Listen to Your Customer in their Language
In 1998, Western Union set up the Latin America Regional Operations Center (LAROC) in Costa Rica with the initial responsibility and scope of providing Call Center support to Western Union Agents in the Latin America & Caribbean (LACA) region.The Costa Rican center was the first service operation in the country to be granted the free trade zone status, a special regimen that offers incentives to those companies that invest and create jobs in Costa Rica.
The talent available in Costa Rica, combined with business conditions, allowed for the Center to assume bigger, broader responsibilities. Gradually, more functions were added to the Center’s product portfolio (systems development, telecommunications), but a big step forward took place in 2003, when the Service Center in Brussels, Belgium, was shut down and its functions were moved into Costa Rica. In the same year, the Call Center started providing customer service in eight different languages: Spanish, English, German, Portuguese, French, Italian, Mandarin and Russian.
In 2007, after Western Union spun off from First Data, Inc., a new sitting study was made to find a convenient location for the company’s financial, compliance and fraud prevention services, and once again the Costa Rican site came up as the best choice from the perspective of proven track record, cost attractiveness and availability of talent.
Source: Western Union, April 2009
An additional consideration regarding Costa Rica was that the Service Center achieved the 2006 Excellence Award, awarded by the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries; the 2008 Services Sector Exporter of the Year Award, awarded by the Costa Rican Exporters Chamber; and the 2007 Customer Excellence Award, awarded by Western Union CEO and President, Christina Gold.
Today, the Global Service Center (formerly LAROC) has six well defined building blocks, which are explained in the following chart, showing the center’s evolution and diversification.
Western Union Global Service Center: evolution and diversification
Source: Western Union, April 2009
Western Union is an employer of choice in Costa Rica. During the 2008 expansion, over 500 jobs were filled in a matter of 10 weeks, in a very competitive market. Companies have to be creative to attract top talent, and employee referral is especially powerful in Costa Rica. The Global Service Center proactively participates in the local business community. The Center holds the vice-presidency of the Costa Rican Chamber of Corporate and Technology Services, which assembles other multinationals such as Procter & Gamble, Intel, Amazon and Sykes, among others.
Western Union’s turnover rate is consistently one of the lowest in the Costa Rican services industry, being in the high teens as an annual percentage.
Over the next three to five years, the company’s product mix and geographical scope strategy will call for a leaner, more efficient organization, where full use can be made of existing and upcoming captive and outsourced centers as the business grows, expands and progresses.
The Costa Rica Service Center will remain as a high-value, high-complexity service provider for Western union and its consumers, becoming a strategic partner for the businesses. Taking into consideration that it already accounts for 20% of the company’s global workforce, it is already the largest Western Union site in the world and operates in a relatively small, highly competitive labor market.