Alternatives to Offshoring

JetBlue has figured out how to cut costs and still avoid offshoring.

Pick up the phone to book a flight with JetBlue and you might reach Margo Canaan at her rented home in Salt Lake City. While the single mother helps fliers pick their seats, her five children, ages 4 to 16, occasionally sit in the same bedroom-office doing homework. They know to keep quiet so Mom can do her work. Her uniform: everyday clothes, plus a pair of fluffy white-and-blue slippers shaped like airplanes.

Canaan is one of 700 reservation phone agents for discount carrier JetBlue who don't work in some telephone warehouse in New Mexico or in an office in Bangalore, India. They instead work out of their homes in America, their company computers wired into JetBlue's reservation systemlinks.

These virtual call centers are one company's answer to the offshoring question: How do you cut costs while keeping jobs at home? An estimated 4 million people work in call centers in the U.S., while another 115,000 work in India–up from only 3,000 five years ago.

This is nice alternative to the standard either-or thinking that plagues so many business managers.