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Report: To Compete, Canadian Call Center Industry Needs to Make Changes

March 03, 2008

Changes are needed to the call center industry in Canada, especially in the “call center capital” of New Brunswick. That’s according to analysis by economists from the region.
CBC News said in a Monday report that Canadian economists think a variety of factors—including global competition, high value of the Canadian dollar and a tight labor market—are forcing the call center industry to reshape itself.

The report quoted consultant David Campbell who think New Brunswick should put more emphasis on attracting hedge fund and financial services focused call centers, as Nova Scotia has done. The advantage of that strategy? Such call centers pay larger salaries.
If New Brunswick wants to become “self sufficient,” the CBC News report quoted Campbell as saying, what’s needed is an end to incentives for call centers that pay employees $10-$12 tops per hour. Because unemployment is now quite low, he said, jobs are needed that will contribute more taxes to cover government services.
How high would wages need to be for that to happen? In the CBC News report, Campbell said what’s needed are jobs that pay at least $40,000-$50,000 per year. Without that level of wages, he added, New Brunswick can’t attract former residents or immigrants.
While Canada used to be viewed as an ideal location for call centers, the CBC News article said, citing information from a Statistics Canada report, but this is now changing. Competition is now strong from areas like India and China. For Canada, call centers can no longer be just about cheap labor; instead, a focus on value-added skills is necessary.
In the CBC News report, ContactNB director Mike Bacon was quoted as saying that about 22,000 New Brunswick workers are employed at call centers there. Call centers contribute about $1 billion each year to the area’s economy. ‘

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Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for ContactCenterSolutions, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for ContactCenterSolutions here.