The old song warned that “video killed the radio star”. While it may have looked like that might happen at the time – when MTV, et. al. roared on the scene – the death of radio was greatly exaggerated. In fact, MTV is now focused on trashy reality TV and music videos play a decidedly support role to digital music. Music radio itself has evolved but is still around and doing fine.
I suspect the same kind of melodrama is playing out in the call centre/customer contact centre space. It is changing and that has led to many warning it will completely collapse (“The Internet killed the customer contact centre rep”). I suspect, much like the radio star of the 1980s, the contact centre industry has a lot of life in it yet.
The customer contact centre industry will survive – in a slimmed down fashion with far more focus on multichannel interaction – the question is whether or not it will survive in New Brunswick.
Consider the forest products industry – UPM, Bowater, etc. did not leave the forest products industry – they just left New Brunswick and focused on what they perceived to be better markets for forest products operations.
This could happen with the call centre industry. Iron Mountain didn’t go out of business – just out of NB. Wyndham Worldwide, Marriott and others didn’t cease customer contact centre activity. They just stopped doing it in New Brunswick.
Now I hear that Contact NB hasn’t replaced its Executive Director. An industry that still has 15,000 to 20,000 employees in New Brunswick now doesn’t have one person looking out for its development potential in the province.
I would have preferred a different approach. I would have thought a joint effort of industry, government, workforce development and community leaders would have come together to craft a strategy for the sector 2014-2024. This strategy would have looked at evolving the skillsets of workers to the social media environment. It would have looked at integrating innovative software development right here in the province with the contact centre industry. It would have looked at the possibility of immigration to infill hundreds if not thousands of positions over the next decade.
In short, I would have recommended that New Brunswick solidify its position as the customer contact centre hub for Canada.
But that approach, of course, would force government to think outside its government-as-bank view of economic development and it would force more collaboration between industry, government and community leaders.
Better to sit around pontificating about the potential of other sectors that have little traction here than to focus on one that employs 15,000 to 20,000.