By Patrick HallerSuccessfully implementing bilingual operations in Colombia has remained the biggest challenge for Teleperformance since acquiring locally-grown Teledatos last year. However, the provider doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. With more than 2,500 employees in Bogota, Teleperformance appears to have arrived at the right place at the right time by expanding both domestic and international business channels. To find out what’s next, we checked in with Juan Rodrigo Hurtado, President of Teleperformance Colombia, who formerly ran the Teledatos operation.
Teleperformance Colombia has a healthy respect for competitors such as Atento, Allus, Contact Center Americas who also serve the Colombian market, and Convergys and Sitel who attend global clients from Bogota. But they are determined to maintain their place as having the biggest global footprint. One way they do this is by training employees in the cultural dynamics of a given country, which isn’t always easy, as was the case when they had some difficulty imprinting the Spanish culture onto the Colombian call center operations.
Hurtado points out that one of their strong suits is the way they develop people. Additionally, they have established very strong relationships with their clients from a variety of industries like transportation, healthcare, telecommunications, pension funds, finance, manufacturing and retail. “One of Teleperformance’s main strengths is in business development,” says Hurtado, “this is an area where we are quite experienced and know a lot about the sectors we attend. We know the local market, and we have global sales force that is a dream team.” In Colombia, their top-tier client roster includes includes Avianca Airlines, Compania Nacional de Chocolates and the pension administrator Porvenir. They count Orange and Vodafone (with 3,500 employees dedicated to them) amongst their global customers.
The operator has added 1,000 full time employees over the last year to service customers from Spain, bringing the total to 2,500, and this market segment is seeing a great deal of growth. Teleperformance Colombia’s third target market is new and unexpected: they aim to have 1,200 dedicated employees to serve the English and Spanish speaking populations of the US by the end of 2011.
“Transforming Passion into Excellence” is not only a slogan, it is a corporate philosophy that extends from the executives, to the supervisors and the agents. It is the fuel that their call centers run on. Hurtado explained, “Basically that is the philosophy of the corporation; we start from the idea that passion is essential. The corporate philosophy is to achieve excellence and to count with people who are impassioned.”
Since Teleperformance acquired Teledatos in 2010, Hurtado has been at the helm of the call center giant’s Colombian operations, and reported that they have had a very successful integration over the last eighteen months. Although the roles of “supervising and maintaining an organization that has an equilibrium between client satisfaction and employee satisfaction” are very similar in the two companies, one of the reasons Hurtado has found being head of Teleperformance Colombia to be a very satisfactory experience is “because it has allowed me to learn about a world class organization from a local perspective, which was not there before.”
On finding English-speaking talent: “It’s a new market so it is never exactly easy, but we have filtered the labor market and have found niches where we have found those resources” – Juan Rodrigo Hurtado
During the transition, Hurtado concentrated on qualitative and quantitative improvements by adopting the best methods on a global level, absorbing the best resources in Colombia and maximizing their potential. “The important thing was to adapt high level standards to achieve world class performance. By December 2011 we will be practicing, at 100%, the highest standards at a global level throughout the entire company.” Teleperformance Colombia also recruited staff from Mexico, Spain, the Philippines and Germany. The international mix is an important ingredient to Teleperformance’s success. “We are a multicultural company and that has made us a world class operator,” explained Hurtado.
On the qualitative side of the equation, the company has achieved great international knowledge, and on the quantitative side, they have seen growth in the Dominican Republic, Spain, and the North American market (Canada and the US). “Before we had offshore and domestic clients, now we have added Nearshore which is distinctly different,” Hurtado said.
For contact centers serving Anglo populations, English language skills are a continual concern. As this is a new area for Teleperformance Colombia, they are ramping up slowly. “It’s a new market so it is never exactly easy, but we have filtered the labor market and have found niches where we have found those resources,” Hurtado said, “It is quite viable to find bilingual labor in Colombia. For now we feel very comfortable in being able to achieve 2012 expectations.” Currently they have 500 full time bi-lingual agents working on the platform and, as mentioned earlier, plan to have 1,200 by December 2011.
Retention levels have also been favorable in the Colombian facility, but in Spain the levels have been slightly lower because, says Hurtado, it is a sales operation and employees rotate more in that environment. Although the Nearshore is a developing market for them, they are seeing retention levels similar to the local Colombian market.
“We have noticed that the new generations need help in developing a feeling of belonging, and we need to make sure they have a commitment to social and environmental issues.” To accomplish this, Teleperformance created two programs; “Citizens of the World” where employees participate in global level courses and “Citizens of the Planet” which gives employees the chance to plant a tree every year. Together, these initiatives give employees a sense of belonging and connection to their community and environment. Additionally, they can participate in the annual dance, singing and artistic competitions which bring finalists from around the world together in one city, such as Sao Paolo, to meet, mingle and compete. “It is also very important that they have career goals so they know they can grow within the organization. We try to inculcate that Teleperformance Colombia is a place where you can work and grow; that is what generates retention.”
Contrary to the experience of other international call center operators, Teleperformance Colombia has not had any problems with finding space. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have taken over the old Avianca Airlines building, which is situated on the site of a new development project on the way to El Dorado International Airport. As of September 2011, when the first stage of development ends, 2,200 workstations will be installed, with another 1,200 stations expected to be in place by 2012. Hurtado predicts that the facility will be the most advanced, state of the art contact center operation in Latin America.
Teleperformance has 268 contact centers in 50 countries, including South American operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia, and Central American locations in Costa Rica and El Salvador.