Three global BPO firms have left Costa Rica in the last three years, apparently due to high labor costs, but Convergys is an exception. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based outsourcing giant has continued expanding in Costa Rica, increasing its headcount from a mere 100 people five years ago to more than 2,000 employees today.
As recently as a fortnight ago, the BPO provider announced plans to add 700 more employees to its workforce in the Central American country, where it runs three delivery centers.
“It depends on the client and the kind of job you deal with. For one of our clients, Costa Rica has proved to be cheaper than India,” said Jason A.C. Brown, Convergys’ senior executive in charge of Latin American operation.
Brown, however, would not say that Costa Rica is the right destination for simple transactional and low value work.
“At the end of the day, what matters is the total cost of ownership,” he said, adding that he is careful about “choosing the right job for the right country.”
At the center of Convergys’ strategy is training employees. “More than 80 percent of our new recruits in Costa Rica in the recent past came from within the organization,” Brown said.
Soon after hiring, Convergys trains new recruits in the skills it requires and then, about a year later, promotes them to perform bigger and more challenging tasks. This simple strategy has made sure that the company never runs out of talent.
“A few years ago, we examined the availability of skilled human resources and then decided to groom talent inside the organization instead of poaching talent from competitors,” Brown added.
Convergys entered Costa Rica in 2009 with the goal of providing customer care service to a U.S. based telecom company. Today, it provides several back-office services including tech support and sales, in addition customer care service.
Until now, the company has been providing only voice-based BPO services from Costa Rica. It has about 10 clients, the majority of whom are in the retail, medical, telecommunications, networking and financial industries.
“Excellent employee retention and strong performance of our local team has kept us growing here,” Brown added. Over the next six months, the company’s headcount in all its Costa Rican centers is set to increase by about 30%.
The real beneficiary of Convergys’ strategy and success is Costa Rica. When Stream Global services left Costa Rica it blamed the rising cost of labor. Earlier this year, Convergys bought Stream and is now bringing back the employment lost due to Stream’s departure.