Charter Communications closing Kingsport call center (1 Viewer)

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KINGSPORT - St. Louis-based Charter Communications Inc. plans to close its 130-employee Kingsport call center by early next year.

The closure of a local center, which predates Charter's ownership of the area cable system, is part of a nationwide closure of seven call centers, making for a net loss of 1,400 jobs.

The closings, mentioned as part of Charter's first-quarter earnings released Tuesday, will reduce the number of Charter-operated call centers in the United States from 15 to eight.

Chief Executive Officer Neil Smit cited the expanded use of "third-party call centers" and consolidation of Charter-operated call centers in a Tuesday morning conference call with analysts focused on the company's first-quarter financial performance.

"The vast majority (of call takers) will be Charter employees," Alcoa-based Nick Pavlis, director of government relations for Charter in Tennessee, said Wednesday morning. "The centers that remain open will increase in size."

The work of those 1,400 jobs will be outsourced to companies that contract to answer calls, Pavlis said.

"The timeline would be the first quarter of '07 (for the Kingsport closure)," Pavlis said. "There are 130 seats in that call center. But with that much time, the folks who work in the center hopefully can find positions within Charter."

The Kingsport center is located just off Eastman Road, across from East Stone Commons. Pavlis said it answers cable, Internet and telephone customer service calls.

Pavlis said other call centers that will cease operations have different closure schedules, and the company has not yet determined if the outsourcing will include overseas call centers, such as ones from India that have become frequent destinations for U.S. customer service calls in recent years.

"It will be seamless for the customers. If they call 1 (800) GET CHARTER, they won't know any difference," Pavlis said. "Folks that run call centers are specialized."

A call center in Birmingham is closing, and one in West Virginia will cease operating, at least under Charter's ownership, because Charter is selling its operations in that state.

With the company's virtual call center operation, Pavlis said callers will receive a Charter call center or third-party call center based on call volumes. He said the system helps spread the calls evenly across the call centers and get customers quicker responses.

Charter, the No. 4 U.S. cable television provider, Tuesday reported a net loss of $459 million, or $1.45 a share, up from a loss of $353 million, or $1.16 a share, a year earlier. The St. Louis-based company reported sales rose 8.1 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.27 billion.

Charter's loss was steeper than Wall Street analysts' projections for an 83 cent per-share deficit. However, Charter beat expectations for $1.35 billion of revenue.

Charter stock closed Wednesday at $1.15, up two cents, or 1.77 percent, from Tuesday.

For more information visit www.charter.com.

http://www.timesnews.net/businessArticle.dna?_StoryID=3630143
 

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