HATTIESBURG - A professor at
The University of Southern Mississippi recognized as the leading
expert on the call center industry will be the featured speaker
at a conference hosted by the university Sept. 19-21 in Gulfport.
The "Gulf South Call Center
Conference: Staying Competitive in a Globalizing Industry"
will focus on the latest research and trends in the United States
call center industry and will include as its primary presenter Dr.
David Butler, director of the international development doctoral
program at Southern Miss.
"Our purpose for this conference
is to share with stakeholders in this industry the trends and patterns
occurring in the call center industry," Butler said.
Butler has conducted extensive
research over the past decade on the industry, leading to the publication
of his book "Bottom-Line Call Center Management: Creating a
Culture of Accountability and Excellent Customer Service,"
which was featured on CNN's Lou Dobbs Show earlier this year.
The conference, to be held at
the Grand Casino Gulfport Conference Center, will be hosted by the
Southern Miss Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic
Development and the Center for International and Continuing Education.
Butler has also undertaken call
center research overseas, working with Southern Miss graduate students
studying the industry in Ireland in 2004. "In June, Dr. Butler
led a group of 11 students to Ireland, where the team collaborated
with local organizations and corporations in collecting data on
call centers in that country," said Susan Steen, director of
the Southern Miss Center for International and Continuing Education.
"Dr. Butler's innovative approach provides students with the
opportunity to acquire international experience and conduct research
firsthand, both of which are vital for success in today's global
Other speakers for the conference
include Bill Sisson, vice president for the Mobile Chamber of Commerce;
Dr. Angeline Dvorak, president of the Southern Miss Research Foundation,
and Leland Speed of the Mississippi Development Authority.
Call centers, which are part of
most industries, deliver services either on an inbound or outbound
basis. The majority of communication--an estimated 85 percent--
goes through inbound call centers dealing with anything from catalog
order sales to high- level technical support. Outbound call centers
account for 10 to15 percent of the industry, typically providing
Successful call centers should
have professionally trained employees who can give companies a competitive
edge through quality customer service, Butler said. Often, the call
center associate is the 'face' of the company and a critical component
of the company's success. "These are the face and voice of
companies, many of which no longer have a storefront presence, and
thus are highly valuable if leveraged correctly," Butler said.
In recent years, there's been
considerable flux in the industry, Butler said, as companies seek
the best solution for their call center needs. "There's been
some outsourcing and off-shoring (overseas outsourcing) as well
as recent trends of repatriation of U.S. call centers that were
previously off-shored," Butler said.
Call center managers, economic
developers, specialists and consultants and elected officials, among
others, are encouraged to participate in the conference to gain
the latest information from research conducted at the university,
"The call center industry
is less than 30 years old, so it's still going through its youthful
growth stage," Butler said. "With the correct research
and information we will share at this conference, we can help its
stakeholders help it mature."
Butler estimates that 5 to 7 percent
of the nation's workforce is in the call center industry, employed
in 100,000 to 140,000 call centers. The average salary for call
center employees is $20,000 annually.
Sisson, who is the former executive
director of the Southern Miss Center for Community and Economic
Development, said there is an upswing in call center expansions
nationally. "It's a competitive market and is an industry that
every economic developer wants to foster," Sisson said. "Call
center jobs are good paying positions with outstanding benefits,
which really help round out any local economy."
For more information on the conference,
including registration, schedule of events and hotel accommodations,
call the Center for International and Continuing Education at (601)
266-4186 or visit www.usm.edu/cice/ce/prodev/call/.