A CALL centre operator is back on the road to recovery after the economic slowdown led to it shedding staff and shelving plans to recruit 400 people.
Respondez quickly built up a staff of 100 after pitching up in Hartlepool in 2006 and, by 2008, was hopeful of winning clients which would take its workforce to 500 within a couple of years.
But, while the call centre industry initially thrived as companies looked to save money by outsourcing sales or services, they struggled as the economic situation worsened and businesses made big spending cutbacks.
Unlike the region’s biggest operator, Garlands, another Hartlepool-based operator, which collapsed in 2010 with the loss of 1,158 jobs, Respondez only cut around 20 staff.
And now it has battled back to win new business and has grown to 220 staff over the last couple of years, and hopes to have 300 workers in its Brenda Road base by the end of this year.
Sue Marshall, sales and marketing director, said: “We came back but it was slower than it should have been. People just stopped outsourcing. It was a lot worse than the recession in 1994/95 – people were making cutbacks and we were one of those cuts.
“There were quite a few contracts we had worked hard for and, just at the last minute, they decided not to outsource.”
She said that the collapse of contracts that had been taken over by the company often cost it a lot when they had to make staff redundant, adding to its problems.
But now the business is beginning to win new clients and is hopeful that the market is improving and fuelling its expansion in Hartlepool, where it expects to recruit 80 staff this year, and further afield.
Marshall said: “We have been working on contracts here and in the US for the last few years and our work is finally starting to bear fruit.”
The business, which is the UK arm of Indian giant Spanco, was benefiting from its parent’s strong worldwide growth in recent years. Spanco’s business has seen its staff grow from around 4,000 to 15,000 in the last five years, particularly in Africa where it has recruited 5,000 staff as more companies look for bilingual call centres.
And Respondez is so confident of growth that it is now looking for a new site, although that may be elsewhere in the UK.