How Outsourcing SAS Succeeds in Colombia by Focusing on People, Prioritizing Efficiency, and Embracing Its Niche

 

Bogota-based BPO Outsourcing SAS continues to win awards for its workplace culture and client service. They won two gold awards at the CX Interaction Awards for Best Customer Experience Strategy and Executive of the Year.

This year, during the 2023 CX Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, organized by industry association BPrO, Ricardo Duran got the chance to sit down to talk with Cognitive Business News Executive Editor Loren Moss about Outsourcing SAS, its position in the marketplace, and its secret sauce for success as a boutique provider.

You can watch their conversation in the video interview above or read the conversation here.

Finance Colombia: You’re with Outsourcing SAS, an outsourcing company, a customer experience company. But you guys do more than that. You’re based in Bogota and been around for a long time. I’ve known you for a long time, and I know that you guys were here at the 2023 CX Summit in Cartagena, put on by BPrO, and you have won some awards this year. I think you got two awards this year here at the CX Summit?

Ricardo Duran: Correct. We got two awards. The first one is the award for Best Customer Experience Strategy. Tonight, we are going to know if we are going to get the silver, the diamond or the gold one. But we’re nominated and for sure we will have one of those three. Hopefully, the gold one! [Editor’s note: They won the gold award.]

The second one is an award that is only for one person, and this year we’re honored to have our CEO, Mr. John Santafe, as the winner for the Executive of the Year.

Finance Colombia: Wow, impressive. As a company, I’ve had my eye on you for a long time, I’ve watched the progress, I’ve watched you grow over the years. And one of the things that I noticed is that you put a lot of effort into the environment — not just the customer experience, but the employee experience, right? You have done some innovative things in that area. Maybe you could elaborate about your secret sauce and what you do differently? Maybe help me understand some of the differentiators that set you guys apart, especially if we talk about leadership, with this award that you just got, but even more broadly.

Ricardo Duran: Sure. In Colombia, there is a category for companies that are called BIC. In Spanish, that means Beneficio de Interés Colectivo [Benefit of Collective Interest]. In the United States, those are companies that are called B Corp, or B Corporation.

The equivalence of B Corp here in Colombia is BIC, and those companies have a differentiator against competitors because these BIC corporations are very much focused on two subjects. One is the climate change, and the second one is those companies that have social projects, or social responsibility projects towards the people. So, our company is very committed to that.

In Colombia there are 1,500, or maybe 2,000, companies that are BIC, but the only BPO in Colombia with that condition is ours: Outsourcing SAS BIC.

Last year, for instance, all the Chamber of Commerce of Colombia, they started a contest among all the companies — among all the almost 2,000 companies — and they selected the top 10 in the country, and ours was selected among those top 10 companies.

The reason why is what you just mentioned: Our company’s differentiator is toward people, we have a company that is employee-centric — completely. We don’t talk about CRM, we talk about an employee relationship. That’s our focus, people. So, it’s been like that for the past 30 years. Since we founded the company, we were focused on people, and that has been our culture — our DNA — and we hopefully will continue to build a company that is like that, completely focused on people.

Finance Colombia: I’m sure you will continue because you’ve been at it for a long time. Now, I know you guys are headquartered in Bogotá. Tell me a little bit about your operations. Did the pandemic force you to go to remote work, or work from home or anything like that, and if so, or even if not, what’s your footprint, where do you have facilities? Tell me about the different work modalities that you offer.

Ricardo Duran: Okay. Right now we are a company with almost 6,000 people. And before covid, we were in four cities: Medellín, Cali, Bogotá, and Pereira. When covid hit we reduced the cities to only Bogotá and Pereira. And the reason why is we found that — and this is not a secret — some people, though not everyone, love to work from home. So right now we have 25% of our community working from home.

The other thing that happened once covid hit is that our company was able to move people to their homes in just two weeks. In two weeks, we had 90% of our community working from home.

Right now, that number has been reduced, but we are hybrid. We have people working from home, and we have people that love to go on site. For instance, in a city like Pereira, they like to go to the office because they like to socialize, and they are used to that.

Finance Colombia: It’s good to be able to have that option for people who want to work onsite or for people who want to work remotely. I think another thing is that BPOs tend to have a sweet spot — areas of specialization or different verticals — where they’re really strong. Where do you guys really stand out? Where are able to punch above your weight and win business and compete with the giant blue whales out there that are in 80 countries?

Ricardo Duran: We are very much specialized in customer service and tech support. Very much inbound, 80% of our interactions are inbound. We have, right now, 15% of our interactions are outbound, and 5% is back office.

How do we compete? We compete, of course, with efficiency, as we are a smaller company compared to the big ones — compared to companies that are established here in Colombia: Teleperformance, Concentrix, and so forth.

We move much quicker. Definitely much quicker. And our overhead is smaller and our costs are smaller. All these aspects allow us to be more competitive against these big players.

The other difference, we are very much a boutique BPO provider compared to them. So we have our own niche. Our target is very different from Teleperformance’s target. We are right now targeting small and medium companies in the US, for instance. We also are doing that in Spain. And so far it looks like we are going to be successful targeting that share of the market. For us, that’s our blue ocean.

So, we have our efficiency, the culture we have, the attrition rate we have — one of the lowest attrition rates in this country is ours. The word of mouth is that our attrition rate is the lowest in the market.

Also, we have an indicator — or a metric — that we call the boomerang effect. That boomerang effect means that people leave the company and they come back — and that indicator for us right now is 30%. Yes, 30% of the people that leave the company come back, and when they come back, they come back working happier. They come back working more efficiently, and that’s good. That says a lot about our company.

Finance Colombia: You know, it does. It’s really thrilling — having known you for a long time and known the company and seen the company grow — it’s thrilling to see that you guys continue to do well. If a company wants to find out more about your service offering, what’s the best way to find you guys and to reach out to you?

Ricardo Duran: Well, our website. It’s outsourcing.com.co. And this company has the skills and the capacity to provide service to the US.

Again, we are not competing with the big brands. Uber, Spotify, AT&T, T-Mobile? No. We are very much focused on the small and medium companies that want to offshore their services, with a competitive price and high-quality service.

That’s something that they can find here in Colombia with us — especially in these days, where you have high costs in the United States, high inflation, and higher wages. It is an opportunity for these companies to come down here to Colombia and have an ally, a partner that can provide good services with high quality and competitive pricing.

Finance Colombia: I would encourage companies to reach out to you. I remember when Lyft started — I know who one of their outsourcers is — and they started with five FTEs. Sometimes those small companies can turn into big companies and then you guys can not only support them but grow with them. A mutually beneficial thing, where you both grow together. That is sometimes the exciting thing about working with smaller, younger companies. 

Ricardo Duran: Yeah, and even though we are a small company compared to the big ones, we work with the big ones in terms of our providers. We work with Microsoft, with Cisco, with Avaya, we work with the big, big brand names, big manufacturers. We are backed up by them, we are very well supported by the big brands in terms of technology. In terms of processes, we are a very, very efficient company. After 30 years, you know how to handle any campaign.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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