Phone outfit comes calling
iQor Inc. call center opening at site on Dorchester Road
A New York-based company will reroute the tide of offshoring today, plugging in a new call center that could nearly double its existing work force in North Charleston.
In time, the iQor Inc. facility at 8440 Dorchester Road could house 600 workers for one of the country's largest private telephone service firms.
The company would pay half as much to hire those employees in India or the Philippines, where it also has operations, but the Charleston work force is worth the extra cost, according to iQor's president and chief executive, Vikas Kapoor.
"I think that people have essentially short-sold the American worker," Kapoor said Tuesday. "For some kinds of work, the U.S. is absolutely the place to be. You can get better people and better service at a very reasonable cost."
Kapoor's company has some 3,500 U.S. workers at 12 locations. It has a similar-sized payroll at six additional call centers around the world.
The roughly 360 iQor workers in North Charleston handle relatively complex calls, most involving DirecTV video services. Such calls are processed more quickly if the receiver is familiar with popular culture and American TV shows.
Some clients are requesting U.S. operators despite the higher costs, according to Kapoor
"There's lots of work that I'd rather do in Charleston for twice the cost than somewhere else, just to have the service," Kapoor said.
The company's U.S. employees start at around $24,000 a year.
For a number of reasons, North Charleston has incubated a cluster of call centers, including a 700-worker Verizon Wireless facility off Mall Drive and another large operation on Ashley Phosphate Road where representatives take reservations for Intercontinental Hotels Group.
Steve Dykes, Charleston County's economic development director, said call-center jobs are a good complement to the area's other industries, offering decent wages to those looking for part-time work or flexible schedules.
Dykes said call center executives consider land costs, the local labor force and time zones in deciding where to put their workers. Charleston, apparently, fares well on all of those counts, plus it has an extra attribute: a relatively intelligible accent.
"Here, it doesn't work against us to the extent that some heavy accents do in some parts of the world," Dykes said.
Crowds, however, create competition, and many of the call centers in town have trouble hanging on to their best workers.
"There does seem to have developed a certain food-chain here in town," Dykes said. "Folks like Verizon can kind of demand the cream of the crop because of the type of packages they offer."
Kapoor said his company won't be expanding its local payroll for a few months, but noted that the call-processing industry is growing, despite the proliferation of online commerce.
"The call volume has actually increased," he said.
Reach Kyle Stock at 937-5763 or email@example.com.