Archive for Call Centers

Call Centers in Costa Rica Employ 16,000 People While Developing A Middle Class

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Call centers are often linked to telemarketing, but this is just one of the many business functions performed by call centers. Call centers may focus on one of the following business functions, or operate campaigns that cover many different functions:
Inbound sales, where customers are responding to an advertisement.
Outbound sales using client provided call lists.
Lead generation through qualifying customers calling about a sales promotion.
Market research by conducting surveys.
Processing of product orders from customers.
Customer support through providing help desk functions.
Technical support for particular products.
Appointment setting.
Credit and billing problems, including collections.
Cellphone activation.
Fundraising for charities.
Cause related marketing.
Direct response to TV / Radio marketing.
Sports booking.

Call centers essentially perform any business function that involves person-to-person contact over a voice connection. Costa Rica is the home of a number of corporate call centers, including Bank of America, HP, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, and Western Union. Independent call centers range in size for super call centers, such as Sykes Costa Rica with 3200 employees, to operations run from a home with one or two employees. There are no statistics regarding the number of call centers in Costa Rica. Richard Blank (CEO of Costa Rica’s Call Center) estimates that there may be as many as 300 call centers operating in Costa Rica. With just over a 100 seats (employees actually making the calls), Costa Rica’s Call Center represents a mid-sized call center.

If the number of call centers is hard to estimate, the number of workers employed by call centers is even more difficult to determine. According to the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), the offshore service sector employs 1.4% of the Costa Rican labor force, with contact centers employing about 50% of this offshore service sector. With a total work force of 2.3 million in Costa Rica, this results in about 16,000 workers being employed by call centers. The CINDE report “Costa Rica Human Capital Cost – Services Sector” (PDF download) estimates the average wages for call center workers, as follows: Job Position Monthly
Average Monthly Average +
Mandatory Benefits
Call Center Clerk $533 $717
Contact Center Manager $4323 $5814
Contact Center Quality Inspector $1320 $1775
Contact Center Team Leader $1623 $2183
Intermediate Bilingual Agent $981 $1320
Junior Bilingual Agent $952 $1281
Spanish Agent $767 $1032
Senior Bilingual Agent $1019 $1370
Workforce Coordinator $2317 $3116

The above table reflects the average salaries for September 2011, when the exchange rate was 510 colones equaled one US Dollar. The Mandatory Benefits includes the Christmas Bonus, which is equal to one month of pay.

The A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index for 2011 ranks Costa Rica as #19 in the world for outsourcing, and #4 in Latin America. The GSLI report points out that cost competitiveness is becoming a major challenge for Costa Rica. Nearshore Americas, in their article “Latin America’s Ranking Reflects, ‘Intensifying’ of IT, BPO Skill,” points out that El Salvador and Honduras are leveraging their lower labor costs to attract nearshore business. While price competition presents a serious challenge, Costa Rica still holds an edge according to CR Technology Insight, which points out that Costa Rica is #1 for innovation in Latin America, #3 for network readiness, #3 for property rights index, and #4 for high technology exporter.

The recent article on smartphone growth statistics illustrates the growing importance of smartphones on purchase decisions by consumers. The smartphone shortens the time between seeing a product of interest and acting on the decision to purchase the product. Once the consumer fills out a request, or contacts an 800 number, the call center comes into play. The call center acts either as an order processing center, or qualifies the lead. The qualified lead is then passed to either the client, or another part of the call center operation. Marketing to a potential customer, who has expressed an interest in a product, generates far more sales than attempts at marketing using “cold call” lists.

Internet forums and discussions on social media services, such as Facebook, created a self-help culture. This phenomenon reflects the frustration of many consumers, whose contact at a help desk does not speak good English. Consumers want an answer, and want one that they can understand. In many cases, the self-help groups may solve the problems. Without the presence of an official company representative, these forums may also give misinformation. In these cases, the work for the help desk representative is more complicated, as they must correct the misinformation, and then provide the correct solution. Help desks will remain as a vital operation for call centers, as they are the official company representative, who can also take corrective actions, such as authorizations for return, or corrections to billings. In both quality of English language speakers and understanding of technology, Costa Rica has an advantage over call centers located in the Philippines and India.

