• Angel Alban

Contact Centers: Consumer-ordered technological evolution.

Professional contact center services are becoming more and more specialized in Tijuana, a strategic city to do better business due to its culture and proximity to the United States.

Twenty-one years ago in Tijuana there was only one call center, a company that provided customer service at a distance.

Its origin was Mexican and dedicated exclusively to provide services to the company Telmex, which previously belonged to the public sector.

Over time, other similar centers emerged whose activities expanded to offer collection solutions, credits and other aspects of finance and telemarketing.

They also offered their services to other companies through outsourcing.

After 20 years, the call center sector grew and diversified to become contact centers, which go far beyond answering telephone calls for their clients.

Now there are more than 50 national and foreign companies in Tijuana, mainly from the United States, with services ranging from Call Center, Contact Center, Business Process Outsourcing, Information Technology Process Outsourcing.

Although historically the teleservice's strong arm has been in India and Indonesia, in recent years US companies have looked for other options.

Currently they are also concentrated in Latin American countries such as Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, where the compass points towards Tijuana because of the advantages it represents over other geographies.

The U.S. business model demands direct supervision and constant communication, since geographic proximity, common time zone and culture related to the northern country are added values of this region.

"When the American client operates in other places such as Asia and India, requires taking international trips to have direct supervision of their operations and this involves higher costs, and also a greater investment of time", explains Patricia Hernández, Executive Director of the Tijuana Economic Development corporation (EDC), dedicated to attract foreign investment to the city.

These features improve interaction and make it easier to do business, because it's easier to understand the client's needs, says Hernandez.

That's one of the reasons why EDC sees this as a potential for the sector, and also, some local and U.S. companies have discovered the advantages of investing in Tijuana sector.

Angel Alban is president of Zventus, a contact center and middle office established for four years in the city and which serves companies in the United States.

Alban, an American with decades of experience in the sector, is clear about the advantages of investing in this city.

"You can come from Los Angeles to Tijuana, do business and return home the same day. You can not do that in India, there you have to spend at least three weeks, he says.

While Claro Call Center Services has been in Tijuana for three years. It arrived in 2016, when they rented facilities, but seeing the potential of the city, in 2017 they inaugurated an operations center with its own space for 1,000 agents. "With our location in Baja, just 10 minutes from the border, we can provide executive management, supervision and comfort in our new facilities, along with additional capacity and economic benefits for our clients. It's a true nearshore model, which is rare in the industry, "says Blythe Lawton, director of sales and marketing.

By nearshore it means having a subcontracting with costs and suitable conditions abroad.

Contact centers like these have grown as the market has done it.

They went from customer service, sales, marketing, to solving tasks and offering solutions that require specialized knowledge.

This is called back office and is from support in human resources, data analysis, billing services, management and technical support, maintenance, among others.

"When you call and the agent who answered can’t solve the problem, they put you on hold, they send you to another department, they tell you to send an email and in two, three, four days or even weeks later there is resolution," he explains Lawton.

The advantages of the model are not only for companies, but also for the consumer who receives a prompt response to their requests.

"If you acquire a computer equipment or specialized machinery that has certain tools for its use and this is broken down, the customer service you call, which at the end of the day is a contact center, now days must offer employees with technical knowledge or professionals, often even at a master's level that specializes in service, activities or product "to help you solve the problem remotely, says EDC’s director.

This need for employees with more skills and knowledge, is easily resolved in Tijuana, he says, because there is a network of technical schools, universities and research centers that provide talent and workforce.

There are even contact centers that have teams of employees graduated from the university at the master's or doctorate level, due to the specialization of the client they serve.

Zventus, for example, includes specialists in marketing, graphic design, international business, accounting and even psychology.

Lucía Rodríguez is the leader of the customer service team and insurance contracts at Zventus. She has a year and a half in the company where she started as a telephone agent and now she is a senior category.

That department is the first filter where they solve doubts, receive payments, cancellations, changes in the policies. But it also organizes them.

"In the short time that I have here I feel that I have grown a lot in the company, and even though

I have worked in other call centers, it’s more relaxed here," she says.

