As anyone with a phone knows, telemarketing is alive and well in America.
"Contrary to popular opinion, all (call center) jobs are not being shipped off to India," notes Jim Moylan, president of CallCenterJobs.com, an online source for employment in the industry. "There certainly are opportunities (stateside) in telemarketing."
Still, "the United States has lost 250,000 call center jobs to India and the Philippines since 2001," reports Brianna Clark, manager of member communications with American Teleservices Association.
The job drift overseas has hardly put a damper on call center job growth back home. This field, which involves some of the fastest-growing industries in the nation’s economy, will expand by 27.8 percent and add more than 4.5 million new jobs in the next ten years.
Terry Carpenter of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency points out that call centers are always hiring and expanding. "Prospects for obtaining a job in this field are expected to be excellent, with more job openings than jobseekers," she announces. "Bilingual jobseekers in particular may enjoy favorable job prospects. In addition to many new openings occurring as businesses and organizations expand, numerous job openings will result from the employees switching to other jobs."
Dial into Advancement
Although these are generally entry-level positions, the training allows employees to move up in the organization. "Telemarketing is a great way to get your foot in the door," Carpenter asserts. "If you are good at it you can go into various areas. Most of the call centers are Fortune 500 companies with great benefit packages and, with the rising cost of medical insurance, that perk is terrific."
Since so many business rely on people who can initiate or answer a large volume of calls, jobseekers can choose from a variety of services, schedules and working conditions. The biggest question is whether you are more interested in pitching a product or providing a service. Do you want to work in a phone operation where you call businesses or individuals to generate sales – or would you prefer to answer incoming calls that are more customer service-oriented?
Clark says she is definitely seeing growth in business-to-business calling and customer service, as opposed to traditional telemarketing. "Technical support and other related fields, that fall under inbound telemarketing, are showing huge growth. The largest numbers of telemarketers are employed by insurance carriers, agencies and brokerages, and banks and credit unions. About one in eight customer service representatives are employed in administrative and support services."
Call centers are growing all over the nation, with approximately 7 million customer service representatives handling calls in 70,000 locations. The reps are concentrated in business support services and employment services, which include temporary help and placement agencies. One in eight customer service representatives is employed in retail trade establishments, such as general merchandise, food and beverage, or non-store retailers.
Customer service reps who work in call centers are concentrated geographically in four states. California, Texas, Florida and New York employ 30 percent of the nation’s phone-based CSRs.
The number of call centers tends to mimic population density, so bigger cities are fertile ground. In recent years, for example, there has been an influx of huge companies moving their call centers to Sacramento. The list includes SBC, AT&T, Comcast, Earthlink, Verizon, Bank of America, Vision Service Plan, The Gap, Fed Ex, Kaiser Permanente, Mercury Insurance and more.
In Sacramento alone there are up to 300 openings per month for call center workers. Many of them go unfilled because there are not enough trained people to fill the positions.
Of course, by the very nature of the work, you don’t have to live in any particular region, since many firms will let you work from home.
"Yes, it’s true, more people are working from home," Moylan confirms. "A telemarketer, or better yet, phone sales and service people, can select their own hours by carefully selecting the company with whom they choose to work. Some companies offer more flexible hours." However, for phone workers on the service side of the business, periods of highest demand dictate the schedule.
Various schools and colleges are developing new courses in call center management to keep up with the changing demands and technologies.
The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency recruits employees for the various call centers and offers assistance in breaking into this volatile field.
"The Elk Grove Unified School District offers call-center customer-service training," advises Carpenter. "The six-week course focuses on multitasking, telephone skills, proper ways to handle customer complaints, email, Internet and strong Windows-based skill sets."
There is no charge for eligible applicants, but you do have to be a Sacramento County resident. Prospective applicants can call the Sacramento Works Career Center at (916) 689-3560. For opportunities in other areas, go to JobStar.org, and click on Career Centers.