Contact Centre Impact on Regional Economies

Kiwi Bank’s creation of c.150 permanent jobs in a region that is going backwards on most economic indicators is perhaps the best news we have had the pleasure of reporting for several years. People Central has handled in excess of 200 permanent job losses through redundancy support in the last 2 years and we know that is just a small slice of the actual job losses to the region.

So whilst just the job creation is just what the region needs, what are the other likely impacts on the region’s economy and how can the workforce make the most of the opportunity?

Permanent Year-Round Employment

Stepping aside from the seasonal and casual employment that has historically characterised the Hawke’s Bay labour market to permanent year-round employment is a huge step forward for the region. When people can make a reasonable estimate of their likely income for a year, then their economic and personal wellbeing lifts, which can only benefit the region.

Contact Centre environments also provide genuine career development opportunities for progression into team leader roles and beyond, with salary progression to match.

Mutual Attraction

Having secured one major employer to set up their contact centre in Hastings, the likelihood of other organisations following suite increases and Hastings District Council together with the regional Ministry of Social Development office is putting considerable effort into making that happen.

When the existing region’s employers see successful contact centre and customer service centres operating on their doorstep, they too are likely to establish or increase customer service roles. Indeed, forward thinking businesses such as Catalyst Fuel Refunds are already recruiting for their contact centre capabilities.

A Catalyst to Increase Regional Wages?

Napier and Hastings are two of the poorest paying cities in the country, with both labelled as the poorest paying city in Trade-Me’s annual salary surveys in recent years. Among the job categories paying the worst are customer service staff, whose full time salaries are often in the ‘less than $40k’ bracket. Kiwi Bank are about to recruit about 150 customer service and admin staff on a starting salary of $44k, with significant upward progression for high performers.

Could we be about to see Hawke’s Bay’s dismal salaries begin to rise as regional employers realise that a higher paying bank with career progression and the bells and whistles of benefits and perks start to look like very appealing alternative to their workforce? If Kiwi Bank’s success leads to other contact centres opening their doors in the region, with salaries to compete with the first incumbent, this could well be catalyst to lift wages across the region.

Reducing Unemplpoyment

When working with MSD/EIT, the biggest lesson I took away from working with cohorts of people currently receiving a benefit and keen to enter a contact centre/customer service job was the quality of what participants could offer to an employer and their commitment to succeed.

In one-to-one feedback sessions, most had found themselves unemployed through a combination of redundancy and family commitments that conflict with traditional working hours.  Larger scale contact centre operations typically offer family friendly hours and the jobs to match this group of peoples skills and I’m confident we will see the benefits to our region brought about by employment  for people who need that flexibility.