sealPurdue News

April 1998

Study confirms corporate investment in call centers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Business call center budgets are growing by 12 percent per year, salaries are on the rise, and employee turnover is down, according to a Purdue University study.

The 1998 Call Center Benchmark Report -- a comprehensive study of 442 corporate, in-house call centers in the United States representing 24 industry categories -- was compiled by Purdue's Center for Customer-Driven Quality. A corporate call center is the hub of customer service and access by telephone or Internet. It often is where product orders are taken and complaints are handled.

"For almost every product made in the world, there is a toll-free customer-service telephone number or Internet address to contact with questions or problems," says Jon Anton, a researcher with the Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

The fourth annual study, sponsored this year by Ameritech Corp., gathered data in nine areas of call center interest: company information, business information, call center costs, human resources, call handling, caller satisfaction, call center technology, space and environmental design, and call center management.

"The results from this year's study show that companies value their call centers enough to increase their investment in salaries and workplace support," Anton says. "The study also illustrates the trend to use call centers as strategic weapons. Call centers used to be back-office operations that were viewed as a costly, but necessary, nuisance. Now, they are viewed as a front-line business tool used for building relationships, increasing sales and nurturing customer loyalty."

Key findings of the study include:

  • Based on annual budgets, call centers are growing at about 12 percent per year.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the call center budget is spent on human resource items such as training and technical support.
  • More college students are taking the front-line jobs.
  • Job turnover within centers is down because of better working conditions and attention given to employee empowerment.
  • More than one-third of respondents use multilingual telephone service representatives, with Spanish the most common language after English.
  • Average salary of call center agents (front-line operators) was $32,000, up from previous years.
  • It costs an average of $6,572 to train a new telephone service representative.

    The Purdue University Center for Customer-Driven Quality operates within the Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing. The center, which is self-funded by nearly 200 corporate members, focuses on every aspect of call center training and research. The center employs undergraduate students who learn about the profession of customer access management, which includes call centers and teleweb centers.

    "The students who work with our program are heavily recruited as call center managers by the country's most prestigious corporations," Anton says. "It costs more to get new customers than to keep them loyal by giving them great customer service. Our graduates know how to manage customer access and how to run an effective customer relations operation, whether it involves teleservices, the Internet or a kiosk at a shopping mall. We have found that companies truly value those skills."

    The center will conduct its annual "Call Center Campus" conference June 2-4 at Purdue. The conference will focus on assessing the value of a business call center.

    For more information, contact the Purdue Center for Customer-Driven Quality at (765) 494-9933 or Jon Anton at (765) 494-8357, e-mail,

    NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A summary of the annual Call Center Benchmark Report is available to journalists from the Center for Customer-Driven Quality at (765) 494-9933.

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