Any company that is handing over business processes to an outsourcer needs to have full confidence that all its information is secure. Often the focus is on the technology, perhaps expanding to include information management. However, it is just as important to keep administrative security on top of mind. “We will block USB ports, and our employees aren’t allowed to bring cell phones onto the floor,” says Federico Jaramillo, VP Commercial Head for North LATAM & USA for Allus, which has sizeable operations in Colombia and Argentina. “As well,employees only have access to authorized web pages.”
For Allus the task of ensuring administrative security begins with a hiring process that is far more rigorous than one might see in the United States or Europe.
“We conduct background checks that include assessing all the financial records of the candidates, as well as police records,” says Jaramillo. “And then when they are hired they have to sign a confidentiality agreement – we can sue them if they breach it.”
The flip side of this kind of rigor, of course, is trust. That involves a willingness to invest in employees for the long haul. Any company that drives high turnover also exposes itself to a poorly trained and less trustworthy workforce – with that risk directly transferred to the client.
“There are a few major factors that affect turnover,” says Jaramillo. “The first is obviously the salary. If another call center is offering them 10 percent more, then they might be willing to move if you don’t have a retention strategy in place.”
Jaramillo notes, however, that even though salary can be central to competitive seat pricing, offshore accounts nonetheless pay better than local clients, which provides a buffer against poaching based exclusively on an hourly wage.
“The second factor is motivational, with an eye to improving agent loyalty,” he adds. “That includes things like benefits, theater tickets, discounts on medical insurance, special events for mother’s day and father’s day. Sports are also really important; things like basketball and soccer can be highly motivational.” From there the strategy is rounded out with basics such as a pleasant environment that includes good lighting and physical facilities, a decent cafeteria, and a policy that allows for scheduled work breaks.
Finding the Right Place – and People
In many ways, companies looking to outsource business processes to Latin America have to think like the outsourcers who want their business. Both are shopping for the best value, and for both the final defining factor is often the workers themselves. This is true even for companies like the US-headquartered content delivery network Akamai.
“I was part of the group that selected our LatAm hub,” says Craig Adams, Site Leader at Akamai Costa Rica. “We looked at many countries in Latin America, but when building the hub the main reason was talent, and for that we picked Costa Rica.”
True, Costa Rica’s connection speeds have tripled in the past three years, and that is crucial to the viability of Akamai’s long-term business, but Adams says the real deciding factor was a workforce that could get the job done – and would stay put.
“We have 15 employees today, and will grow to about 150,” says Adams. “We looked for Spanish or Portuguese speakers who could also speak English, because they need to be able to communicate with peers back in the US.”
And they must be trustworthy. That can be hard to assess on first blush, but there are human factors that combine skills with values – and these values often point to potential employees that will stick around and show commitment to the company.
“We are looking for a combination of factors,” says Adams. “We want employees who are highly educated, bilingual, with multiple technical skills. We also want them to value work hours that balance home life and their work responsibilities.”
Training and Turnover
In other words, hiring people who value family and community, while also valuing it yourself, will lead to a more secure environment for clients. And for a company like Allus, which has significant exposure to financial services and insurance, training is essential.
“Training is important not only to reduce turnover, but also to boost performance,” says Jaramillo. “We believe in two things: first, people have to practice, not only in theory but also in real-world environments; and second, because we are a big company, we cannot rely exclusively on traditional training – we have to leverage e-learning.”
The above approach supports compliance with Allus’s rigorous information security management system. This includes an Information Security Department that covers procedures and policies, responds to recommendations, and communicates and monitors compliance to 14,000 employees. All of this has to occur while seeking new opportunities in more complex – and risky – engagements.
“In general terms, we are seeing good opportunities in high value BPO and some basic back office work,” says Jaramillo. “Traditional customer service is very competitive. People are looking for more than pricing, they want quality.”
And for that, an outsourcer needs workers that identify closely with the each other, with management, and with the task at hand. These are the ties that bind – and that keep customer’s business processes in safe hands.