Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

New York Call Center Closure Bill Now Law

December 30, 2014

Dealing with a call center is a frightening concept for many out there. Calling someone who may be nowhere near the location of the problem in question, who has no idea of local conditions, who may not even speak the same language—or at least not in the same way—as the caller in question can be a daunting experience. But a new bill recently signed into law in New York may help on at least some of that front, as there are now specific procedures to follow should a gas or electric company have plans to shut down a local call center.

The new law, according to Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, will ensure a “formal comment period” to allow for full discussion on issues around such a closing before said closing can take place. Until that formal comment period concludes, call centers aren't allowed to close or be moved, a move that should at least temporarily preserve jobs and keep customers happy. The new law will allow the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to offer up an open forum that makes customers the focus, rather than the needs and desires of the business in question. This isn't Cahill's first contact with the call center market, either; back in 2010, Cahill was also seen working on legislation in which the PSC was required to convene an open hearing should a call center be slated for relocation or closure.

There's certainly value in an approach like this; people need that means to make contact with a business, and businesses need a way to provide the best in customer service. As we've discovered over the course of the last several years, that often doesn't end up being the case when calls are routed somewhere with English spoken almost begrudgingly and in accents difficult to understand at best. But by like token, Cahill's move here seems to be little more than a speed bump for companies; does anyone believe that this open comment period, or the produce of same, will actually change much of anything, particularly when it comes to gas and electric providers? The nature of such firms generally affords these firms monopoly status over a region, which is why often these become “public utilities.” Starting up an electric company is profoundly difficult; just try running that much wire over a region. So should the electric company decide to move a call center, particularly when done for reasons of improving profitability or the like by changing locales, will the outcry of its customer base stop much of anything? It may, of course; few companies actually crave a negative image. But for a firm whose customer base is all but assured by law, well, it may not work out quite that well.

Naturally, it's going to be a while before we see the fullest impact of this law on the community as a whole. The first time a call center gets ready to move, and should there be any subsequent moves, that will be when the power of this move shows its full force. Will it keep jobs in a region? Will it improve customer service in the area? Or will it ultimately prove to be a band-aid measure, offering very little in the way of actual protection but making the customer base “feel good” about having a means to potentially change a company's move?

Edited by Maurice Nagle