Amazon to open call center, but who will answer the phones?

August 8, 2008

Amazon.com, the U.S.-based online vender of books and a million other things, announced yesterday it plans to open a customer service center in the city of Heredia, just north of San José.

Amazon said the center, its ninth around the world and first in Costa Rica, would create 300 jobs over two years, with an additional 400 jobs for the year-end holiday season.

However, business leaders complained last year of a shortage of English speakers in the country´s rapidly growing services sector. The Costa Rican Investment Board (CINDE) said the service industry would need another 7,000 English speakers by this year (TT, Sept. 21, 2007).

Moreover, a recent report found that 40 percent of the nation´s English teachers working for the Education Ministry are unqualified to teach the language (TT, Aug.1).

Amazon´s call center, scheduled to open in November, will provide mostly telephone support and some e-mail support for the company´s Web site, according to a statement released yesterday.

“Costa Rica has developed a great infrastructure that meets our needs and is home to a number of existing customer service centers which means we´ll be able to draw on an experienced talent pool,” said Brent Jaye, director of Amazon´s North America Customer Service.

“As a result, we believe our new facility in Costa Rica will enable us to continue to serve our customers quickly and efficiently,” he said.

CINDE officials said they have been helping Amazon evaluate the Costa Rican market since January.

Noting that Amazon´s sales in the second quarter of 2008 exceeded $4 billion, a 41 percent increase over the year before, CINDE said the company´s decision to open a customer service center here is a testament to Costa Rica´s attractiveness to foreign investment.

“The figures demonstrate the dimension and importance of Amazon,” said Gabriela Llobet, CINDE´s general director. “The fact that it has the confidence in Costa Rica to install its ninth global customer service center is a clear signal of the advantages the country offers, among them the quality of our human resources.”

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