A case of the post-Christmas blahs is partly to blame for the elimination of over half of the staff at the LiveBridge call centre.
“The call centre industry is cyclical,” said company spokesperson Jack Hardy. “This time of year, after the holidays, there is always a slowdown, so this wasn’t totally unexpected.”
LiveBridge, which opened its call centre in October with a staff of just over 100, announced in the fall it hoped to employ 400 people by the end of December.
Instead it has been going in the opposite direction.
At the beginning of last Friday, the company employed 170 staff. By the end of the day, that number had been slashed to 75.
“It was a combination of performance elimination and about 55 were laid off,” said Hardy.
LiveBridge’s client, a U.S. bank, cut back on the number of calls from the Prince George office due to a less than sterling performance record.
The company fired 40 of its new employees before their three-month probationary period was up.
But Hardy said LiveBridge expects to hire back a number of the 55 laid off staff in the next month, and continue to expand as business picks up.
“The company has no plans to leave the community.”
That’s a relief to Initiative Prince George, which had to buy the old Human Resources building at Second Ave. and Dominion St. in order to lure the call centre to town. The local development agency borrowed $1.7 million from the city to buy the building. It sunk another $900,000 in renovations and equipment.
“Obviously we are concerned with what’s going on over there,” said Ken Veldman, vice-president of Initiatives PG. “But, from our perspective as a landlord, they’re living up to their obligations.”
A move to introduce anti-telemarketing legislation in the U.S. shouldn’t affect LiveBridge’s operations, said Hardy. A number of states already have so-called “do not call registries,” he noted, as does the company itself.
The industry is also increasingly moving into “inbound” call answering, he said. About 70 per cent of call centre business is generated by inbound call services such as technical support.
LiveBridge has mirrored the industry trend, said Hardy, and they still expect to begin taking inbound calls in Prince George.