#84 | Telemarketers and Jukeboxes in Costa Rica

Richard Blank, CEO of the Costa Rica’s Call Center regales stories about pinball machines, jukeboxes, and how empathy all contributed to building a successful culture for his business. 

Yet, as the conversation continues, he explains how learning to read micro expressions and body language can help you understand what’s going on even if you don’t speak the language.  

We also discuss criteria to look at when thinking about off-shoring or near-shoring for employees. 






Connect with Wendy - https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendypease/ 

Connect with Richard - https://www.linkedin.com/in/costaricascallcenter/ 

Music: Fiddle-De-Dee by Shane Ivers - https://www.silvermansound.com 


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ATTENTION:  Below is a machine generated transcription of the podcast.  Yes, at Rapport International, we talk a lot about how machine translation is not good quality.  Here you see an example of what a machine can do in your own your language.  This transcription is provided as a gist and to give time indicators to find a topic of interest. 


[00:00:34] Wendy: Welcome back to another episode of The Global Marketing Show, it's gonna be another good one. But before we get going I wanna remind you that the podcast is brought to you by Rapport International, a company that connects you to anyone around the world in over 200 languages with high quality written translation spoken interpretation services. They're always happy to do a introductory call with you to find out what you're working on and figure out the best way to do it. So they're known for their tidbits. So let's do one, today and often words sound similar in different languages, but have very very different meanings, "exquisito" in Spanish means just what you'd assume it's as similar as it is in English, it means exquisite. Yet in Portuguese if you tell somebody that they're "exquisito", you better be careful because in that language you'd be calling them weird. So before you start adding O's to words, be careful, make sure you're saying the right thing and that's what a quality translation firm does.

[00:01:45] So, today's guest he's got a really interesting story. He has a specialty call center, he has the largest collection of restored American pinball machines and antique Rockola juke boxes in central America, making gamification a strong part of CCC culture. He is the chief executive officer for Costa Rica's Call Center, that's the CCC, since 2008. So welcome Richard. I don't know if we wanna talk call center, pinball machines or juke boxes? 

[00:02:25] Richard: So happy to be here and it's great to see you again. We had a wonderful first phone call to get to know one another, and we're just continuing the momentum. I love your Global Marketing Show. Your energy is very, addicting and your podcasts are wonderful. So we've really enjoyed them, and it inspired me enough to reach out and say, hello, and this is where we are today. 

[00:02:46] Wendy: I, and I'm so glad you did cuz you've got an interesting story. So when we were talking, I thought, oh, you'd be a great guest to have on the, the pod show. So, so tell me about, let's go. Pinball machines. how did you start?

[00:03:02] Richard: Let's start with recess, right? Let's start with the dessert first. Well, I grew up, I was born in 1972, so I grew up in the seventies and eighties when arcades were so big in the United States. And Ricky Schroeder had a show called silver spoons and I wanted his arcade. And since I. Got older and the game rooms disappeared.

[00:03:23] What happened was that it seems to be outta style. So since I started this company and I have the room at the call center and a little bit of money, I started treasure hunting. So from a half an hour to a couple of hours away, I take my buddy's truck. We kick a few tires. And the next thing you know, I'm bringing back five pinball machines and.

[00:03:41] There's places in the states, you can order the equipment, you can fix it. And there are gentlemen down here that are electricians. So all they know what to do is walk through it. And a machine I could pick up for $200 could be restored into thousands of dollars, but guess what? I'm not selling any of 'em.

[00:03:59] What I wanna do is have 'em here. So there's a happy medium Wendy. So people can meet people from other departments. They can let off steam and recharge batteries. They can spend time with their boss prior to any sort of training class. So instead of just absorbing and being stressed, they're relaxed and contributing.

[00:04:19] So gamification for me is a huge part of my call center culture. 

[00:04:25] Wendy: That is just hysterical to me. So where do you find old pinball machines? 

[00:04:31] Richard: Well, a lot of bars will go outta business and there's places that are park day diversity, only certain fun parks and older sort of arcades that would give out tickets for other items for children.

[00:04:42] But they, from time to time, they would have a machine. And what you would do is you would just see these ads that they put online, or just through the connections of those that are in the industry. It's very few of us, you, you know, what's for sale. And I immediately. I'm supposed to be working on a Tuesday.

