September 04, 2005 15:17
Daejon is emerging as a mecca for call centers, a line of business that has little to do with its position as a science, technology and logistics hub in the heart of the country, with telecom providers, financial companies, insurers and public agencies moving their customer relations to the city.
Call centers are in charge of picking promising customers and collecting information as well as dealing with irate consumers. Regional governments have been jostling to attract them since they cause virtually no pollution, require very little investment and create jobs for armies of women in their 20s and 30s.
Some 28 businesses including Kookmin Bank, Shinhan Bank, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, LG Insurance, Shinhan Life Insurance, SK Telecom, KTF, Korea Electric Power Corporation and Korea Express have their call centers in Daejon. With the opening of SK Telecom’s region call center on Aug. 1, call centers there now employ over 6,300 people, the most in Korea apart from the greater Seoul area.
In terms of rent, there are differences according to location, but on the whole companies can lease one or two floors with massive communication lines in Daejeon for the price of the deposit on an office in Seoul. Moreover, call centers in the capital find it difficult to secure staff, while in humble Daejeon there are five applicants for every vacancy. Staff turnover of call centers there is below 2 percent a month but double that in Seoul.
There is another factor. “Call centers in such regions as Busan, Daegu and Gwangju with strong local accents get quite a lot of complaints from customers,” a company president says. “But a good thing about people in Daejeon is they can use standard language with little accent.”
Politeness also helps, and an industry insider says people in Daejeon and South Chungcheong Province are mild-mannered compared to other regions and take abuse from customers with relative equanimity. The city also sees fewer labor disputes than other parts of the country.
The Daejeon government is actively trying to attract and support call centers with the goal of creating 20,000 jobs in the region. The city has some 100,000 economically active women in their 20s or 30s with college degrees; if it achieves that goal it would mean 20 percent of them work at call centers.
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