In a Time of Crisis, Teleperformance Places Greater Confidence on the Nearshore
Teleperformance is one of the largest BPO companies in the world. With a presence in almost 80 countries, its footprint in the Nearshore continues to grow, and the company foresees new momentum emerging from the positive outcomes of the work-from-home (WFH) trend sweeping across the industry.
Teleperformance’s global revenue grew 6.2% in comparison with the same period in 2019, according to 2020 first-quarter results. The increase was even higher for the Ibero-LATAM region, which includes Latin America, Spain, and Portugal, where revenue spiked by 18.1%.
Nearshore Americas talked with Juan Carlos Hincapie, CEO and President at Teleperformance Ibero-LATAM, and regional analysts, about the rationale behind the company’s current Latin America footprint, the operational adjustments it’s making in the times of COVID-19, and the future outlook for several key Nearshore locations.
In this edition of The Exchange, we seek to learn where Teleperformance – the most influential of all CX providers in the Nearshore – is putting its strategic attention and why the Nearshore has become one of the company’s most valued regions globally.
COVID-19 and a Nearshore Momentum
Juan Carlos Hincapie has worked just for two companies in his professional career. He was an IBMer for 18 years, and for the last four, he has been at Teleperformance. Hincapie had barely occupied his new role as CEO and President for Ibero-LATAM in January, when the coronavirus grew like wildfire to become a crisis that has gripped the entire globe.
Hincapie quickly adapted, trading in the experience of running his operations from the seat of an airplane and accepted a stationary role at home, with his family. In thinking about Nearshore BPO, Hincapie believes the industry is living through an especially important moment. The COVID crisis has shone a bright light on the region’s newfound WFH capacities while other locations – mainly in offshore environments – faces more serious concerns about long-term viability if WFM becomes the new normal for global services.
“We are, in the nearshore business, living a positive moment, not only because of COVID. If you go back to the numbers of last year and the previous year, the region that has grown the most for Teleperformance globally,” Hincapie told Nearshore Americas.
“So, we are in ‘rocket’ mode, not only transforming but growing and evolving. There is a beautiful opportunity for our Nearshore business to duplicate or triplicate,” he added.
Michael DeSalles, Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, nonetheless believes that Nearshore countries still have many challenges when confronted with the demands of WFH. “If you look at Latin America, one of the challenges has always been is this (at home) situation quiet and distraction free, which is of absolute requirement, especially in the US,” DeSalles told Nearshore Americas.
Despite this perceived obstacle, Teleperformance’s data shows that the Ibero-LATAM region has the company’s highest penetration of remote workers, scoring 80% of the employee base, compared to an average of 66% globally, since the pandemic took hold.
Monitoring and WFH capabilities
DeSalles says that given current conditions, there are three issues client organizations are looking for in work-at-home strategies.
“They are trying, number one, to keep their employees safe and healthy. The second – maintaining business operations with a minimum of disruption. And then finally, this is the most important part, to provide the best in class operational security processes, making sure they get consistent results not only from onsite but also remote interaction from the agents,” the analyst said.
“Probably one of the biggest things that organizations are doing when it comes to remote monitoring is ensuring compliance. That desktop activity is going to be as secure as possible by locking down the devices or using a virtual desktop,” Ryan said.
“The second thing is the ability to monitor using security platforms that provide the chance to do screen scrapes, but also pictures to make sure that the individual that is supposed to be doing the work is actually doing the work and that it’s not being handled by somebody who hasn’t been vetted or that hasn’t been necessarily approved to perform customer experience on behalf of an enterprise,” he added.
Ryan also mentioned the use of VPNs as a critical factor. Both Ryan and DeSalles agreed that Teleperformance, as it continues to optimize remote environments, appears to be meeting standards around data protection and security.
Hincapie says that the company is going beyond PCI-compliance and focusing on security from the house as a whole. “We are developing technologies that are really much more secure; environments that are helping us take surveillance, for example, from the cameras. We are also taking control through virtual imaging of the machines,” Hincapie said.
These monitoring technologies, according to Hincapie, are both developed inside Teleperformance’s IT departments, and also acquired through third parties
“TP has a very strong culture of solution development. We have TP Wallet; we have TP Token; all those types of tools that are done to control security from a credit card transaction to double multi-factor authentication to a server that is constantly monitoring what’s happening on screen. So, there’s a solid IT company inside TP that usually manages development. But of course, we also buy technology from others that that gives us value,” Hincapie said.