[00:04:58] People are looking where's Hefe. Hefe is out in palmaris right now where the truck bringing back three machines, I bring them I'm in a suit jackets off. I'm scrubbing them down because you know, it's fun to clean them. They think I'm crazy. I think I'm a genius because these are machines that they've never played before.

[00:05:15] It's not an Xbox or a PlayStation. And to have that sort of experience is, as I say before, it reduces attrition. People really have fun here. Then when they go upstairs, they're not laggard and they're not tired. They've recharged. And when clients come to town, it's almost like Willie Wonka's chocolate factory.

[00:05:36] They they're expecting rows of cubicles and boring office stuff. And next thing you know, it's games and I just stop for a second. I go, you know, you could do this at your office. I don't have the room. Of course you have the room, take out this one thing and put in a pinball machine. So those are the sort of ways that we start relationships with the agents and with the clients.

[00:05:59] Wendy: Manage when people are on the phone and we'll get into your business, cuz that's a whole other interesting story that you're, that I'm dying to hear about. So how do you balance, Hey, you need to be at your desk doing call center stuff versus okay. Now it's time to go play on a pinball machine. 

[00:06:19] Richard: That's a wonderful question.

[00:06:20] Naturally, they do it on their breaks and lunch or before or after work. I, they just can't get up and go downstairs. But no, the agents that are hired here are very qualified and they're professionals. Either they've worked at other call centers prior to my contract, or if they're brand new, but have the skill set.

[00:06:38] It's very easy for me to mold them and to onboard them. But no, when they're upstairs, Wendy they're on either a predictive dollar or CRM system. Our agents and supervisors are able to manage the queue to see who's in ready status and who's working there's metrics that they need to hit every. To ensure that they're keeping pace and earning their paycheck, but it's not really about the metrics and doing the maximum of minimum.

[00:07:04] Mm-hmm , I'm always, since English is their second language winning, and that's what you stress on your podcast as well about doing business overseas and other languages. I, I take this delicate education that they have very seriously. So they've invested their youth into learning English as I have done with Spanish, but I take it a step further.

[00:07:23] Prior to working on a single account, I'll let them know that what they've done is 10 times harder than what they're about to do. Look at all those years of investment and dedicated practice. That's number one, number two, it's very important that they understand what the, the source is and the advantages of learning similes, because they can expand.

[00:07:43] You just mention exquisite. I'm not just talking about a conjugation in different cultures. I'm just talking about if they're speaking English. And so I would just want them to expand their vocabularies to be able to express themselves a little bit better, but it's not just that my friend it's about conflict management instead of saying help to somebody.

[00:08:03] Why don't we say assist guide or lend a hand? And so these are the sort of soft skills. My agents in corporate, so enable to have a better experience with the client and for themselves. So they feel more fulfilled and they're not just going through the motion. 

[00:08:19] Wendy: Okay. Yeah, that's really interesting. And so they keep developing, working for you, but let's step back and kind of level set us to where we are.

[00:08:26] Yes. So you own this company called Costa Rica's call center. You speak English, you learn Spanish, you went down there, you open this, you've got bilingual reps. So gimme a little background on this story. Like, why did you open in Costa Rica? 

[00:08:45] Richard: Excellent. Let me take it one more step back before that, just to at least find out where this began.

[00:08:50] It, it happened in Northeast Philadelphia, where I was born and raised. And when I graduated Abington high school back in 1991, my best class was in Spanish. And so I decided to double down on that at the university of Arizona, because they had a communication in program, started to be a by me by major.

[00:09:09] Focusing on public speaking rhetoric and nonverbal communication during college, I interned for Telemundo. So I got work experience with promotions, public relations in Spanish junior year. I moved abroad to live in Spain for two semesters, and I stayed over Christmas break. So I was there for a total of 10 months.

[00:09:27] And besides studying in Spain during that Christmas break, I got a chance to have 55 minute conversations a day with people from all over the world. So things that were important and treasured in the United States really didn't have much value when I met other people in Europe. And so it was more of your essence.

[00:09:44] Not where you're coming from, but who you are. And I enjoyed that. It, it helped me mold. And so when I came back, I was prepared in post-grad. I worked for an importer of Coronas. I always had fun jobs, Wendy, but it always involved Spanish. So when I was 27, a good friend of mine who owned a call center, asked to come, if I could come down for two months to teach English, I took that one in a million opportunity now, besides just teaching English and.

