The Nearshore region, as we like to call it, is a vast chunk of real estate. Combined population among countries which have an established global services industry in the Caribbean and Latin America totals just under 400 million people. (Another 10 million will be added to the total when Cuba eventually gets on board.)
Getting on-the-ground perspective across this wide geography on how enterprises are adapting and taking advantage of IT technologies, especially in the area of business communications, can be a challenging exercise. That’s why we turned to Alejandro Bourg, the vice president of the CALA region for Aspect Software and an ICT industry veteran, to help answer some questions about three key trends in the Nearshore industry: debt collections, better business practices and also comparative levels of maturity in the biggest markets of Mexico and Brazil.
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Q: The practice of debt collections within Contact Centers in Latin America is climbing. What’s behind this trend and what types of capabilities are in demand among these Contact Center providers?
Bourg: In Latin America, the debt collection has always been a big problem faced by companies and it is increasing because of the current market situation in Latin America and also because of the world crisis, from which we are slowly recovering, but still haven’t overcome. Collection solution providers in the market have a great challenge in order to prove that their solutions can make a big difference between a collection debt almost lost and one that can be recovered; The capabilities that the clients demand from vendors are assorted and diverse.
A healthy debt portfolio is built from payment reminders before the due date, the day, week and month after, etc. Some of the clients stop paying because they forget, are out of town or are unable to make the transaction, the reminder to these clients is light and they understand why we are contacting them and agree to pay at that same moment. There are other debtors that stopped paying because of a salary delay, and they can easily recover from this situation, but we are also facing more severe and critical cases in which the lack of payment is due to economic circumstances such as employment termination, this is a big challenge because it doesn’t mean that the client does not want to pay but will be unable to.
Before this happens, we have to make sure that we are contacting by phone the right person at the right phone number and the right time, this way, we can dialogue and reach an agreement that will give us the opportunity to make it to probable payment dates established by the client in order to fulfill his financial obligations in the best possible way. It is also important to have agents with the right skills to perform collections.
Q: What mistakes do you think Contact Center providers in the CALA region have to be careful not to make?
– Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all CALA is the same. Every country has its nuances so an operation in Brazil will not be identical to one in Mexico or Colombia. Take the time to understand what it takes to be successful in selling, implementing, and supporting customers in each country.
– Grow your partner base, but be selective to avoid channel conflict. Many companies make that mistake of selecting volume over quality when it comes to partners that they seek in CALA and one of the key characteristics of business in CALA is that vendor credibility matters. It is wiser to have fewer partners, but partners that are committed and that you fully support versus having a large number of partners and creating sales conflicts for the channels. It is also important to be clear on rules of engagement with the channel to avoid situations where you as a vendor are selling direct to the same customer that is loyal to an existing partner.
– Make sure your products and processes are localized. The agents and supervisors in the contact centers in CALA do not necessarily speak English so don’t assume that you can be successful selling a product that is not localized in Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese.
In terms of maturity of Contact Center tools and practices – how would you compare Mexico to Brazil?
In terms of maturity, we can find that Brazil is in a more advance state of maturity, we also have to remember that the proportions of the contact centers are not the same in Brazil as in the Rest of Latin America. That is why Brazil has been under more pressure and is focused in the development of this industry; the consumers also have better knowledge than in the rest of the Latin America market, therefore, they have more decision power and demand a better service.
Something to take into consideration is that in Brazil the industry of the contact center is well regulated, the Brazilian government has insisted that the contact centers have strict security policies, to protect the client and the service provided. The new regulation for Serviço de Atendimento ao Cliente (CS, Customer Service), also known as “Lei do Call Center” (Call Center Law) stipulates that the calls to clients have to be toll-free, that the companies have to have on their first Electronic menu the option to have direct contact with an agent in a maximum timeframe of a minute.
The complaint and cancelation options should also be available in the first menu and in these cases, the option to transfer the call is not allowed – this forces all staff to be well trained to handle these situations, and for training, we also refer to the money invested on it. The client service should also be available 24 hours, seven days a week. This is the big difference of the market in Brazil compared to the very little to almost non existent regulations from governments in the industry of contact centers.