"Where Should You Locate Your Call Center?"
Call Center Magazine (NY,NY)
MAY 2, 2005
By Joe Fleischer and Jennifer O'Herron
When you establish training and development plans for an agent, you do more than improve the prospects for an individual's career; you potentially raise the expectations, and perhaps even the standard of living, for lots of people.
As you consider whether to open, close or relocate your call center, your most important criterion is the people you employ. As a recent report by the real estate company Trammell Crow (Dallas, TX), advises: It's essential to consider not only a single factor, such as geographic location, but also qualifications and skills of prospective workers, as well as issues such as availability of space, language and political stability.
Indeed, for businesses that stake their reputations on service, site selection is a misnomer. These businesses aren't choosing locations; they're choosing communities and workforces.
We've already commented on the evolution of measurement in call centers to encompass more than the number of calls agents handle. Quality matters, whether you're referring to the work of individuals or communities. In call centers, the big trend that John Boyd, president of site selection consultancy Boyd & Company (Princeton, NJ), observes is "a return to quality."
Steve Demmings, president of consultancy Site Selection Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), agrees. "You've got to create value beyond the operational savings," he says. That value comes from productivity, which entails a lot more than reducing labor costs.
Countries have low labor costs relative to others when they produce less, in terms of goods and services. If your company's sole aim is to lower the cost of labor, it is, in effect, seeking to lower its productivity in the short term. Conversely, as countries like India and China produce more goods and services, they generate more income and, over time, the monetary value of the work of their labor forces increases. This is the case whether you're comparing labor forces among countries, or among regions of the same country, like states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada.
Whether your company's site selection decisions are global or local in scope, they affect you and your colleagues, so it's essential to know about developments that drive these decisions. This article outlines key trends, and refers to several regions as examples to illustrate these trends, in terms of how companies choose locations and workforces for call centers within and outside the U.S. The biggest trend we highlight is that companies are developing a more multi-faceted approach to selecting communities from where they seek agents. This is an important point that applies to you whether your company is actively considering new or different sites for its call centers, or might do so in the near future.
Progress Through Productivity
To employers, a good agent is a productive agent. To gauge how productive agents are, call centers need to recognize the difference between the tools they provide to agents to enable them to do their jobs, and skills and traits that agents offer.
Companies often conflate efficiencies they gain from technology with the productivity of employees. In call centers, agents derive some productivity from phone switches, automated dialers, software for looking up customers' information and knowledge bases that contain answers to customers' questions -- but only up to a point. Over time, as these tools become available to more call centers, technology alone isn't always enough to distinguish one center from another.
Agents don't bring phone switches or dialers with them to work; they use the tools with which call centers furnish them. If we are to pinpoint what makes a workforce well-suited to call centers, we need to separate a call center's proficiency with implementing technology from the capabilities that agents possess.
In essence, call center site selection is pre-hire assessment on a large scale. When your company selects a community from where it recruits its workforce, details such as wages, taxes and real estate costs are important, but they aren't the only variables to consider. Businesses have to gauge whether people within a given community have the desire to serve customers, and whether they can advance their quality of life by doing so. That's why, for example, Demmings observes that both jobseekers and employers in Canada are primarily interested in inbound call centers.
"Nobody wants outbound," he says. "Why put the stress on your workforce?"
Recognizing that quality of work intertwines with quality of life, organizations such as the United Nations, as well as the research arm of the magazine The Economist , have devised indices of human development that factor in non-monetary metrics, like life expectancy, school enrollment and literacy, in addition to metrics that reflect income and purchasing power. The U.S. and Canada generally rank among the top ten countries in the U.N.'s human development index. (With the exception of 2003, Canada has ranked ahead of the U.S., and fourth or higher overall, on the U.N.'s index during this decade.)
How should companies choose workforces? Before we answer this question, we should address a misperception about offshoring. In recent years, the practice of offshoring has received a lot of negative public attention in the U.S.; the perception is that Americans are losing jobs because companies seek savings by employing lower-cost labor overseas.
But these perceptions don't always take into account the percentage of business services that the U.S. outsources. According to an article in the December 2004 issue of Finance and Development , a quarterly magazine from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if you consider how much outsourcing a country engages in as a percentage of what it produces overall in goods and services, then, in this sense India actually outsources more services than the U.S. does. The business services that the U.S. outsourced overseas accounted for 0.4% of goods and services the U.S. produced in 2003; for India, that percentage was 2.5%.