[00:10:12] You know, the Costa Rican culture. I saw what a call center was from the inside and out, not from a sea level or from the financial contractual side. And so I decided to stay, I, I was given this opportunity and so working at this call center in San Jose Costa Rica for four years, amongst Costa Ricans, I learned about retention and customer support and sales and onboarding and human resources and even search engine optimization.

[00:10:39] But this is the part where I decided to start my center. When I was in my mid thirties, I believed that I had my impulse control enough maturity and enough experience at this center to throw my hat in the ring. I had enough money saved. I could take off for a year and put up a website. And I started to do it.

[00:10:58] And little did I know in February of 2008, I landed my first account of one seat of 50 hours. And here we are, 14 years later, I own my own building of three floors for 300 seats. And my wife and I built this from scratch. So I wouldn't have been able to do this without her. So I might be the owner, but she's the boss

[00:11:20] And finally, I guess the market speaks where if I had a large attrition, right. And people were quitting, I wouldn't have a company. So if I could give any advice to a CEO, an entrepreneur, somebody that wants to have a beautiful working relationship with people just have empathy, empathy. When I was at my friend's center, they did nothing wrong there, but Wendy, I saw ways in which I could enhance the experience for the agent.

[00:11:44] And for the client and, and, and one more thing. There's a lot of options here. Amazon is in Costa Rica, amongst HP, Intel, Oracle, and it, it's not about fulfilling the needs of the client. I need to fill the needs of the agent. This is a strict Catholic country. I have to make sure 

[00:12:02] Wendy: that what I hold on, hold on just a second.

[00:12:04] Let's get, I wanna dig deeper into that. So you're in Costa Rica, you've got bilingual agents who are your clients? 

[00:12:13] Richard: We have clients in the United States, Canada, and some in Europe, we do both half inbound and outbound inbound customer support and back office non-voice support. And for other campaigns, we do outbound lead generation and appointment setting.

[00:12:27] And some of the verticals that I work with, I work with law firms and transportation companies, movies and music, tourism, real estate. And so I'm very selective of the campaigns that come in here. And I usually turn down more than I accept, as I mentioned before. It's about fulfilling the needs of the agent, not for the client's expectations.

[00:12:47] Wendy: Well, that's a interesting, so you're fulfilling the need. Okay. Okay. So let me, we're gonna get into that next cause that's a, that goes into empathy and that's a whole big discussion. So your clients. Or in all those industries and, and they're based in the us and Canada. Why would somebody from here hire you in Costa Rica instead of hiring somebody in the 

[00:13:10] Richard: us?

[00:13:12] That's an excellent question. First is my company is inscribed into the United States. So you are working with a us Corp that follows all us business and banking laws, and that makes people feel comfortable. They in turn, hire my Costa Rican company, which hire, and which does the hiring and follows all Costa Rican labor laws.

[00:13:28] So that's a sort of relationship I do. That's very clean and, and safe, but why would they use me? Well, there's many types of companies, some that are small in scaling. Especially with COVID. They don't wanna rent the space. We're very competitive with the hourly rate in the United States. But if you think about the bilingual nature we have and the infrastructure and resources, they might not have a predictive dialer.

[00:13:50] They might not have a quality assurance department supervision, script writing, backup generator, redundant scene, regards to internet connection. And so these are the things where if they're looking to do it in a certain conservative. Way, they could start with us very small and scale from there.

[00:14:08] Now, also, if I, if I may, when I'm on a level playing field, not saying my agents are better or worse than others, but we've compared apples. And obviously if I've been able to grow, it means that my agents here are able to match or exceed the sort of metrics that they're looking for in the United States.

[00:14:27] And so, as I say that if somebody walks into my center, bilingual, it bears the mark of higher education. These are some bright, bright agents. And as long as they don't have bad habits, and if you and I, Wendy can walk them through the process besides the vocabulary, a lot of it is the structure. So they do proper deliveries.

[00:14:45] And another example, it's more for my clarifi. Instead of, excuse me, could you repeat that? The, these are some certain diplomatic skills, as I mentioned to move conversations forward to show active listening. And so instead of making a hundred phone calls today, maybe we make 90 because the agents might be on the phone for just a couple more minutes to ensure positive experience.

