As the boiler room mentality is fading among call center providers, companies are looking at new ways to utilize space in order to maximize agent efficiency and reduce staff turnover. One such company is Beliveo, a Mexican customer service provider with a progressive approach to contact center design and culture. Beliveo has found that well-planned architecture and fresh approaches to management are producing interesting results.
The company has been operating from its Guadalajara warehouse for three years, where Nearshore Americas recently paid a visit. In total, the center has 1,200 employees, most of which are part-time. This is because Beliveo tailors to college students; the average age of employees is 22. The center’s entire staff works on inbound customer service billing.
All of Beliveo’s work services US customers except for a new client they are on-boarding from Mexico, which will be focused on soft outbound sales and some inbound customer service. “Typically, we can compete is if the customer is more quality focused, not totally focused on a price-sensitive model,” said Rudy Sanchez, Managing Partner at Beliveo. “We don’t just sell hours and seats, but also services like re-designing processes and data analytics, etc.”
Walking the Floor
The newer part of the warehouse is one of two productive spaces. When first walking into this area, you can’t help but be impressed. The super-high ceilings are scattered with large draping cloth strips that draw the eye immediately. Desks are scattered in an open-plan environment, with raised platforms for operations and overlooking offices, like watchtowers. This design is intentional as it shows recognition that agents require a comfortable and pleasant environment to work in, as well as giving clients an immediate wow factor. The seating layout is designed for efficiency, with open desks that allow for maximum visibility, preventing agents from doing things they shouldn’t be.
There are no supervisor stations on the contact center floor, as, in the company’s experience, this desk-based approach made supervisors more complacent instead of being on their feet coaching. “We took away all of their administrative work and even some activities on the phone that were more of an interruption to their work instead of adding value to them,” said Sanchez. “Escalated calls and approvals of credit are now queued to receive support from someone, preventing interruption of a coach in an agent interaction. This is to improve performance and further develop the agent-coach relationship.” In an environment where the majority of agents are part-time, this coaching model is essential due to the difficulty of having face-time across varying schedules.
Employee Services & Perks
Most businesses will sometimes have more than one department dealing with things like payroll, scheduling, vacations, disputes, or general employee inquiries. Beliveo’s “Employee Services” station, located in between the two productive floors, is designed to be a one-stop shop for any employee queries or issues. Staff members can stop by at the desk at any time to get help or confirmations from the company’s in-house services team.
In terms of social space, the expansion at the front of the building includes a large set of steps, like bleachers, used for “chilling” and for large scale, group talks or announcements due to the capacity of agents it can hold. Alongside this area is an infirmary and a multi-use space used for yoga, meditation and other activities.
The Guadalajara center expanded it’s capacity by around 40%, but strategically decided to quadruple the amount of social space for their agents. The center has a large cafeteria with one in-house kitchen provider, an outdoor terrace, a game room, and a couple of large shacks that serve coffee and snacks like independent stores.
One of the teams in the company is called “Welcome Aboard”, and is responsible for recruiting, training and attrition, auditing processes and creating strategies to improve attrition rates while taking care of the candidates’ experiences. “This idea came about because as much as you can create processes and check, usually the experience someone had with the recruiting, training, and operations teams could be worlds apart,” said Sanchez. “These differing expectations create fallout. Even worse, when you start taking calls and it isn’t what you imagined, then that’s when attrition takes place. The idea is to hold each team accountable to the process we’ve designed for the on-boarding process.”
Training at Beliveo takes four to six weeks, which is relatively long, but the company is aware that long training sessions are not ideal, and is looking at evolving it into self-paced training, with much more hands-on activity. “The aim is to add a lot more hands-on experience, getting them down on the floor earlier and taking their first call earlier,” said Sanchez. “The Mexican profile is that we’re not the biggest readers, but we’re very hands-on. The challenge is balancing the learning pace of each individual.”
The majority of agents are hired through friend referrals, which has worked out well due to the company compatibility of existing agents often being mirrored in their well-known peers.
Diving into the company’s “Human Powered” tagline, Sanchez explained that, as a small Mexican firm competing with the big players, Beliveo has to be very aggressive on efficiencies in order to obtain performance and economics, but balances that discipline with a progressive, fun culture. “The human element starts with who we hire and how we develop and prepare them,” he said. “We have to start by explaining the discipline we expect, because “human powered” doesn’t mean a get out of jail free card; the human side is about pushing you to exceed your expectations and even putting you outside of your comfort level to achieve things you didn’t think you could achieve. In the end, we have to compete; we can’t just be this altruistic firm as it wouldn’t be a business,” said Sanchez.