What's Changing in the Canadian Call Center Industry?

The call center industry in Canada has grown exponentially over the past few decades, as all sectors of the economy rely on the industry for support.

Figures from Statistics Canada show that between the years 1998 and 2006 the call center industry experienced an annual increase in revenue of 27.7 percent.


Development was particularly strong in the New Brunswick region, thanks to a strong infrastructure, bilingual workforce and an incentives programme, as well as a number of cost benefits.

Countrywide there are approximately 6.8 call centers per 10,000 businesses, yet this is significantly higher in Prince Edward Island (15.8), New Brunswick (13.1) and Ontario (8.4).

However, worldwide economic conditions in recent years, including the rise of the Canadian dollar, mean the country no longer holds the costs advantages that it once did and now must work on developing its competitive advantages.

Industry Development

Statistic Canada's report, compiled by Richard Vincent and Larry McKeown, highlighted thattechnology and relative location to research and higher education institutions was becoming increasingly important.

"The Canadian telephone call center industry should move beyond the lowest labor cost phase of the industry life cycle. It is becoming important for call centers to offer higher value-added in terms of skills, both technical and linguistic, and technology," the report explained.

Access to a pool of skilled labor to support increasingly sophisticated IT infrastructures is said to be increasingly important, because it will "dramatically reduce the potential for a telephone call center to act as a regional development catalyst in more peripheral areas."

The greater Moncton region in New Brunswick was one such area that benefited significantly from the development of the call center industry.

Figures from Enterprise Greater Moncton suggest that one in 10 people in the area work within the call center industry and around 70 percent of the operations in the area have been running for 15 years or more.

Within the region they are confident that the industry will recover at least two-thirds of the jobs it has lost since 2006 by 2011. During the recession employment levels within in-house call centers was stable, although outsourcing call centers are believed to have lost one in five workers.

The Enterprise Greater Moncton report detailed that managers said they believed high productivity helped them weather the recession. This was achieved through "experienced management, tenured frontline employees readily acceptable of change, and their use of state- of-the-art technology," which are many of the factors identified in the Statistic Canada report.

Future of the Call Center Industry

One of the main concerns about the future of the call center industry in Canada is the availability of a skilled workforce.

Contact CenterCanada(CCC) identified that it is becoming increasingly difficult within the industry to recruit database managers, technical support staff and managers, as 34 per cent of facilities have reported that they are unable to find the correct numbers of staff with the right skills.

Information regarding human resources was also said to be lacking, and this is an issue CCC is looking to address with the creation of a new benchmarking scheme.

"This project will address one of the most critical issues facing the sector–the lack of Canadian benchmark data, Canadian best practices and Canadian key performance indicators for centers of all sizes across all industry verticals," CCC explained.

Initially the project will look at creating a benchmark for the HR and operational requirements of call centers within Canada, before focusing on the building, testing and deployment of the tool.

CCC explained: "The CCC Benchmarking tool will be the first in its class in reaching the intended stakeholders with the clear, focused objective of sharing the wealth of information that our industry produces."