an unpredictable industry. Data from state and national sources, however, show that the number of jobs in the call center industry has remained steady in Maine over the last ten years and is even on a national long-term upswing.
According to an article in The Bangor Daily News, Paul Stockford, research director for the National Association of Call Centers said that in 2002, there were a lot of layoffs, people in the industry without jobs and businesses suffered. Recently, Stockford’s research indicates that there are approximately 66,000 call centers in the U.S. that employ more than 3.5 million people.
Bank of America announced this week it will close its Orono, Maine facility in October, which will affect about 200 jobs. Companies such as MBNA, Global Contact Services of Pittsfield, Envisionet of Brunswick and ListenUp Contact Solutions in Westbrook have done the same over the years. Still, the number of contact center employees in Maine has remained steady, according to Department of Labor spokesman Adam Fisher.
“The work force here is the magnet that attracts jobs. It’s the glue that holds businesses in a particular region,” said Fisher.
The Main Department of Labor has its own contact center but those jobs are classified under “government” for data-collecting purpose. Data provided by Fisher show that since 2002, there have been swings up and down, peaking at more than 9,300 jobs in 2009, but that overall the number of contact center jobs has remained at more than 8,100 jobs for the past decade.
Companies new to Maine also have entered the fray, such as T-Mobile (News - Alert) and Carbonite Inc., which provides data security for computer users. Carbonite, which opened a customer support center in Lewiston last summer, now employs about 150 people there. Erin Delaney, a spokeswoman for the Boston-based company, said there were several reasons why Carbonite chose Maine after years of outsourcing its contact centers to other countries.
Another company in Maine’s contact center industry is retailer L.L. Bean, with about 2,000 employees spread across three call centers in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor. Company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said the centers are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. She said the decision to locate call centers within the state stemmed from the company’s commitment to Maine.
“As the way the customers communicate with us changed from mail and phone, then phone and Internet, and now mostly Internet, there has always been a specific function [in Bean’s customer service department] that is a priority for our company,” she said.
There are significant changes on the horizon for the contact center industry due partially to social media websites and increasing use of technology such as email and electronic chatting. The concentration of contact centers in Maine is because of the state’s low cost of living, high quality of life and abundance of people looking for jobs. Running about 9,000 jobs in contact centers, Fisher said the contact center industry in Maine is important to the state’s economy, representing about 1.5 percent of the total work force.
Edited by Rich Steeves
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