Using security tools to underpin work-at-home environments is a natural outgrowth of an overall belief that Nearshore locations can, in general, step up and meet bigger challenges when given that opportunity. One way Teleperformance continues to expand its footprint is by first testing work-at-home agents in cities where TP does not yet have facilities.
“What we do before we launch a site is testing the cities with work-at-home options. And we had employees in Barranquilla maybe even before summer of last year, maybe the beginning of last year,” Hincapie said, referring to the recent inauguration of a Teleperformance campus in the Colombian Caribbean city, which launched on February this year.
“Then we start to test the culture; we start to test the connectivity, we start to test that power supply of the city. We test the hard-working resources we have and how we are going to relate with the authorities,” he added. Teleperformance currently has about 50 WFM agents in this modality in the city of Cartagena.
Colombia’s Potential and Hidden Jewels
Colombia is the second most populated Spanish-speaking country in the world, just behind Mexico and ahead of Spain. Despite that, the country has only begun to accelerate economically in recent years, meaning it still has a lot of untapped potential.
DeSalles is bullish on Colombia, putting it in a high-performance category that would also include multilingual operations in Europe. “Colombia is a particularly interesting study case because it kind of goes under-reported on some levels. So, you have to understand that for TP, they’ve got over twenty thousand employees that are serving four different markets in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, which makes it unique, not unlike the kind of multilingual hubs in Europe,” DeSalles said.
“You have 30 countries that are served, at least, from the fifteen contact centers, and they’ve been doing it since 1994,” he added.
Ryan sees Colombia as one of the top BPO destinations in the world, pointing to its serious scalability.
“Colombia is a particularly interesting study case because it kind of goes under-reported on some levels. So, you have to understand that for TP, they’ve got over twenty thousand employees that are serving four different markets in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, which makes it unique, not unlike the kind of multilingual hubs in Europe,” – Frost and Sullivan Analyst Mike DeSalles
“Colombia I think is sort of like Poland, if you were to compare it to a Central Eastern European country. It’s got a decent-sized population, around 50 million, it’s got multiple cities from which you can drive customer experience or outsource work, which is very important,” Ryan said. “They put a big emphasis on their language skills. I think it’s important from the standpoint to just going back to the cities that they have not centered everything in Bogota.”
This is particularly true for the Colombian Caribbean (see our related analysis), which has significant upside. According to the 2019 English Proficiency Index, by EF, Barranquilla has the best English in Colombia, and another Caribbean city, Cartagena, is also in the top ten of the country.
The Automation Perspective
In the area of intelligent automation, Hincapie says that pandemic places added pressure on TP to deploy solutions that pull from bleeding edge business technologies.
“We did it in a big way before. We have six airlines in the region, so when you need to get your number of miles, most of the airlines do it by bots. We made that bot, and we have a culture of continually making process improvements,” Hincapie said.
However, he stresses that Teleperformance is – at its core – a people business. Hincapie sees RPA as a tool to improve the agent’s performance. DeSalles validates this position by describing Teleperformance’s automation technologies as “cutting edge.”
“It is their primary activity, and they are leveraging on automation tools to offload probably the simple and repetitive tasks and optimize at the same time the interactions because they can be very different,” DeSalles said.
“If someone’s calling for a bank balance or to how many rewards they have in Starbucks, it doesn’t require an agent. Agents are required when there is a very complicated multitasking inquiry,” he added.
Ryan, on the other hand, stresses that BPO companies need to be recognize that automation has its limitations. “I think the key thing with automation is to recognize that the technology platforms are sound and solid, but they are also ones that you need. And when it comes right down to it, in many instances, an automated interaction at some point needs to be handed over to an agent. Now there is a chance to deflect some agent time with regards to either voice or digital interactions using automation,” Ryan said.
In the middle of on the biggest challenges for humanity in decades, the Nearshore BPO industry could prove that it has a lot to offer, as Teleperformance’s case is showing. Despite indicators showing Internet connectivity being spotty in some locations, TP’s experience indicates that LATAM can be a leader in WFM during and after COVID-19.
“We are testing the cities in LATAM in such a way that we are starting to feel so proud. Our work-from-home agents’ percentage is much greater than the group’s average. Our cities are proving that the infrastructure is good, that our people can work from their houses, and that, from a BCP perspective, our region can leverage to grow a lot more,” Hincapie said.