Indeed, as the article explains, countries with small economies have a greater need to outsource business services that they don't or can't provide domestically; the amount of business services they import represents a much larger share of what they produce. The value of the business services Angola imported in 2003, for example, represented 44.5% of its overall economy that year.As the article in Finance and Development also points out, the U.S. exports far more services than it imports. If you look at the difference between the value of services countries export and import, the U.K. and the U.S. had the highest net surpluses; they ranked first and second, respectively, in these surpluses in 2003. (India was fourth and Hong Kong was third.)
Moreover, the country from which the U.S. primarily imports business services isn't a low-wage country like India; the largest recipient of these services is Canada. Demmings acknowledges this is indeed the case not only with outsourcing, but also in terms of where non-Canadian businesses locate call centers in Canada. "The deals being done are still primarily by American companies," he says.
Boyd finds that currency exchange rates can, to some extent, influence where companies locate call centers. Part of Canada's appeal, although certainly not the main reason American companies locate in Canada, is the lower value of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar. (The gap between the currencies is shrinking; at press time, one Canadian dollar was equivalent to $0.82.)
Similarly, businesses based outside the U.S. factor in the strength of their currencies when deciding where to locate. That's why, for example, Boyd says that due to the recent drop in the value of the U.S. dollar, more German companies are considering the U.S. as a place to locate their call centers.
The nature of outsourcing is undergoing a change as well. According to an article in the March 5th edition of The Economist , non-IT outsourcing is undergoing the most rapid growth, especially the outsourcing of human resources.
And in the end, it's human resources, or rather, human capital that matters most. The Economist's March 5th issue includes a survey of China and India by Simon Long. In a sidebar titled "It's the People, Stupid," Long notes that India's population is on track to emerge as the world's largest within about 30 years, and points out that "in other Asian countries, the bulge in the working-age population that India is now experiencing brought rapid economic growth." But he also cautions: "For India to achieve the same, however, it needs to educate its children better."
An educated workforce is a more productive workforce. Education need not be a requirement of working in a call center, but an agent with a high school or college education is more likely to communicate better than an agent with a lower level of education. Companies can easily create incentives for agents to develop skills beyond what they receive through on-the-job training or experience.
"More and more of our clients are including tuition reimbursement," says Boyd. Companies often prefer to locate call centers in or near college towns to offer agents opportunities to enhance their education and, in effect, their productivity. For example, Halifax, located in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, is what Demmings terms "a young person's city," as it has five different universities located within 45 minutes of one another. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the outsourcer Convergys employs tech support reps, Demmings says the reps have their tuition paid for at the University of Manitoba.
As is true with the number of calls you handle, the number of agents you employ isn't the best indicator of how productive your center is. It's the quality of the work that matters most. When you offer agents the chance to develop their skills, you improve the quality of the service customers receive and your call center's value to your business.
Population: Asset or Cost?
In wealthy countries, like in the U.S. and Canada, the population is an asset because it can be a productive labor force.
Las Vegas and Tucson are U.S. locations that Boyd cites as appealing to call centers specifically because of their growing populations. Nevada, which is well-known for having no personal or corporate income taxes, is especially intriguing because it is accompanying its growth in population with economic growth. According to Nevada's own demographic data, between 1990 and 2004, Nevada's population doubled from 1.2 million to 2.4 million people. About 70% of Nevada's residents live in Clark County, in which Las Vegas is located. That city alone accounts for 23% of the state's population.
And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), between 2000 and 2003 (the most recent years for which estimates are available), Nevada was second only to Wyoming in productivity growth, in terms of providing goods and services. The largest contributors to Nevada's economic growth were financial services, trade and, not surprisingly, travel and leisure.
In the U.S. and in Canada, companies are seeking out cities that are large enough to accommodate call centers, but that aren't so large that they're either saturated with call centers or unable to sustain an ongoing expansion of their workforces. These cities generally have populations that exceed 100,000 and that have a high rate of population growth.
