Is the skills shortage getting more serious in Costa Rica?

222222prosCosta Rica has been blessed with assets that virtually any country in the world would envy: stable government, twenty-some different micro-climates, low unemployment and an educated class that knows how to get the job done.

Yet, there are persistent questions about a saturation point in Costa Rica, where all the best labor is soaked up – especially in technical fields. For a country of just 4.1 million people, there is an impressive list of foreign companies with operations in Costa Rica. Oracle, HP, Intel and Cisco all have offices in Costa Rica and there are countless software development firms providing services to clients all over the world.

According a study just released by Manpower, nearly half of Costa Rica firms cannot meet their needs for skilled labor, particulary in technical fields. The  survey found Peru (56%) and Mexico (44%), are also having a tough time.  On the other hand,  employers in the U.S. (19%), Guatemala (20%) and Canada (24%) reported the least problems.

On my recent visit to Costa Rica – for the June Services Summit sponsored by promotion agencies CAMTIC and PROCOMER – it was clear companies are adapting to the skilled labor challenges by looking beyond borders throughout South and Central America to funnel business to other providers. This is an encouraging trend as the regionalization of service relationships is another shot in the arm to help drive BPO activites – and economies –  in such places as Colombia, Panama and Nicargua.

Emergia Adds Colombia to Global Roster of CRM Sites

emergia_logo22222222222222Madrid-based Emergia has recently opened a contact center site outside of Medellin, Colombia — further evidence of Colombia’s growing strength as an attractive BPO destination. “Colombia is a country with many emerging business opportunities, so it aligns perfectly with our goals of expanding globally. We intend to coordinate a large number of projects from Manizales, to meet our European and American customers from a single center, “said Alejandro Zurbano, CEO Emergia. For the English version of the press announcement click here.

Emergia has a dozen contact centers globally and, in addition to the new Colombia site, also operates a center in Managua.

More Signs of Promise in Cuba Relations: Castro Can Light Up Telecom Links with US

images6666666666666666666Raul Castro, Cuba’s president, can bring Havana a bit closer to the US mainland if he signs off on offers to bring fiber optic and satellite telecom services to Cuba. As part of the easing of the US embargo on Cuba, the Obama administration is permitting telecom service providers to turn up service links with its Cuban neighbors. Whether Castro will permit landing rights and okay roaming agreements is not yet clear. About 11 percent of Cuba’s population has telephone service, and less than two percent are mobile subscribers.

Blogging Live from the Central America IAOP Meeting – Next Week!

Caribbean CRM Central will travel west next week – stopping in to shake hands and blog live from the Central America chapter meeting of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, in Guatemala City.

     Guatamala City will host the IAOP's chapter meeting on April 23-24

Guatamala City will host the IAOP's chapter meeting on April 23-24

Central America near shore BPO  is thriving and we’ll show you why. Speaking at the event will be the vice president of Guatemala, Rafael Espada, IAOP chairman Michael Corbett, as well as Chris Disher, president Chris Disher & Associates, Don Althoff, former CIO of British Petroleum, Estuardo Robles, principal advisor of Roaring Jaguar, Roger Conrado, president and CEO of GVC Partners, Lori Blackman, president of DNL Global, Steve Rudderham, president of Genpact Latin America,  Mario Lopez, director with Transactel,  Nina Kawalek, CEO of RCCSP Education Alliance and David S. Anderson, CEO of The Utopia Group.

IAOP members can register directly with Amanda Corbett at: amanda.corbett [at]

A few important  sourcing facts about Guatemala (courtesy of AMR Research’s Phil  Fersht in this recent post:

  • 4.1m of its total population is “economically active”
  • 80% of its population is under 30
  • 80% are taught English from the age of 5
  • 86% literacy rate in  Guatemala City
  • University-level population of over 200,000 students
  • Robust telecom infrastructure
  • 20 years of democracy
  • 5200 feet above sea-level and 60-85 degrees all-year-round
  • Strong base of investment from multi-national corporations – for example P&G, Walmart, Scotiabank, Capgemini and ACS
  • Investing in windfarm projects with the Mexican government
  • Manufacturing represents its major industry, but increasing exports of coffee, bananas and green tomatoes are driving economic growth

Another Wake Up Call on the Global Outsourcing Debate

It’s worth looking at the facts  Bob Evans, global CIO and editorial director at InformationWeek, brings up in this latest post on the globally interwoven nature of business technology today. Some very large US companies, including a images2222222222222222221symbol of the heartland, John Deere, report magnificent non-US revenue numbers from around the globe. The US government risks indirectly short-circuiting this growth through an ill-timed assault on the continued expansion of nearshore and offshore partnerships. Here’s to seeing many more John Deere’s being born in this country (creating more jobs) and may they grow unencumbered in the global marketplace (attracting more revenue and opening more doors to opportunity).

Looking to Cut Contact Center Expenses? Forrester Serves Up Its Top Ten

Contact center managers – like their counterparts in sales, marketing, executive management and finance  – have their hands full confronting an often seriously challenging operating environment. Budget cuts have frequently been leveled across the board, agent morale is probably suffering and there is intense pressure on middle-management to squeeze out efficiencies at every turn. Operating with leaner staffs or reduced budgets is not a recipe for business performance improvement, but it is often in these times that innovative, crafty efficiency-building practices take hold.

Forrester's Elizabeth Herrell

Forrester's Elizabeth Herrell

Forrester’s Elizabeth Herrell and her colleagues have put a top ten list together (CRM Central  Loves These Sorts of Lists – You Will Continue to See More of Them) of ingenious ways to step up performance, reduce attrition, work in ways to improve automation and live up to the core purpose of what we all do – listen and learn from the customer.

