In their August 2011 press release, the jobs4america coalition announced that they are committed to creating 100,000 US-based call center jobs within the next two years. That’s a lot of jobs! And guess what… those jobs are for work-at-home agents.
I have written several times about this trend and it appears that the trend continues very strongly although it is not widely publicized. Some people have asked, why are they (the coalition) – and many other companies – now able to do this? Three reasons; first is that the ROI of offshore call centers is no longer compelling, second is that customer backlash due to off-shore issues has been severe, and third is because broadband technology is now readily available.
Quoting jobs4amerca’s website, “Accounting and consulting giant BDO USA recently reported sharp cuts in the use of offshore contact centers by U.S. tech companies. A BDO survey of 100 CFOs found that just 12% of firms currently maintain offshore contact centers or help desks. That’s a dramatic drop from 35% in 2009 and 19% last year.”
It goes on to say “There is tremendous room for growth for the U.S. contact center sector. The Philippines will earn $5.7 billion and India will earn $5.5 billion for contact center work this year from the U.S., Europe and Australia, according to the Everest Group. The two hub countries account for about half of the $21 billion global industry, according to Everest data. According to Datamonitor, an estimated 243,000 offshore agents currently handle calls from U.S. consumers.”
Will jobs4america’s effort help customers get better service? Yes. Will this help the unemployment rate in America? Yes. Will this help the economy. Yes. Will this help businesses reduce and/or manage risks? Yes. And will it help people lead productive healthier lives? Yes.
So what? This all seems logical and reasonable, but what is the REAL impact?
Doing some very basic calculations at the rep level, if each new work-at-home customer service rep is paid $30,000/yr and they pay taxes on their income of approximately 20% (state and federal), then governments would collect approximately $600,000,000 new taxes annually. OK, we have trillions of dollars in deficits so $600,000,000 seems like a rain drop in an ocean, but it is better than a sharp stick in the eye – as some of my British friends say.
Remember too that this illustration does not include the money each of these work-at-home agents would spend in their local economies, which would also generate state and local sales taxes, encourage business growth, and help lower secondary unemployment.
Let’s take this thinking another very simplistic step forward. How about corporate social responsibility and carbon footprint?
Assume that each customer service rep – if working in an in-house call center – drove in their own mid-sized car about 30 miles roundtrip each day to get to and from work, they work 5 days per week, and they work 50 weeks per year (two weeks for vacation). Now assume that each car gets about 25 miles per gallon and that gasoline costs $3.50 per gallon.
If that same customer service rep used to go to an in-house call center but now is a work-at-home agent, they would:
Save 300 gallons of gas (eqiv. to 15 barrels of oil) or $1,050 in consumer gasoline costs each year
Stop emitting about 4.1 tons of CO2 each year
Multiply this by 100,000 (new work-at-home US agents) and we get:
Saving 30,000,000 gallons of gas (equiv. to 1,500,000 barrels of oil) and the associated consumer gasoline costs of $105,000,000
Stop emitting about 410,000 tons of CO2 per year
As a reference point, an acre of mature trees can absorb about 2 tons of CO2 per year, so for each year that customer service rep drives to and from their job at an in-house call center, about 2 acres of mature trees need to work very hard to absorb the emitted CO2. For people who like to visualize information, an acre is about the size of a football field.
This means that each customer service rep driving to and from their in-house job, needs two acres of mature trees each year to offset their CO2 emissions. And all 100,000 new work-at-home customer service agents save the equivalent of 205,000 football fields of trees – or – the entire size of San Diego or one-and-a-half times the size of Chicago worth of mature trees.
Of course this is all very simplified, but I think you get the point that on-shore work-at-home business models are a good combined trend.
Taking this forward a bit, it is clear that broadband and other advanced technologies are changing our lives in more ways than customer service. Education, consultations, meetings, whole businesses, etc. no now longer need to rely on the traditional bricks and mortar approach to their models.
So the big question is – what will happen to our cities when we ALL become work-at-homers? And, wouldn’t you like to live in your favorite place and still earn a nice living in your chosen profession?© 2011 Mary Ann Markowicz