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Columbia Missourian

McCaskill: Call centers should disclose location

By Bari Bates
September 1, 2011 | 9:14 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — For Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the issue of outsourced call centers gave enough inspiration to draft new legislation with the hope of spurring job growth.

“We have seen, overall, call center employment in our country fall dramatically in the last few years. A large part of it is outsourcing of call centers to other countries,” McCaskill said Thursday in a conference held at MBS Textbook Exchange, Inc.

McCaskill introduced a plan for legislation that would require companies to tell consumers where their call centers are located. She said she hoped the legislation, which is still being drafted, would encourage companies to keep call centers within the United States.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve called for help sometimes, and I can’t get them to tell me where they are," McCaskill said.

The legislation would be simple, McCaskill said. When a consumer calls for assistance, he or she would be informed either electronically or by the person answering the phone where the call center is located.

McCaskill said she believed this would give consumer transparency and boost the domestic economy.

McCaskill said she wanted her plan to create jobs to cost as little federal money as possible.

“The only way the federal government can create a lot of jobs is by spending a bunch of money on government related jobs,” McCaskill said. “Long-term, that isn’t good for our economy.”

As for companies that continue to outsource calling centers to foreign countries, there would be no “Draconian” punishment, McCaskill said.

“People who want to move their companies overseas are going to do so," she said. "But we could, in fact, provide rewards and incentives for companies that want to stay in the United States.”

But do consumers care about where their calls are being transferred? McCaskill believes so.

“(Companies) spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to train people in other countries to sound like they come from America, so that when you call there, you think you’re taking to someone in the United States. Why would they do that if they thought it wouldn’t make a difference to the American consumer?”

Jerome Rader, vice president of human resources at MBS Textbook Exchange Inc., said his company's call center is based in Columbia. He said he feels having a local call center helps his business provide the best support to local clients.

McCaskill recently traveled the state in a Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Tour, visiting manufacturing companies in hopes of generating conversation on job creation.

“I think Americans want to give business to companies that are growing jobs in this country,” McCaskill said.

“These are good jobs, and we’re trying to grow jobs. If we can do something that’s not expensive that helps promote job growth in America, I think we need to jump on it," McCaskill said.