Q/A: Costa Rica is Still Rich with Talent

NSAM Staff Report

StarTek's new facility is just outside the capital city of San Jose.
StarTek's new facility is just outside the capital city of San Jose.

Some critics will argue that Costa Rica is oversaturated – that wages are too high and that the professional labor force to shrinking rapidly. While that argument goes on, companies like Startek, based in Denver, are quietly discovering that there is still plenty of upside left in this peaceful and geopolitically stable country of 4.2 million people.
StarTek’s current contact centers are primarily located in the US, with a handful of sites also in Canada and also one in the Phillipines.

We recently sat down with Mary Beth Loesch, SVP of Corporate Development for StarTek to tell us more about its new 400-seat  facility, with approximately 37,000 square feet and situated near San Jose, in the city of Heredia. Ryan Carey has been hired as site director to build the local team.

Startek has operations around the world; what were the main factors in establishing  a site in Costa Rica?

Loesch: A number of factors were considered in our selection of Costa Rica as our pioneer expansion into the Latin American labor market.  These included the presence of a large, educated, bilingual and expanding candidate pool that has the types of skills that we require.  Furthermore the general stability, modern infrastructure and close proximity to the US all support a high level of comfort with Costa Rica as a premier service locale.

You mentioned clients had been seeking a Nearshore operation – what specific functions are these clients requiring and why are they best served in Latin America?

Loesch: Functions include inbound calling, email support and various back office channels that support bi-lingual needs, as well as, general customer life cycle support functions.  In many cases the cultural affinity and familiarity greatly enables the degree to which an agent can quickly establish a rapport and understanding of a customer’s situation. This combined with strong language skills encourages a fluid interaction with a customer and a speedier resolution of the customer’s needs.

What specific functions will you provide – and what language capabilities will be offered?

Loesch: StarTek will provide Customer Service, Technical Support, Sales in line with all aspects of managing the lifecycle of end users.  This will include primarily English, Spanish and bilingual language skills.

Costa Rica has become quite popular as an outsourcing destination, leading to increasing competition among employers. What has been your experience so far in hiring, and are they unique incentives or packages you will offer to stand out?

Loesch: StarTek has had a very good response at this point.  We plan to be very mindful of growing and maintaining an employee focused operation.  This, above all else, includes employee development including StarTek leadership development courses, career path coaching as well as the many programs StarTek offers employees aimed at improving health and fitness, financial planning.  Our focus on employees also means identifying and developing great leaders who we will also invest in through both onsite training and training in our corporate headquarters.

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Overall, what is your outlook in Latin America – will you expand with operations in other Nearshore countries?

Loesch: StarTek is continually assessing potential labor markets throughout the America’s.  We are very focused on making our Costa Rican launch a success.