[00:15:09] Wendy: Hm. Okay. So that's really interesting, cuz I've heard a lot about people outsourcing to the Philippines or India for call centers, but you found a new market, which is nice, cuz it's closer to the time zone of the us. 

[00:15:25] Richard: Very good point, Wendy, the offshore centers in India and the Philippines. Yes. I've heard wonderful compliments about the it support in India.

[00:15:35] Brilliant. And the compassion that they have in the Philippines and their English is very neutral. So, but their rate. Is very, very, very competitive. And so nearshore where we are, yes, we are closer to the United States. I'm on mountain time zone. There's a democratic society here and there's no standing army.

[00:15:55] So there's a 95% literacy rate. So we're very attractive for not only vacation, but for hiring staff. But when I have clients press me on my 50% more rate, I could look at it one or two ways. If the agent can only make 10 calls an hour. You know, with an average talk time, I can't make 20. I can't make up time, but with my predictive dialer, my training, my structure, if I'm able to do five more an hour, then I will be able to earn those seats.

[00:16:23] So a lot of it is just walking back and asking certain questions to see if the client qualifies as much as I want to earn their business ethically. Sometimes it just might not fit and it might not be a good. Connection there Uhhuh. 

[00:16:36] Wendy: So I, I, I missed you on that, on all the numbers. So you said the Philippines has compassion.

[00:16:42] India has technology and they're competitive in rates. They're competitive with, 

[00:16:48] Richard: they have my cost. Oh, 

[00:16:50] Wendy: they be half your 

[00:16:50] Richard: cost. Absolutely. And their quality, I mean, some people have a predisposition towards an accent. And others in regards to the Philippines claim that besides not having the accent in beautiful English and skills, that since their culture is different from a north American culture, that that sort of Rapport building has been somewhat of a challenge.

[00:17:13] Not saying they're not capable, but these are the sort of things of the responses that I got. And so they're not more of the sales people, but for our end, even though we might be twice the price. If I'm capable through a level playing field of making up for that, that's not time oriented, but skill and merit oriented.

[00:17:32] My agents by speaking Spanish can go to a market that Philippine and India couldn't a client would feel comfortable jumping on a three hour direct out of DFW, you know, compared to 20 hours. and a lot of times, Wendy, I'm not just tooting my own horn, but the fact that Richard blank from Philadelphia is here at the center with their people.

[00:17:53] Mm-hmm that gives them peace of mind. And they'd like to know that a part of their team is there. And so that's a very strong selling point for me as well. 

[00:18:01] Wendy: Okay. Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. So you can go the least expensive with Philadelphia or India. You can go down to Costa Rica where it might be more money, but it's gonna be more efficient.

[00:18:13] You might get more delivery and you get all the benefits, but it's still less than if you hired a call center in the United States. 

[00:18:21] Richard: Not really the centers in the states could be in the twenties up to the fifties. I, I it's been very high, but a lot of people argue with me on the hourly rate that I charge compared to what they could pay in the states.

[00:18:32] And I agree pound for pound hourly fine, but I'm following labor laws. So all of these agents get their full benefits and they must take into consideration. Cuz they're talking about independence per hour in the states. That's native. That's great. But then again, there's no benefits. Where's your overhead.

[00:18:48] Where's the redundancy in regards to that internet. Yeah. And what sort of computer are you giving them? And if it breaks, can you help them? And so for me, if something happens from a work from home agent Wendy, they could be here in half an hour in a turnkey station. So I'm not trying to pin them quickly and let them know that I have superior service and, and, and infrastructure.

[00:19:11] But if they're just talking about price, Fine, you win, but if you want to go merit pound for pound, I hate to say it. I'm probably gonna win 10 outta 10 on that checklist and also educate you at the scene. So, so maybe at the end of the conversation, Wendy, because you're just not hanging up because of my price, maybe after a couple minutes that everyone calms down and I can explain and walk things through with you.

[00:19:36] Then we move forward and it makes sense and why my rate is there. And, and I like doing things like that. I want them to put their checkbooks away. It's not a cold call close it's it's more, as you do talking offshore second languages and, and different laws. It's really more of an education call the first time, so we can see if it makes sense for you.

