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Contact Center Employment Growth Indicates Potential for a Strong 2012


If you haven’t already seen this clip from ABC World News, it’s worth watching.

It underscores the fact that despite an overall unemployment rate that exceeds nine percent in the U.S. as of this writing, the U.S. contact center industry continues to enjoy a record of employment growth that includes a net gain in employment every quarter for the past nine quarters.  I am not aware of any other industry or market segment that can boast this sort of growth as the U.S. continues to struggle through a very difficult period of post-recession economic recovery.

Through our association with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi, Saddletree Research has access to employment data gathered at the University’s Call Center Lab and compiled by students.  This highly accurate data lists, on a company-by-company basis, which organizations are hiring and which are downsizing, and by how many employees.

As illustrated in the table below, there have been two spikes in employment during the last six quarters, the most recent occurring in the second quarter of this year.  These employment spikes are likely indicators of the return of business to third party outsourcers that may have been suspended or reduced during the recession.  If we look at the top ten contact centers adding agents during the second quarter of 2011, 60 percent are third party outsourcers.

Figure 1: U.S. Contact Center Industry Growth by Quarter, 2010 – First Half 2011


    Calendar Quarter                                               Jobs Gained

Q1 ’10                                                             1,643

Q2 ’10                                                                649

Q3 ’10                                                             3,929

Q4 ’10                                                             9,695

Q1 ’11                                                             1,740

Q2 ’11                                                            11,787

There is no indication at this point that a slowdown in hiring should be expected anytime soon.  In a study of end-user intentions for 2012 that Saddletree Research is conducting with the NACC, early results indicate over 40 percent of respondents intend to add agents to their headcount in 2012.  51 percent of respondents intend to keep headcount steady and replace agents as they leave during the course of normal turnover.  Fewer than six percent of respondent companies plan to reduce headcount in 2012.

This expected growth bodes well for contact center solutions suppliers.  Unlike the recession of 2002, the recent recession did not result in surplus equipment for most contact centers.  Having learned a hard lesson about neglecting and downsizing the customer service function during the 2002 recession, contact centers did not make the same mistake in ’07 – ’09.  As a result, we expect to see demand for solutions such as workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics increase along with the growth in industry employment.

As the rest of the economy continues to struggle, it is clear that the contact center industry has turned the corner and is in expansion mode.  We believe the industry’s employment growth is an indicator of a strong year ahead for the contact center industry as a whole.

1 Comment

It's nice to see some numbers posted about the increase in contact center hirings. I found this post interesting as I am one of those individuals who sits in a call center cubicle and assists Cisco clients. I think it is great that an expansion of this industry is taking place during one of the most difficult economic times the United States has been through. I think it would also behoove Cisco not only to keep its growth inside and outsides North America, but to engage emerging markets in the former Soviet Union where a pool of linguistically talented individuals exist and can support the grown of Cisco as a company worldwide. Several IT parks are being established throughout the aforementioned region and if Cisco enters into that marketplace, it will have a more dominant strategy that it already possesses. Just a thought.

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