A New View of an Employment Mainstay

Cubicle pools, hundreds of workers chatting into headphones, and tapping on screens – that’s the typical image of the call center job. In Maine, call centers also bring to mind a history of employment surges and layoffs. However, during the month of February, call center jobs in Maine have made their way back into the spotlight. With a current bill in Maine’s legislature that could affect the future of businesses who employ call center workers, it’s the perfect to time take a second look at this sometimes underappreciated sector of the Maine economy.

Retaining Maine’s Jobs

The bill under consideration in Maine would require businesses with call center employees to notify the state before off-shoring their jobs and penalize them if they did so. Organizations moving call center jobs overseas and out of Maine would face losing grants and tax benefits. They would also risk bad publicity – part of the bill includes publicizing those Maine employers who have relocated jobs. (Read bill SP0676, LD 1710).

While labor union members have come out in support for the bill, others have expressed misgivings about adding additional burdens to companies conducting business in or eyeing a move to the state. And, businesses have concerns about finding labor if the bill passes. In nearby New Hampshire, the Senate recently turned down tax breaks for businesses with call centers in the state.

Serving customers is good for business in all economic times, and call center jobs have weathered the economic storm. The contribution made by call centers across the cities and towns where they make their home is significant, especially in Maine, where 20,000 individuals depend on their call center jobs to keep their families and the economy running. Large call center employers in the state include L.L. Bean and Fairpoint, Bank of America, and T Mobile. In New Hampshire, Comcast employs over 500 call center employers at its Manchester site. The average pay for call center jobs for temporary employees runs from $480 to $500 per week, and for permanent hires, pay rates can be over $15 per hour.

Job Seekers: Saying “Yes” to Call Centers

For individuals in the region who make their living in customer service, call center jobs are part of the fabric of their communities. In fact, the reputation of call center jobs is burnished – more competition, better work conditions, and rewarding job experience add up to valuable employment opportunities for tens of thousands of our area workers.
Today’s call centers in Maine and New Hampshire have many advantages for job seekers. Those in the job market steering clear of CSR and call center jobs could be overlooking an important opportunity. Call center jobs feed families, and they can also fill a hole in a resume, help get a foot in the door with a large employer, and provide solid work experience.

Advantages of Today’s Call Center Jobs

No pitching.
Many organizations require employees to take incoming calls only, which means no sales. Call center employees may deal with customer issues, take orders, provide information about products, or even perform duties like scheduling transportation or answering client questions.

Skills building.
While some jobs require customer service experience, for those entering the job market without practical experience, call center job provides experience, solid reference for good work, and a foot in the door with large companies. (Companies usually offer periods of paid training prior to regular work.) Call centers can be perfect for graduates with a degree but no job experience, for instance.

Shift work.
Most call centers offer 24-hour shifts, and for workers willing to take 2nd or 3rd shift work, the pay can be much higher. Call centers offer a best-case scenario when 9-5 is not an option. Temporary work and temp-to-hire are also common for call center jobs, especially if you sign on with a quality staffing company.

Positive work environment.
With competition higher, companies are looking to attract quality workers that will put a positive face on their company. They do that by providing rewarding work experience, including a better workplace environment, benefits, incentives, salary increases for performance, and job mobility.

Better odds.
In Maine and New Hampshire, large organizations often put out the call for multiple CSR positions when listing jobs with a staffing company, making a landing that job easier. For example, BONNEY Staffing works with well-regarded companies to help them fill multiple positions at a time in areas such as Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, Wiscasset, Rockland, and Augusta.

If your idea of call center jobs is dated, you may need to update your thinking. It’s time to value call center jobs for what they are – a job opportunity with many advantages. Depending on the bill in the Maine legislature, the need to attract local workers could urge even more improvements to this undervalued job description.

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