[00:19:58] Wendy: It's so fascinating, cuz we're talking about this in perspective to your business, but there's a lot of discussion about other, with other business owners that I know about where you go offshore and what's. The, you know, because people are just struggling to hire in the United States right now. And so there, there's a lot of looking offshore and these are a lot of the considerations that you have to take into account.

[00:20:22] It's not just language, it's also culture. It's also technology. It's also deliverables. It's also, you know, adaptation of new technologies and all that. So this is, you know, I drilled down on you on pricing, but really it brought to. A lot of the topic, a lot of the considerations you need to think about when you're going offshore near shore.

[00:20:45] So I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about that. So you are very familiar with the, you know, Spanish speaking culture and in Costa Rica Talk to, and there's always funny cultural things that can happen light the exquisite to what are some of the things that you've found and learned to make you, you, you know, as you've been setting up a business or doing business in Costa Rica, that might be different than somebody who's worked in, in Philadelphia, their whole life.

[00:21:19] Richard: Absolutely. What a, that's an amazing question. And in Costa Rica, they have a culture called PRA Vita, which translates over into pure life. And so it's, they're very big into ecotourism. It's a very strong national culture and the poor Vita lifestyle is not being laissez fair and not trying, but in a sense, it's really about open-mindedness and beauty in regards to how they were raised.

[00:21:46] This is a multicultural. Family oriented society where even grandparents can live at your home. And so with this poor Avita, yes, they really enjoy themselves and click their heels on the weekends at the beach and, and having the best time. But during the week, I have seen that someone in Costa Rica might have a different demeanor on the phone than someone like I would've had in a snowy Philadelphia day where I'd be bitter.

[00:22:11] And angry or just not having patience. And so by bringing into this sort of poor Avita mindset, which I've incorporated in my life, that's why I've been here for 22 years and married a Costa Rican and made a beautiful life here is that we are being able to take that sort of special sauce. And use it for the work environment.

[00:22:32] It's not just the call center, mind you, this, it is not an easy job doing telemarketing customer support in that sort of structured environment. But if you could walk into that environment with that spring in your step and whatever happens, your toes are still tapping attitude. Then I think not only could you weather the storm, but someone like myself.

[00:22:54] Could grow in this sort of environment. There's always one plant that can grow in the middle of the desert and you know, it . And the fact that I was able to rise like a Phoenix in these ashes of the call center burnout. And, and stories and to become a success in another country. I mean, how many more odds do you wanna put against me?

[00:23:13] And I just kept moving forward and it, and it wasn't cuz I have a tip and a trick financial thing to give you or a CEO cracked code. No, Wendy, it was it's the way you and I were the first time we spoke it's with empathy and with smiles and, and interest and just being kind and knowing that I was a guest here made my experience 10 times better.

[00:23:36] And if I were somebody here, snapping fingers and expecting things. And so I took that into consideration real fast. The first day I walked off the plane. 

[00:23:45] Wendy: Yeah. Okay. So now let's get back to what you were talking about earlier. And you've mentioned a few times is the empathy and building a culture. Now I worked in a multilingual call center before, and it was fascinating to me and the people that were there were really interesting, outgoing, love to be on the phone.

[00:24:06] They were doing inbound and outbound calling. So if you have this image of a call center as just a workhouse, you gotta. You gotta take another view because they're lively places to be. And if they're well run and you get the culture, right. They're great environment. So what have you done to create? I mean, you got the boxes and the pinball machines and you talked about empathy, but can you talk me through about how you build, how you recruit, train, retain, and build that culture with your employees?

[00:24:42] Richard: Absolutely a lot of it has to do with positive reinforcement and I just can't walk by you and go good job champ, you know? Okay. Well, what did champ do today? We listen to calls. We grade them, but we grade them on what the client is paying us for. What I do is look for these advanced soft skills where the client will say your name on the phone, or if you're making outbound prospecting calls, you're very focused on positive.

[00:25:06] Escalations. So when you're speaking to a gatekeeper, You're mentioning the name of their company better than they do and asking how the company's doing that day, just so you can start a call strong. And then when you get transferred to the decision maker, letting them know how helpful individuals were that assisted you earlier.