One such place is the second-largest city in Nevada; surprisingly, this city isn't Reno (the state's third-largest city), but rather Henderson, whose population has more than tripled from 1990 to 2004. Indeed, among cities with populations above 100,000, Henderson was among the ten fastest-growing cities in the U.S., according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census.
Henderson is also the site of Vegas.com's headquarters, which we recently visited (see sidebar below).
Henderson epitomizes the type of city that is attracting call centers, especially, as Boyd points out, if it already has call centers in place. This kind of city can be particularly desirable if it emerges as what Boyd terms a "regional center of influence." He cites Sioux Falls, SD, where Citibank has a call center, as an example of such a city because the population it serves includes residents of neighboring states like Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. One could make a similar observation about Halifax, which is close to northeastern Maine, enabling it to attract not only American businesses, but also American workers.
Boyd cautions that at some point, a city's call center workforce does stop growing, and becomes saturated with too many call centers. "We don't recommend a city late in the curve," says Boyd. As a city becomes saturated with call centers, agents' wages go up because demand for agents exceeds the availability of agents in the local workforce.
In addition to factoring in wages, companies also have to consider a location's business climate. Boyd says he's seeing "heightened interest in states that have right-to-work legislation." Twenty-three, or nearly half, of U.S. states have right-to-work laws, which forbid companies from requiring employees to join unions as conditions of employment. A majority of these states are located in the South and Southwest; they also include two states we've mentioned so far, Nevada and South Dakota.
Employee compensation, in the form of wages and benefits, accounts for the majority of companies' costs. In 2004, according to the BEA, employee compensation accounted for 56.5% of the U.S.'s economy. But taxes and real estate costs matter, too. Boyd says that one reason Royal Caribbean chose to locate a new call center in Springfield, OR, was that it does not have an interstate telecom tax.
In terms of real estate, Boyd says that some companies are co-locating call centers within warehouses because the lease rates in a warehouse can be, in, say, the Northeast U.S., as low as $5 or $6 per square foot, and even lower in other parts of the country. (By contrast, says Boyd, lease rates for Class B office space, which describes the typical category of call center real estate, can be at least three times as much.) On a larger scale, Boyd says that part of the appeal of states in specific regions, like the Southeast and Southwest, is their low real estate costs relative to those of other parts of the U.S.
Compared to the U.S., which has a large economy and a large population, Canada's population of slightly more than 32 million, or 11% of the U.S.'s population, is much smaller. In terms of purchasing power, Canada's economy isn't large, either; it's about one-third the size of India's and about 9% the size of the economy of the U.S. But with regard to standard of living, Canada ranks among or near the top ten countries in the world. Canada also boasts among the world's highest literacy rates.
Canada's labor force is small; the number of Canadian workers, 17 million, is equivalent to 11% of the U.S.'s workforce. But jobs are available. At press time, Canada had 7% unemployment, slightly higher than the U.S.'s rate of 5.4%. As Demmings puts it, compared to many American locations, "we don't have the level of saturation." What Canada does offer is a diversity of cultures, an orientation toward customer service and excellent education.
In Canada, as in the U.S., the era of the mega-center has passed, as call centers are spreading their workforces among several mid-size cities. "There's a pronounced change in the size of deals," says Demmings, with the typical call center in these deals employing the equivalent of between 300 and 400 agents. Such centers pay agents between 12 and 13 Canadian dollars per hour, plus benefits. As Demmings points out, between 2002 and 2004, most Canadian provinces significantly increased the number of call center jobs they added. Ontario added the most call center jobs last year; that number was nearly 25,000, and it was more than double the number of call center jobs the province added in 2002. Among provinces that had call center jobs in 2002, those that have undergone the most growth in these jobs are Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
In rich countries like the U.S. and Canada, the population, be it large or small, is a source of productivity. But in poor countries like India, populations don't offer any guarantees of productivity unless the pace of economic growth significantly exceeds population growth.
To be precise about how we distinguish between rich and poor countries, we defer to the World Bank, which categorizes a country as "low-income" if its average income per person is $765 or lower. The World Bank categorizes a country as "high-income" if its average income per person is $9,386 or higher. By these definitions, India is a low-income country, whereas the U.S. and Canada are rich countries.
