19/09/2002

Invest NI backs call centre sector at UK show

At this week's Call Centre Expo UK 2002, Invest NI was on call to answer questions from prospective investors who have been attracted by Northern Ireland's growing reputation as a premier location for customer contact centres.

Altogether contact centres in Northern Ireland employ some 7000 staff but, as Leslie Ross, Managing Director of Business International in Invest Northern Ireland said, there were wider benefits to the local economy.

Mr Ross said: “Northern Ireland has attracted many prestigious companies in this sector all of which cite the availability of first-class staff, with both technical and people skills, and the advanced telecommunications network as among the main attractions. In addition, these companies have created opportunities for a large number of people to enter the labour market – opportunities that were previously not available in the traditional sectors.

“While these companies are benefiting from what we have to offer, Northern Ireland in turn has benefited from the large levels of wages and salaries being pumped into the local economy, investment in training, the development of leading edge customer relationship management skills, and the transformation of disused urban sites into epicentres of employment.

“One of Invest NI’s key objectives is to increase the capability of our local workforce and businesses and the emerging market of multi-media contact centres is contributing to that through investment in staff training and telecommunications infrastructure. The enhancement of such capabilities will be to the long term benefit of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Ross said telebusiness was growing at 40% per year yet currently just under 1.5% of the Northern Ireland workforce is employed in the industry compared with 2.5% in the rest of the UK.

He added that with a pool of available talent in the province there was room for further growth in the sector.

Six local companies were on the Invest NI group stand at the call and contact centre event, which took place in Birmingham on September 17 and 18.

Among them was Belfast company gem, winners of the Best European Multi-Media Contact Centre Award at the European Call Centre of the Year awards, which formed part of the two-day event. Alongside gem on the stand were Apollo Contact Centre, Answercall Direct, MM Group, Sales Xcellence and the Data Warehousing Practice (NI).

Northern Ireland has been three times voted the most efficient location for contact centres by independent research company Mitial and last year Belfast was ranked as the top European location for customer contact centres.

(SP)

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