In terms of outsourcing, call centers are part of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). BPO includes many other business process, such as accounting, back office operations, and payroll. BPO, itself, is part of services outsourcing. Other services outsourcing areas are Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), and the new area of Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). There are Costa Rica businesses involved in all areas of service outsourcing.

I wish to thank Richard Blank of Costa Rica’s Call Centers for sharing his knowledge of call centers in Costa Rica, and for acting as a soundboard for my ideas on this article.

Improve Sales by Outsourcing Call Centers

Outsourcing call centers are excellent methods of
generating sales and help current customers with
technical support and customer support issues for
several small, medium and large businesses.

Some larger companies have the time, resources and
money to put in place their own call centers but most
smaller and medium-sized businesses opt for a
streamline approach to call centers and choose to
outsource the needs of their call centers.

Helpful Tips on Outsourcing Call Centers

First off, if you are searching on ways to outsource a
call center, the business have to first decide on what
they are trying to achieve in the course of action.

Most businesses are looking for low cost methods to
either sell goods or provide support for customers.
The reason why most businesses choose to outsource
call centers is generally due to the low cost.

On the business side, outsourcing call centers takes
careful decision making and analysis, as well as
discussion and result on the outsourcing side.

For example, even before a business makes a decision
to deal with a call center with an outsourcing firm,
it must first see its business needs and comprehend
how the new service will either generate sales or
enhance customer satisfaction, thus developing
customer retention and limiting customer churn.

In case the business realizes what kinds of services
it requires, the business normally bids from call
center outsource services. The bidding process removes
several of the contractors that cannot meet the
qualifications, labor and technological requirements
of the business.

Once a call center is contracted for services with a
business, a deeper consultation takes place wherein
the business and the outsource work together in order
to create a solution that can either generate sales
for services or products or provide customers with
support for technical or billing products.

There are several call center outsourcing companies
available and as a business seeking solutions, it is
your job to contract with one of them and choose the
one that can deliver results you desire.

Since each outsource call center company offer a
different product, the best option is to analyze the
specific needs and perform plenty of researches to
locate a match with a company that can fulfill the
business?s needs.

How to Reduce Turnovers and Retain Manpower

A turnover or churn normally reflects the percentage
of customer service representatives that leave a call
center in a specified period. This is the most common
problem of call centers.

Additionally, this factor plays a role in reducing the
quality, increasing recruitment and training costs,
and reducing the marketability of a call center
operation.

In order to reduce turnovers, appropriate planning and
tracking and figuring out the main cause of the event
is necessary. You can start by hiring the right
people. This can be done by developing a profile of
the team members that have been with the company for
some time and are happy and productive. Always look
for characteristics that can match that profile
whenever assessing new applicants.

Improving the line managers is also a good help. Train
line managers on how to supervise his or her team
members for attaining superior productivity. Teach
them that they can manage without being controlling or
critical. Honing their soft skills, monitoring
performance and rewarding them for enhanced
productivity can usually diminish high turnover rates.

We at Virtual Outsourcing Solutions are located in Costa
Rica.  You can hire and train work at home contractors through
us, or, if you have the need to hire a larger workforce in
a central location, we can consult with you to help you locate
a call center here that will fit your needs.

By consulting with us, you will not be talking to a call center
sales represetative trying to sell you on their call center,
but will be cotracting with a disinterested third party who
knows the local market, and can give you the pros and cons
of working with the various call centers here.

So, whether you are planning to hire just one work at home
contractor, or need to hire several dozen in a more traditional
environment, we are here to help you find the right fit for
your business.