[00:25:24] So you're building momentum, showing such active listening. So you repeat the question back and maybe adjust the tone of the person suspicious or, or, or in a bad mood in the beginning. So you can readjust it in a positive way. You know, you can recap things to them in a conclusion to make sure once again, you're doing meeting minutes on a call and, and, and take an extra 30 seconds to a minute.

[00:25:46] To research a client's website or LinkedIn profile prior to a call or prior to an email, because there's a great way you could custom make it. And so these are the sort of adding on to their skills that I'm looking for. So they're living in the now when they're not, you know, anxious about the future are depressed about the past.

[00:26:07] They're living in that now on that call. in that six minutes. And so they will ask the follow up question. If you hear a noise in the background and inadvertently and passive aggressively, let them know how much you love a dog. And what's the dog's name because once we put fluffy outside, that was kind of ruining the call, you and I for a minute more could connect.

[00:26:28] And then you would ask me politely, what is your name again? Young man, I'd say Richard blank. And then next thing you know, your name dropping me for the rest of the call. And so these are the sort of things that the agents can enjoy and they're experience joy in their experience and really enrich it.

[00:26:44] And so what you've seen in the movies, a boiler room and Glen Gary in the Wolf of wall street shore, There's some places like that. And if you want Wendy, we and I, you and I can go on the floor right now and close the deal . But a lot of clients do not have that sort of vertical or profile. They're not all selling stock and a young lady like yourself and a gentleman like myself have worked in call centers and maybe there's campaigns.

[00:27:06] We would've chosen to feel comfortable with. And others, we would've politely declined because we have. Options. 

[00:27:13] Wendy: So as much as, so that's real interesting. So on the, when you're talking about, don't saying the good job champ, the positive reinforcement is you, you know what the soft skills are and then the positive reinforcement is calling those out.

[00:27:29] When you hear them do it. 

[00:27:31] Richard: Wendy, when you do the knockout in the fourth, I'm gonna tell you was the fourth knockout right shot. I'm not gonna say good job. No, no. Did you watch the. And what did Wendy do? And so Wendy, I cannot believe the positive escalation. You said when you spoke to Mrs. Jones, that was the nicest thing.

[00:27:48] And then you wrote it in an email to him. And the next thing you know, when you called back and I listened to the call, Mrs. Jones said, Wendy, that was so sweet. No one in 10 years has written about me to my, when I transferred the call. Wendy I'm behind your ribs today with extra sauce. Good for you. Good for you.

[00:28:04] Proud. That's a 

[00:28:05] Wendy: lot of positive reinforcement. Do you think that goes across cultures or do you think that differs in cultures? 

[00:28:13] Richard: Depends on how comfortable they are with someone repeating your name and letting you know that you were helpful to them. I don't think I'm compromising ethics by you remembering someone that assisted you in mentioning.

[00:28:25] Wendy: Yeah, no, no. I agree with you there. What I'm wondering about is do you think managing a call center in Costa Rica is the same as managing a call center in India? The Philippines United States, China, wherever. I mean, you've worked and lived in different places. You've you've only done the call only done a huge successful call center in Costa Rica.

[00:28:47] But how much 

[00:28:49] Richard: of that has actor in a different script? Same actor, different script. I mean, if you put me on the road, it's still Richard, it just is Richard in another environment for the movie, there are certain things that are cross cultural, like a smile, I guess that's not offensive and being polite.

[00:29:05] And just being respectful that, that I could do anywhere and everywhere and still be, and still pass the test. Mm-hmm what I need to know is PMIC. You can't really touch somebody. You are mentioning words who, who, who is in charge. What's your protocol. If I am doing coaching, what sort of tone should I use?

[00:29:25] Can I do Richard excited or do I go mellow and back? And I do things written. I don't know, but what I want to know is what to do. And so I would be studying it prior. So there wouldn't be any sort of miscommunication or if I'm not sure, I would definitely ask permission before incorporating that in, in, in my delivery.

[00:29:51] And but no, as I mentioned before, just by, and you know what, maybe they need. My outside the box, thinking in China and India and the Philippines. Yeah. We work at the call center and go into the server room, but I've been successful and I've cracked a couple codes here. So maybe by bringing me there and not being offensive or not stepping on toes, I might give you a fresh.

[00:30:13] Perspective from agent to CEO to trainer. And it might be a wonderful way. We could do a Len McCartney back and forth and just find maybe their combination. