Nearshore Americas

Exclusive: Where is ACS Going Next?

Multinational call center and CRM players like Teleperformance, Convergys and Stream Global Services aren’t the only major league operators looking to expand their presence in the Nearshore region.

Embolden by the deep pockets of its new parent Xerox, ACS rates high on our list of companies prime to leverage the robust interest many clients have to locate customer service operations in Latin America. Mike Wooden, senior vice president, market development, Business Process Services gave us some of his thoughts in this interview.

1: ACS has been expanding its presence to the Nearshore over the last few years. Will that expansion continue and if so, what countries are most attractive to you at this time?

Since Xerox does business in nearly every county in the world, there really is now off-shore. As a global organization, we are always looking to expand if, when and where it makes good business sense. ACS has invested heavily into near shore operations in the last 18 months, expanding in Jamaica, Guatemala and South America.

First, in December 2008 ACS acquired Multivoice, an Argentina-based customer care services provider, with its headquarters in Córdoba, Argentina and additional locations in Santiago, Chile; Bogota, Colombia; and Lima, Peru. The combined ACS Multivoice offering provides customers throughout the Americas and Europe a suite of high quality, cost competitive, bilingual services in English and Spanish for their business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions.

Then in March 2009 ACS purchased e-Services, a business process outsourcing (BPO) and customer care company providing ACS and its clients with additional highly trained, English-speaking employees based in Jamaica and St. Lucia capable of handling complex business functions from a location convenient to the Americas and Europe. Prior to this acquisition, ACS was already one of the largest information communications and technology services providers in Jamaica.

These acquisitions are being successfully integrated into our operations. Xerox’s acquisition of ACS adds another level of technology, innovation and expertise that can be incorporated into these operations. As for future growth, we are always looking at opportunities around the world that enable us to best meet our customers needs so they can focus on their real business. For competitive reasons, we do not disclose future plans.

2: An area of Kingston, Jamaica recently experienced a short spell of violence due to authorities attempting to track down a drug lord. What was your reading of the situation there and do relatively small domestic conflicts like this temper your longer-term commitment to a country?

Safety is a top priority at all of our facilities. We have numerous safeguards in place at all locations to secure our facilities and client information. We are continually reviewing and updating our business plans to ensure we will continue to meet our clients’ needs. Every country in the world has unique situations that must be addressed. Proper planning in advance for natural disasters or man-made situations gives you the ability to address most events.

Any disturbance usually is an isolated issue, both in terms of geography and duration. We have the ability to shift workloads and hours to different locations to minimize any business impact to almost any situation.

3: Have you noticed your clients asking for more (or less) seat availability over the last year or so?

Every client is different so there is no one answer to that question. However, in the past several months we have signed two new projects that required us to add more than 500 positions each. We are also seeing growth in numerous other accounts that we service from locations around the world. There does appear to be a trend toward companies wanting to pull back from offshore locations like Manila in favor of nearshore locations.

However some businesses are holding steady, looking to ACS to help them weather the continuing economic situation. We are finding efficiencies for them now that will better prepare them to grow again in the near future when the economy recovers.

4: ACS has been talking a lot lately about the need to increase the utilization of social media in the contact center. In your view, how do managers and front-line agents need to adapt their functions in light of the new era of social media engagement?

Organizations realize they need to leverage the social channel to increase sales and to keep attuned to what their customers are saying. From our perspective and what we’ve experienced at ACS, social media channels are invaluable tools to provide customer service and support in revolutionary new ways.

The explosion of social media has lead to a fundamental shift in power between companies and customers. Consumers are finding their voice and sharing their opinions any way they can — rating and reviewing products, services, and companies; talking about brands and companies in communities of interest and more.

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Organizations need to develop a social media strategy for call centers that will help cut costs and increase revenues through reduced call and email volumes, increased first contact resolution, extended customer relationships and improved lead conversion rates. By adding social media research and gathering components to customer care work to, companies gain new insights and earlier in the process, potentially stopping problems before they start.

Social media is the great equalizer. It is instant reality. With the abundance of mobile communications – access to social media is ubiquitous and it is instant and viral. Incorporating social media into enterprise CRM is not about spending more money, it is about transforming business.

5: Are there discernable differences in the way ACS executes its Nearshore mission now, under the Xerox banner, versus where you were prior to the acquisition? If so, what are those differences?

Only in the fact that our clients will benefit from Xerox’s commitment to invest in technology, innovation and expertise. Our clients around the world will be able to leverage those capabilities from whatever facility they are served.

Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.

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