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Originally published Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:56 PM

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Starbucks to close 130-worker call center in Seattle

Starbucks said it will close a 130-worker call center at its Seattle headquarters and contract with Nashville, Tenn.-based Sitel to handle customer feedback in Albuquerque, N.M. The move will be completed by September, affecting 78 Starbucks employees and 52 contract workers in Seattle.

Seattle Times business reporter

Starbucks said Thursday it will close a 130-worker call center at its Seattle headquarters and rely on an outside company in Albuquerque, N.M., to handle customer feedback.

The move will be completed by September, affecting 78 Starbucks employees and 52 contract workers in Seattle.

Sitel, of Nashville, Tenn., a privately held customer-service provider with operations in 27 countries, will then take calls for Starbucks at its Albuquerque operation.

"As we've grown, the number of calls we get fluctuates during the year. Going to a third-party provider gives us flexibility" to ramp up or down as needed, said Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum. "Also, they have state-of-the-art technology for managing calls" and tracking customer feedback, she said.

Starbucks did not disclose details of its arrangement with Sitel.

Krum characterized it as an effort to better manage the feedback, "not a cost-cutting move."

Still, Starbucks has been cutting costs. It eliminated $580 million from expenses in its last fiscal year, which was $30 million more than it had promised Wall Street.

For the year ended Sept. 27, Starbucks earned $390.8 million, up 24 percent from the previous year, as net revenue fell 6 percent to $9.8 billion.

The company will release its first-quarter results on Wednesday.

Starbucks' stock closed Thursday up 18 cents at $23.55.

The company hopes to find jobs for the affected employees elsewhere at Starbucks, Krum said. If laid off, employees will receive severance pay based on how long they've been with the company, plus help finding another job, she said.

Starbucks employs about 3,000 people at its headquarters south of downtown.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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