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Released September 30, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS GULF SOUTH CALL CENTER CONFERENCE
TO INTRODUCE UNIVERSITY RESOURCES FOR INDUSTRY
By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - Call center industry leaders desiring to remain competitive in the global marketplace and grow their business can meet their goals with the help of The University of Southern Mississippi.

That's because Southern Miss will position itself as the leader in resource information and services for the call center industry when the university hosts the Gulf South Call Center Conference Oct. 27-28.

The event, which was rescheduled from its original September date because of Hurricane Ivan, will be held at the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

"Our goal is to not only professionalize, but also to raise the visibility of this industry and its importance to our global economy," said Dr. David Butler, director of the Southern Miss International Development doctoral program and the world's leading expert on the call center industry. Butler, the author of "Bottom-Line Call Center Management: Creating a Culture of Accountability and Excellent Customer Service," will be the featured speaker at the conference.

The conference, featuring the theme "Staying Competitive in a Globalizing Industry" will be co-hosted by Southern Miss' Center for International and Continuing Education and Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

At the conference, university officials will announce the formation of three entities at Southern Miss focusing on the call center industry, including Information Incorporated, or I2, a Southern Miss Mississippi University Research Act company, the National Association of Call Centers and the Call Center Research Laboratory.

"Dr. Butler's efforts have made Southern Miss an invaluable resource for companies seeking to improve the quality of their customer service through their call center operations," said Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames. "Dr. Butler's work in the call center field is a prime example of the cutting-edge research and development being done in economic development at Southern Miss."

Butler said the conference will provide the opportunity to disseminate research information that has been produced within the university in the last several years regarding the competitiveness of locales and regions for call centers, and the economic development associated with call centers. "We want to share this information with people in attendance at the conference, and have them walk away with more information and to remain or become more competitive in this industry."

Butler will also address issues related to outsourcing and offshoring in the call center industry, two topics that have become hot-button issues in the upcoming presidential campaign with relation to the national economy.

I2 will be a leading company, providing university-created products and services from academic research and transforming them into high value-added products and services for the call center industry, and the NACC will be the only membership organization whose sole purpose is to promote the full call center industry, raise its visibility and value nationally, and lobby on its behalf, Butler said.

The Call Center Research Laboratory is designed to serve the call center industry nationally and internationally by evaluating products in this industry, providing large-scale research and associated reports that will set the tone, tempo and trajectory of this valuable industry. "This will be the only research lab in the world dedicated to this industry," Butler said.

I2 will take products and processes created at the university that are often never seen in the private sector and transform these products and processes into valuable and competitive tools for the industry. It will also be the medium through which Butler will interface with communities and companies on a one-on-one consulting basis.

Call center operations represent a tremendous potential for future economic growth in Mississippi, said Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

"It is imperative we capitalize on the opportunities presented by this industry," Speed said. "Mississippi has an advantage. Call center investment is moving into smaller metropolitan areas, second-tier markets. We offer the same key elements: available labor; low operating costs; access to a strong telecommunication infrastructure; and available space.

LeadMark Services, a Nashville, Tenn., company providing call center services, will be the launch customer for Information Incorporated, according to Ross Edwards, founder of the company.

"When we say that we want to be an extension of our clients and to be part of their overall team, we mean that we will innovatively provide solutions for our clients," said Edwards. "To that end, we have chosen to partner with Dr. David Butler and Information Incorporated. LeadMark will take the lead in the I2 program to set the pace and tone of call center excellence in the coming years. We are very excited about the opportunities that this partnership will provide for us, for I2 and for the industry overall."

NACC, a nonprofit organization, will be the professional organization for the call center industry, ranging from small, 10-person centers to megacenters that employ as many as 2,000 representatives. Membership in NACC will include equipment makers, vendors, outsource companies, consultants and anyone who is tied to the value chain of the industry, as well as those who lobby at the state and national levels on behalf of the industry, Butler said.

"Today's global environment has affected everything we do," said Ann John, a former call center director and current managing director of Leading Edge Consults, LLC. "In these times of change, it's even more important to stay on top of what's happening. While ours is a global industry, important relationships are still made by meeting people one-on-one, and the Gulf South Call Center Conference will be a great way to share ideas, understand trends and make new contacts."

For more information on this event, including registration and conference schedule details, call (601) 266-4186 or visit www.usm.edu/cice/ce/prodev/call/.

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October 1, 2004 9:08 AM