"We also have people who have not gone to college, but they have good English, good skills and work experience, which has shaped them," says Angel Alban.

The migratory phenomenon that characterizes the border contributes to the recruitment of bilingual people as it becomes a job option for migrants returned from the United States, says Rubén Rosas, general manager of Connempathy.

"Being bilingual is not the real plus, since also the Philippines, India, are. But they have to imagine what California looks like, or San Diego, because they do not know it. The accent in speaking is also an advantage, since in our region as well as being bilingual, a large part of our collaborators are people who lived or were educated in the United States, "he says.

According to Rosas Moya, at least 60% of agents in the contact center industry in Tijuana are deported.

Connempathy is a company with 220 telephone agents, considered one of medium size.And it's from local investors.

According to data from EDC, 85% of the companies settled in the city are American, although there are also Canadian and even Asian companies.

Besides the origin, they are diverse in services and sizes, "there are from the most formal and institutional to the informal part", says Patricia Hernández.

Another aspect is the work environment. At Zventus, the walls show the values of each organization, teamwork, leadership, excellence, customer service, integrity, empathy.

Also the work meeting spaces, such as the Zventus Global Delivery Center, where they also carry out trainings.

Everyone highlights the spaces of rest for the agents of the companies, facilities with board games inspired by companies like Google, ready for creativity and playful activities.

"We do activities for employees to get out of the routine, with games, and activities so they can relax and be comfortable.," explains Alan Aldape, Zventus' chief of operations.

To attract the best, you have to have global standards, says Sergio Osuna de Sonata.

Thus, among the clients that these companies serve are from one of the 500 companies with the highest income of Fortune magazine, Start ups of Silicon Valley, companies of medium segment and high technology.

The industries that have taken advantage of the possibilities of contact centers are especially those of the financial area, information technologies, but especially gaming or video games area.

As well telecommunications, insurance, government and public services, health, consumer goods, automotive and distribution.

EDC sees a greater potential in this sector, so it seeks to boost it.

After three decades of focusing on promoting the manufacturing industry, in the last five years, the city has opened up to information technologies and software development, among others.

However, contact centers were not on the radar, until last year, when EDC initiated a strategy change.

"It started as a pilot phase, but the promotion of this business segment is strongly encouraged during 2019," says Patricia Hernández.

Now they will focus their resources to carry out a mapping of the sector by skills and degree of specialization, generate a specialized directory and a White Paper or specialized article, which includes tools to attend a program to promote the business.

Hernandez says that the promotion will be through different media and platforms of external projection, including participation in specialized events at the international level, especially in the United States.

They also contemplate the generation and systematization of indicators and industry information, "because everyone has their own data, but nothing is consolidated".

There are two challenges that you will have to face in your objective. On one side, the coexistence and interaction between contact centers.

“It has been a poorly served sector, companies become individualistic and cannibalize each other. I see for my own good and how I grow, without integrating myself into an ecosystem, nor generating common best practices that give them strength as an industry," acknowledges Hernandez.

"The objective must be to congregate as the medical industry, the aerospace industry, has done. They communicate and integrate to grow, he explains.

In 2019, EDC plans to have at least ten partners in these deals who they propose to promote through a specialized investment promoter.

Although at EDC they are aware that their goal requires teamwork where the strategies that they determine among themselves are coordinated.

But they also admit that they need the support of the three levels of government, because although there is contribution to the economy of the city and employment generation for nationals and migrants returned from the United States, growth and diversification occurred organically, without activities of promotion or attraction of investments neither of the private initiative nor of the public one.

"The industry is suitable, competitive, and integrating correctly with mature industries such as software, telecommunications and educational centers, there are all the competencies and the right talent to offer higher-level, more challenging and technologically complex services," he says. the director.

"The industry is suitable, it is competitive, and it is being integrated in a correct way with mature industries such as software, telecommunications and educational centers. There are all the skills and the appropriate talent to offer higher-level, more challenging and technologically complex services," says the director.

"Now the task is to make it known and strengthen its links of collaboration and comprehensive work to achieve cases of reference or success that distinguish our ecosystem," says Patricia Hernandez.


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