What is the relationship between productivity and population in poor countries with expanding economies? According to an article in the March 5th edition of The Economist, the value of the goods and services India produced between 1990 and 2003 grew at an annual average rate of 4%, while the population, which currently exceeds 1.1 billion people, is increasing at an average rate of 1.6% per year. Growth in the overall population, especially in India, where the average age is 26, has the potential to translate to a larger working-age labor force, and, ultimately, greater productivity and economic growth.
But what exactly is driving India's economic growth? A March 2005 background paper about India from the IMF points out that an increasing share of the country's productivity comes from services. These include business services like IT, as well as communications and financial services. As the paper points out, an expanding services sector isn't a phenomenon that's unique to India; such growth reflects the way economies generally mature from focusing on agriculture, then on industry and then on services.
Yet although India's services sector expanded at an average annual rate of 7.5% from 1991 to 2000, and, in effect, more than doubled during that decade, India still remains a poor country. As of 2003, based on data from the World Bank, the average income for Indians, in terms of purchasing power, was equivalent to nearly $2,900 a year. Americans earned, on average, nearly 13 times that income, and Canadians averaged ten times that income.
The good news is that in recent years, namely between 1999 and 2003, India has raised its standard of living because it has one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
According to the World Bank, India's gross domestic product (GDP), which is the annual value of all goods and services that people within India produce, is rising at a higher rate than worldwide GDP. In comparison with the world's rate of GDP growth, which was 1.9% and 2.6%, respectively, in 2002 and 2003, India's rate of GDP growth was 4.6% and 8% during these respective years.
Annual productivity growth in India is crucial, because single-digit differences in the annual rate of growth determine how long it takes India to emerge from being poor to slightly less poor.
To illustrate this notion, let's suppose that during the next ten years, India's population increases at, say, 1.95% per year. In 2003, India's workforce numbered 472 million people, according to The World Factbook , a publication of the U.S.'s Central Intelligence Agency. At a rate of 1.95%, India would need to generate enough business to create more than 100 million additional jobs over that span.
If, during the same ten-year period, India's economy were to grow at an annual average of 4% (as it did during the 1990s), India's standard of living, in terms of income and purchasing power, would not be likely to improve dramatically relative to the rest of the world. If, however, India's economic growth were to average 7.5% or higher during this timeframe, India's economy would double in size and India's standard of living would approach that of the Philippines in 2003.
Such a standard of living may seem low to Americans, given that the average income in the Philippines in 2003 was equivalent to $4,640 in purchasing power. But, for Indians, that figure would represent a 60% raise from what they had earned on average in 2003. India's economy is small compared to the U.S.'s economy, which is the largest in the world. As of 2003, India's GDP in raw numbers was only 5% of the U.S.'s GDP, according to the World Bank. Adding to the disparity between the two economies is that India's workforce is more than three times the size of the U.S.'s workforce.
But a country that manages its growth well can translate an increase in population to an increase in productivity, income and standard of living for its residents. In 1999, India's GDP was around $447 billion, and the average annual income for Indians was around $440, according to the World Bank. By 2003, India's GDP was $599 billion, and Indians' average annual income rose to $530. A 34% increase in productivity translated to a 20% rise in average annual income for Indians within four years. What's more, the percentage increase in India's GDP between 1999 and 2003 was nearly double that of the 18% rate at which worldwide GDP increased.
India's growth is all the more significant because of the greater purchasing power that Indians have gained as a result. The American dollar has roughly five times the purchasing power in India as it does in the U.S.
So the goods and services India produces in 2003 translated to more than $3 trillion in purchasing power, according to The World Bank. From the perspective of purchasing power, India generated the world's fourth-highest GDP in 2003, followed in ascending order by Japan, China and the U.S.The upshot: When selecting places to locate call centers, you have to consider a region in terms of the sources of its productivity, as well as the effects of its productivity.
Yet as encouraging as these statistics are, it is important to remember that short-term growth rates can be misleading. Economies of poor countries are smaller than the economies of rich countries, so poor countries can experience higher rates of growth than rich countries over the course of a few years. The challenge for any community isn't only to attain greater productivity; it's to sustain it for the long term.
Productivity also isn't a zero-sum game; a more apt metaphor is that a rising tide lifts all boats. Whether best practices in call centers are in rich countries or in less rich countries, both companies and customers still benefit from them. This idea is important to remember whether you locate call centers in or near your borders or, as we describe in the next section, outside them.
