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Robert Trigaux

Sykes Enterprises adding 400 South Carolina jobs while CEO adds bullish forecast in Boston



Sykesballoon Wake up and good morning. Break out the balloons. The good news is Tampa call center business Sykes Enterprises is hiring 400 people because it has a new corporate customer. Alas, the jobs are not here in the Tampa Bay area but in Sumter County, South Carolina, where Sykes last May unveiled plans to add a Sumter call center and add to its two other operations in the state. This week, the job recruiting began. (Photo courtesy of WLTX, Columbia, S.C.)

In the last two years, Sykes site director Stephanie Cetti in Sumter told WLTX, Sykes has brought 2,000 jobs to South Carolina -- jobs that have incentive for applicants. "I can say it's a very competitive wage scale," Cetti says. Here's the full report from WLTX (with video), and another video report from Sumter from the local WIS10.

Chucksykessykesenterprisesceo While Sykes bulks up in South Carolina, company CEO Chuck Sykes (see photo) was in Boston speaking about Sykes and its global strategy at the Baird 2010 Business Solutions conference. It was a bullish presentation based on Sykes Enterprises' own success as a player in the call center industry and in Chuck Sykes' forecasts that many types of businesses increasingly will outsource their help-the-customer services to call center providers.

I listened to the 28-minute presentation. Here are some highlights of his remarks:

1. Employee training: "Getting thousands of people in 24 countries to do what you want to do, with the right attitude, is not easy."

2. Rising standards: Sykes recalled his love for football when he was young, but like the sport, there are higher expectations today. Ten years ago, Sykes measured call center efficiency and productivity monthly. "Now we do it every 30 minutes, every day."

3. Globalspeak: The adoption of English as a primary language for business, and the extension of the Internet globally, has permitted rapid expansion around the world.

4. Thank you, cell phones: Sykes' primary customers are technology, financial (credit card, mortgage companies) and communications businesses. But the big winner for Sykes has been the wireless industry.

5. New turf: Sykes is looking for clients to grow in the transportation and healthcare industries. In Canada, Sykes has a center manned by 400 nurses serving health customers. That has promise in the United States.

6. The few, the proud: Consolidation continues, meaning businesses are giving more work to fewer companies. Sykes will benefit from this trend.

7. Hello? Voice still dominates the services provided by Sykes. "People want to talk to someone" rather than rely on e-mails or Internet chat.

8. We're everywhere: There are 8.2 million people employed in the call center industry. In the United States, there are 3 million in a country of 300 million, or one for every 100 persons. Here's a list of Sykes locations in the United States.

It's not all growth and expansion all the time, of course, especially amid this recession. For the third time in the past decade, Sykes last fall was threatening layoffs at its center in the Oregon farm town of Milton-Freewater. More about that here. 

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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