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Sprint Moves Call Centers Offshore; 1,664 Jobs Gone at MDC's Telemarketing Unit

MDC Partners (MDCA) laid off 340 staffers at its Accent Marketing unit in Monroe, La., following a reduction in business from Sprint (S). The layoffs will take effect March 7. At its height, Accent employed 500 people in Monroe to handle customer care calls for Sprint. Some of the business went "offshore," MDC CEO Miles Nadal told BNET. Through the recession, Accent has laid off 1,664 employees.

The layoffs show that even the least-glamorous, most cost-effective jobs in marketing -- answering customers' calls -- have been threatened by the recession and foreign competition. That's disheartening because it's a lot easier to tie new sales to customer calls than it is to traditional advertising.

"The volume of activity from Sprint has reduced as they have improved customer care activities," Nadal said. "We had to give notice of layoffs."

Sprint is about 10 percent of MDC's revenues. Nadal said he believed the reduction in call center business from Sprint would be offset by new opportunities elsewhere, from Sprint and other clients. "We expect growth from all aspects of our performance marketing services group ... and growth in employment," he said.

A source tells BNET that another Accent center, in Farmington, Mo., is also heavily dependent on Sprint business. Nadal said MDC had not given notice of layoffs there. "It's one of the best" centers MDC has, he said.

It's the latest in a wave of layoffs at Accent (see also here and here):

  • 163 in Kansas City;
  • 180 in Winter Haven, Fla.;
  • 425 in Hot Springs, Ark.;
  • 164 in New Albany, Ind.
  • 160 in Eustis, Fla.
  • 232 in Eustis Fla.
Accent has a contract with "a major telecommunications provider of wireless and mobile service" that runs out in January 2011. Nadal, however, said MDC has a series of contracts with Sprint that have different expiry dates. "We are pitching ... huge amounts of incremental activity in data analysis and database mining," among others, he said.