Weighing the Offshore Option
In recent years, offshore locations have become a very attractive opportunity for U.S. call centers. Companies that have moved beyond their domestic borders to places like India and the Philippines often cite cost savings and labor availability as their primary justifications.
Offshore locations like India boast labor forces with literacy rates, levels of education and low attrition rates. However, as with any location, offshore is not without issues. In fact, many site selection experts are seeing a significant shift in offshore real estate activity.
"Offshore activity has slowed down," says King White, senior vice president with Trammell Crow. "We're doing much more work domestically. In fact, domestic work is the highest it's been since 1999."
The primary driver of this shift has been the exponential growth in offshore markets like India and the Philippines. With increased competition and expanding economies, the ability to attract and retain valuable employees is becoming more difficult. And predictably, labor costs and turnover are escalating while quality is declining.
This development seems to be most evident in India. According to experts, India's six main call center locations -- Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune -- have already reached saturation levels.
"Labor costs in India and the Philippines are still much less expensive than in the U.S., however, in terms of the percentage of wage escalation, it's outpacing the U.S. and most other countries," says Mark Keeley, director of corporate services with real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis (Los Angeles, CA).
The numbers surrounding India's available workforce can also be misleading. "India is a country of one billion people but it's not one billion people who can all work in a call center," says Trammell Crow's White.
A study by risk management consultancy Hill & Associates puts the current attrition rate in Indian call centers as high as 40%. And according to the study, the top reason Indian workers said they quit their jobs was because they didn't see any opportunities for advancement. The study also points out that 39% of respondents said night shifts, monotony of work and better salary offers elsewhere were other reasons they left call centers.
To a lesser extent, political backlash has also contributed to the slowdown. Although the practice of sending work such as manufacturing overseas is nothing new, opposition has intensified to importing services. Labor unions are actively lobbying against offshoring. Many politicians have called for, and in some states, like Tennessee, passed legislation to restrict the practice.
Many consumers also resent having their customer service issues handled by overseas agents. Part of this is because they associate offshore agents with cheap labor and lost jobs. Lack of cultural affinity and language difficulties are other points of contention. A survey by Call Center Magazine and a sister publication, Managing Offshore , found that nearly two-thirds of consumers and nearly two-thirds of businesses polled cited difficulties with agents' accents as their top issues with call centers they thought were handling calls overseas.
These perceptions are influencing companies' decisions about whether to move call centers offshore. CB Richard Ellis' Keeley cites an unnamed American company that was considering moving its call center operations offshore. As part of this process, the company decided to survey its customers in advance to determine how they would feel about getting service from overseas agents. But customers' overwhelmingly negative responses led the company to shelve the idea. The effect of a maturing call center labor market isn't limited to India. The Philippines is also experiencing a similar trend. As the metropolitan area of Manila becomes more saturated, wages and turnover are on the rise. Outside Manila, some call centers have moved to Cebu City, Davo and Mindanao; these areas, too, are close to becoming tapped out.
This turn of events does not come as a shock to those in the real estate business. "It's similar to what went on ten to 15 years ago in the U.S.," says Keeley. "Companies started moving out of the Tampa and Phoenix areas to pursue smaller markets."
But the maturation of the market doesn't necessarily signal an end to offshore work. "There are already a lot of offshore players in the market," says White. "While we don't see many new companies going offshore, these established players will continue to grow and expand their offshore footprints."
Some of these established players include outsourcers, such as Cincom India, which has centers in India, Costa Rica and South Africa. The outsourcer is owned by Cincom, which is headquartered in the U.S.; Cincom India operates as a separate subsidiary.
Ashish Paul, president of Cincom India, disagrees with some of the assessments of offshore quality and says that as an outsourcer, Cincom India offers several advantages, such as what he calls a "domain experience strategy."
According to Paul, Cincom India is focused on developing agents to function as experts in particular areas such as IT help desk, health care and debt collection. Through extensive training and certification, he hopes to further agents' knowledge and experience.
"An outsourcer's domain expertise -- or lack of it -- can affect the quality of inbound interactions," he says.
Paul also finds that companies can leverage more from offshore by combining back-office work with customer service in the form of business process outsourcing (BPO). "There's higher cost savings in the combination of voice and BPO work," he says. "For example, by outsourcing voice, companies can generally save 30% to 40% of their cost. But by also outsourcing the business process connected to the voice, they can save between 50% and 60% of costs."
