Customer Experience in Latin America
It all started with a phone call I received today. On the other side of the line was a great guy that I met in Guatemala, Central America a couple of years back (Joe). We exchanged small talk for a while about family and life in general and then we got to the reason for his call. Joe was presented a job offer to sell call center services in the New York City area. He remembered that I was in the contact center industry so he was hoping I could share some insights and experience and help him get a head start in his new call center career. I was more than happy to help.
The first thing I needed to establish was where the outsourced call center was located. I was told it was nearshore in Latin America. He was excited to mention that since he knew GuateCall (our outsource contact center) was also located in a nearshore Central American country, Guatemala. He knew I would understand the market and the capabilities of the call center industry in the Americas.
However, I cautioned him not to bundle all contact center capabilities and services of the Americas together and not to make generalizations about nearshore outsourcing. At GuateCall, our customer service capabilities and culture are very different from many business process outsource centers I know.
I gave an example of two different restaurants on the same street. Restaurant “A” had great food and great customer service and Restaurant “B” had average food, decent staff and was pretty much marginal. Their location was the same, but Restaurant “A”, with the great food & staff, clearly had management that created a culture in which the employees could thrive and succeed in. The employees took ownership and pride in their work and it showed in the customer experience at the restaurant. While I acknowledged that the pool of workers in an area makes a difference, I still stuck to my original premise that the main difference between one company/ restaurant/ call center and the next is the culture on the floor that is implemented by management. It’s the law of “sow and reap”. What management is invested in will clearly show in the end product.
I then proceeded to ask him about the “type” of customer he was targeting. He mentioned that in New York City there are a lot of companies and vendors selling on Amazon.com and he thought he could take advantage of this market by offering them an agent taking customer service calls and responding to emails. He envisioned one agent servicing 2-3 different vendors.
I’m well aware of many contact centers that offer this type of “shared services” and even though I understand the financial reasons for wanting to opt for this type of service, I explained to Joe that GuateCall won’t take on that kind of business. There was just complete silence on the other side of the phone. He asked me why I would be willing to turn down good business.
I again gave him Restaurants A & B on the same street example. A good nearshore contact center that delivers excellent customer service cannot be all things to all people. The culture that management has implemented on the floor of the call center and how that translates to servicing clients defines who your customers are and if they meet your profile.
As an example, a vendor sells a product on Amazon.com and for whatever reason, the consumer wants to return it. A canned call center response could be sent with no issue. However, going a step above could be reaching out to the customer to understand the reason for the return request and finding an alternate solution. Going one step further still would be to understand the product lines thoroughly and be able to give better product recommendations based on that knowledge and possibly even creating multiple sales (up-selling and cross-selling) from the customer interaction.
A follow up call to make sure the customer was happy with their new products would most likely win over this client for future purchases. It could also create referral business.
Today, retail space is so competitive and pricing is very transparent. Companies are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. Taking a page from Zappos.com, I believe the best way to go about this competitive edge is excellent customer service. Consumers want to be serviced on their terms: voice, chat, email and social network. They don’t want to sit on the call que, they want to make the most of their time and they for sure want to speak to someone that can give them more than a canned response. Consumers can tell if they are speaking to a knowledgeable person or just another “call center agent”.
Being in the contact center business, I am constantly being told about all the negative interactions people have with call centers, especially foreign ones. However, once they learn that there are different types of contact centers with different quality levels: with very little or no accents; are knowledgeable about the products they represent and with immediate response times, they tend to be more open to the nearshore outsourcing concept.
I go on to explain to Joe that outsourcing is the same as any other business. There are call centers that specialize in different industries and there are higher quality, average quality and lower quality call centers.
I also mention that service levels go hand in hand with the commitment of the company that outsourced to the call center. How much do they want to invest in their customers? How much time and training and continual training of employees they decide on can be a huge game changer. Not only training that is based on the products or systems, but also training the mentality of the call and how to listen beyond the words being said. Training that puts yourself in the customers’ shoes and figuring out how to go that extra mile. Reinforcement of those trainings on all interactions on the floor from team leads, quality assurance as well as team agents, to make the customer service experience exceptional.
A great fit between the client, the call center and the end consumer ensures this.
Concluding my conversation with Joe, I encouraged him to speak with the manager of the call center he would potentially be representing. To have an open and honest conversation to make sure he understands their culture, their service levels and what their true capabilities are. This way he can focus on the proper target market for the contact center he is representing. All services are not created equal… here is to Joe finding the right clients with the right needs for his new adventure.
This article was written by Perry Silber, COO of GuateCall. GuateCall is a Near-shore contact center provider of multi-channel bilingual services located In Guatemala, Central America. If you would like to learn more about GuateCall, please reach out to me at 713-474-2222 Ext 116 or by e-mail.