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Vernon call centre reduces staff

The long-term viability of a local call centre has apparently come at the expense of some workers.

Service Quality Management Group, which surveys people about the service provided by other call centres, has reduced its workforce from 100 to 50 or 60  as a result of establishing a facility in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

“Losing people in Vernon is not anything we wanted to do but we were confronted with a contract that said, ‘If you take the contract you must have employees in the U.S.,’” said Sarah Kennedy, a senior vice-president with SQM Group.

Meeting the wishes of the U.S. client could increase company revenues by 20 per cent.

“By losing the contract, we could lose 50 per cent of our revenue,” said Lara Pow, chief operating officer, adding that  going against the client could have had a significant impact on SQM’s overall ability to operate and maintain staff.

SQM insists it will remain in Vernon and the Idaho facility will create opportunities for the company headquarters here.

“We will be hiring in the management and support side,” said Kennedy.

“There will  be growth and we are already advertising for some of those positions.”

A call centre will also remain in Vernon and the focus will be Canadian clients.

Kennedy believes there could eventually be a need for more operators.

“There is always that hope we are driving the market to bring in extra Canadian business,” she said.

SQM Group established operations in Vernon 10 years ago and some of the laid-off staff have been there since then.

“We have been quite generous on severance so they have time to look for the right fit,” said Kennedy, adding that information has been provided on opportunities for retraining and job placement.

Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development officer, knew SQM was facing pressure from a U.S. client.

“It’s frustrating because they are a good employer in Vernon but the good news is they will continue to have a local presence,” he said.

 

 

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