Offshore Moves that Make Sense
Although some offshore options are becoming more limited as markets mature, there are still many call center viable locations depending on your business needs.
For example, Eastern Europe is a good location for companies that need to serve both American and European customers. Lufthansa Airlines just announced that it will open a call center in Prague, Czech Republic, and IBM is investing $30 million to open a back-office processing center in Budapest, Hungary.
There are also plenty of locations throughout Latin America, especially for companies that serve Spanish-speaking customers.
Keeley says that you can find an English-speaking workforce in major cities like San Salvador, El Salvador, and San Jose, Costa Rica. He cites U.S. Airways, which recently announced its plans to open a 700-seat center in El Salvador. White recommends Guyana, which as a former British colony has a good pool of English speakers.
You can also find good English-speaking labor pools in Belize, which lies on the eastern coast of Central America, and in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica is another popular call center destination in the Caribbean; however, some say it's close to meeting saturation levels.
In the Asia-Pacific region, White points to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which he cites as an untapped market with an English-speaking population: "It's slightly more expensive than India or the Philippines, but it's a great opportunity."
Keeley and White are also reporting increased call center activity in Africa and in the Middle East, such as in Ghana, Morocco and Egypt.
"At this time, it seems to be mostly European companies in these locations because they have strong French-speaking populations, but within the last two to three years some European companies have started opening English-speaking centers," says Keeley.
White describes Mauritius, a small island located off the eastern coast of Africa, as a hidden gem. "We're seeing a lot of U.K. companies go there," he says. "English speaking agents cost about $1 per hour as opposed to South Africa where it's more expensive."
The one problem to be aware of is that since most of these locations are in smaller markets, they're less scalable and are better suited to smaller operations.
"In many of these locations, you're typically looking at a one-off situation where you can service foreign speakers," says White. "But are there any other hidden gems with good English-speaking workforces? At this point, there's nothing that sticks out with the overwhelming population base of India and the Philippines."
China has also been cited as a possible call center market but White dismisses it for now."While the population figures are there, there just aren't enough English speakers to support American customers," he says. "Unless you plan to do back office work or service an Asian-speaking market, I don't foresee China as a contender for another 20 years or so."
No matter where you locate, the same principles apply. By doing your due diligence and maintaining a fine balance among costs, quality and productivity, you're bound to establish a sustainable strategy for attracting the best workforce for your call center.
A Rising Star
From its name, one might assume that Vegas.com started only a few years ago. But Vegas.com, based in the neighboring town of Henderson, NV, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, has deep roots in Las Vegas. Vegas.com is part of the Greenspun Media Group, which publishes the Las Vegas Sun, a daily newspaper that celebrates its 55th anniversary this month, and several local magazines. Greenspun Corporation, the overall parent of Vegas.com, is a leading residential and commercial real estate developer; the company owns Vegas.com's building.
We visited Vegas.com's call center this March, and it's clear the center has grown a lot since it was a six-person call center in March 2002. The center now employs 106 agents who handle an average of 100,000 calls a month. The company's senior director of marketing, Bryan Allison, says that Vegas.com is the largest city travel and tourism Web site in the world, with 1.8 - 2 million unique visitors per month. Travelers to Las Vegas can call agents at Vegas.com or go to the Web site to book hotel rooms, schedule tours, get show tickets, arrange tee times for golf, and in partnership with America West, book combinations of flights and hotel stays.
As part of their training, agents stay at hotels, see shows, go on tours and play golf at the places that visitors to Las Vegas are most likely to ask about. Entertainers do their part to inform agents about their acts when they visit Vegas.com's call center. Among the more notable visits was from Gloria Estefan, who answered calls from Spanish-speaking customers during an October 2003 visit, shortly after Vegas.com launched the Spanish-language portion of its Web site and call center.
Macklin Martin, director of Vegas.com's call center, says that the center seeks agents with prior experience in customer service and travel. He adds that the center recently introduced a new stage along agents' career paths. For those who make the transition from lead agent to supervisor, Vegas.com provides training and experience with human resources, conflict resolution and performance management. "We understand it aids in agent retention," says Martin.