The alignment of business culture is a critical component for the success of any outsourcing engagement. As clients look around the world for an ideal fit, they can face cultural challenges that affect business execution. It’s often the case that understanding Indian, Filipino or Chinese cultural norms can add layers of complexity to otherwise straightforward processes.
Nearshore engagements help solve this challenge, because though they involve relationships between different cultures, the distance – both geographic and social – between a U.S.-based client and a provider in Latin America can be modest. This is especially true in Northern Mexico, where the historical ties to the United States have resulted in a workforce that is not only fully bilingual, but that’s also had extensive, direct experience with U.S. culture.
In some cities, such as Tijuana, the environment can feel like an extension of the U.S. In recent years, Tijuana has absorbed a significant number of Mexicans who were formerly resident in the U.S. These individuals speak American-accented English, and are happy to put their social skills, as well as their understanding of U.S. culture, to work for them.
To get the best of the best, however, means that a provider has to understand how to hire and retain employees that can deliver high-value, culturally-sensitive services to their clients.
“We don’t want to be a typical contact center – we want stand out in how we address the market,” says Daniel Rangel, SVP, Administration & Client Services, for GGA Solutions, which has two locations in Tijuana. “Part of that added value, from our perspective, is hiring people who understand U.S. business culture. That puts our clients at ease. The familiarity helps build trust.”
Having a workforce that’s well-integrated with U.S. business culture means not only that fewer misunderstandings occur, but also that decision-making can happen faster, with a higher degree of confidence. In the example of GGA Solutions, U.S. cultural affinity isn’t specific to managers and sales-agents – it applies to employees throughout the organization. As a result, there is no cultural divergence when it comes to communication, whether inside the company, or to clients.
“Most of our agents have been educated in the United States,” says Rangel. “Many have also often worked in the U.S., and are familiar with the rules of the U.S. workplace, including training. This cultural affinity is one reason why GGA Solutions typically achieves target performance metrics 30% faster than offshoring solutions.”
Having a workforce with this background means that for critical communication that might require a subtle understanding of cultural norms – such as lead generation or sales conversion – a provider can deliver its clients a distinct advantage. There’s no doubt that having a familiar accent, often buttressed by local knowledge, can boost customer satisfaction, help maintain loyalty, and positively influence a Net Promoter Score (NPS).
“A customer service team has to be able to provide culturally attuned information,” says Rangel, who is also president of Tijuana’s Call Center Association. “We’re lucky to be in Tijuana, where we can attract top talent, and pay them well, while still being competitive to the U.S.”
Many companies now see Tijuana as being in a sweet-spot for nearshore activity. The talent base is strong, and the proximity to the United States is so close as to make the geography almost irrelevant. Tijuana is on the U.S. Pacific time zone, and nearshore operators have no difficulty covering regular business hours across the United States.
The city is also far more accessible than many people realize. GGA Solutions’ facilities in Tijuana, for example, are only 20 minutes away from downtown San Diego.
“Close collaboration and flexible communication is paramount to our success,” says Rangel. “Our clients can visit us as frequently as they wish, whether the time frame is short, mid, or long term. We can provide transportation across the U.S./Mexico border through our daily shuttle service.”
That’s a remarkably high level of physical access, and ensures that clients can have site visits, if desired, with minimal expense and inconvenience. With such pronounced geographic and cultural affinity, it’s no surprise that Tijuana is experiencing a mini boom, with more service providers – and their clients – becoming aware of the city’s distinct advantages.
“India is no longer the first option,” said Jose Salvatierra, a recruiter who recently spoke to the San Diego Union Tribune about the advantages of running an BPO services out of Tijuana.
“Tijuana has become like the new Bombay.”
However, it’s clear that one way that Tijuana is not like Bombay is in how the Mexican city can leverage the intimate cultural and business affinity that many Mexicans feel toward the U.S. At one time or another, the majority of individuals working as agents in Tijuana were employed in the service industry in the U.S., and can engage in friendly banter and small talk about. This huge value add is helping drive industry growth in the border city.
“There are now more than 60 call centers in Tijuana, which suggests to me that U.S. customers are happy with the service we provide,” says Rangel. “Tijuana has an unbeatable formula. We’re competitive on price, very close geographically, and also have a huge advantage: we can deliver to business and cultural expectations at a level that surpasses most of the competition.”