1. Improve call resolution rates with knowledge bases and accessible experts. Most contact center managers lack sufficient data on the number of repeat calls for the same request and the number of times a caller is transferred. Because agents often lack knowledge on certain topics, the caller will hang up and call back later. This increases call volume and the cost for servicing your customer. A knowledge base with a good search engine helps agents find the right answer quickly, reduces call transfers, and supports high first-call resolution rates. Another way to improve first-call resolutions is to provide real-time access to experts who are external to the contact center but available to consult with a caller. Both knowledge bases and experts make a sizeable reduction in repeat calls and the duration of the call. eGain Communications, KANA Software, and RightNow Technologies provide knowledge base applications as a hosted or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. Avaya, Cisco Systems, and Genesys Telecommunications are among the providers of software for expert access to agents.

2. Eliminate the need for the call with proactive outbound communications. Most contact centers experience traffic spikes when certain events trigger a large number of incoming calls, such as changes in billing or promotional events. When you reach out to your customers with information of interest before they call into the contact center, you significantly lower incoming call volume, while improving customer satisfaction. With proactive outbound communications, you can send email or phone alerts to your customers and allow them to respond automatically over the same channel. Automated outbound transactions typically cost under $0.20 per event
and eliminate the need for a much more expensive agent-assisted call later.

3. Reduce agent attrition with eLearning and performance management tools. High agent turnover represents a major cost for contact center budgets. Agent attrition incurs costs for recruitment and training, as well as lower agent productivity during their ramp-up period. Tenured agents may also become overworked when taking on more calls due to high attrition rates. You need to consider steps for promoting agent retention that include ongoing desktop training to improve skills, career paths within the contact center, flexible scheduling, and performance reports that set individual goals. Packaged solutions, such as those offered by Aspect Software, NICE Systems, and Verint Systems, bundle their eLearning and performance management solutions as part of their workforce management offerings to provide greater value.

4. Create a virtual workforce with a remote agent program. Remote agents offer contact centers more flexibility in scheduling agents during peak traffic times and evening shifts. They save on infrastructure costs because they work from their home, with a secure connection for their office. Remote agents also serve as emergency support staff when the main location becomes inoperable due to an emergency condition. Companies that have launched remote agent programs frequently report they have lower absenteeism and longer tenure compared with agents who work in a centralized office.

5. Develop a single, consistent support model with improved Web content. For many organizations, Web development efforts to support customer interactions are separate from contact center operations. This results in different support models for Web-based customers and telephone customers. You need to develop a single, consistent model for customer support regardless of the channel chosen by the customer. Additionally, Web sites that are difficult to navigate or don’t have adequate information result in more calls coming into the contact center.

6. Offer online customers live assistance through chat and co-browsing. Online tools such as chat and co-browse help customers get better acquainted with the Web site; they also reduce the number of customers who only do research on the Web but don’t complete their transaction. While chat and co-browse applications incur higher costs than self-service due to the involvement of an agent, they foster increased use of the Web as a primary source of information.

7. Upgrade your interactive voice response (IVR) to support more complex transactions. Companies that continue to use their IVR primarily for call steering miss many opportunities for allowing callers to complete their transaction without assistance. Older IVRs are costly to maintain and offer limited transaction support, but standards-based IVR platforms provide a valuable business tool for automating more complex transactions with speech. Flexible pricing models, such as hosted and SaaS solutions, allow organizations to gradually add speech applications for customer support and take advantage of higher automated transaction completions. IVR vendors include network providers such as AT&T, Tellme Networks, Verizon, Voxeo, and West Corporation, and premise or hosted solutions providers such as Avaya, Cisco Systems, Genesys Telecommunications, Intervoice/Convergys, and Nortel Networks.

8. Engage the entire organization with continuous communications. Customer satisfaction is not the responsibility of just the customer service department but the entire organization. There needs to be continuous communications between departments regarding events that generate calls, such as unexpected shipping delays, billing changes, or product recalls. It’s important for department managers to take accountability for ensuring that issues are resolved quickly. Collaboration with business units allows customer service managers to anticipate events that will affect their operations and better manage the situation.

9. Listen to the voice of your customer by using speech analytics software. Customer service managers monitor agents for quality assurance and compliance, but they don’t know what the customer is saying while conversing with an IVR or an agent. As a result, they lose valuable customer information, including why callers opt out of the IVR prematurely. Speech analytics mine customer conversations to allow you to capture customer conversations and quickly identify important issues to give you valuable insight into your customer’s behavior.

10. Improve multimodal capabilities to include mobile phone, smartphone, and kiosk support. Many customers today prefer their mobile phones and smartphones for contacting companies. As the volume of traffic increases from mobile devices, you can shorten phone calls by responding to customer requests with information sent in the form of a text message or email to your customer’s smartphone. For example, if a caller wants directions, you could send a map to their mobile device rather than having them speak to an agent. Additionally, well-placed kiosks, such as those in retail stores or banks, let you support customers by sending video clips to guide the customer or provide more product information. Extending services to multimodal devices creates higher value interactions and delivers information more cost-effectively than speaking to an agent.

Avaya Eyes Major Contact Center Upside across Region

Avaya is bravely pursuing its 21st century vision of the global call center and sees Latin America and the Caribbean playing a major role on the worldwide stage. Avaya boasts strong presence across the region, whith huge market share numbers in  long-time BPO stronghold, Argentina. It will be worth paying particular attention to two key themes outlined in this report:avvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv1

1. The increased reliance on local channel partners to drive business.

2. The realization of the single virtual contact center, which will rely on automatic call distribution sytems (ACD) that will in effect flatten the globally-interlinked network into a single tier architecture with one set of applications.