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Support Jobs Homeward Bound at AT&T

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It may not exactly be a case of the chickens coming home to roost, but AT&T's decision to bring back in-house technical support positions that had been outsourced -- at least some of them to offshore locations -- is an interesting one.

It will create some 2,000 unionized jobs in the U.S., though AT&T hasn't made any announcements as to where a call center or centers may be located.

According to company statements, the jobs will pay a "competitive" $30,000 a year plus benefits.

This may look like a reasonable price to pay to address the customer complaints about offshore support personnel that have been popping up with increasing frequency on customer forums.

AT&T isn't the only company that has seen its customers blast the poor performance of offshore support personnel. Dell is among the other high-profile companies that have taken a turn in the negative PR barrel.

Executives of other companies who have made moves similar to AT&T's say an insourcing effort can help boost customer loyalty, as it shows that the company takes quality concerns seriously. A way of putting your money where your mouth is, in essence.

It appears that some companies simply underestimated the importance of customer-facing jobs like those of help desk staffers. Language and cultural differences often do make it harder to solve customer support issues.

While some companies have chosen to deal with these challenges by coaching offshore workers to sound more like the folks they serve, this little deception only increases the ire of some customers and does little to solve the underlying problems.

With more economical contact center options emerging all the time -- in neighbors like Canada and Mexico, which typically have a better grasp on U.S. language and culture; in more rural U.S. states like Nebraska; and with agents who work from their homes -- we won't be surprised to see more companies follow AT&T's lead.

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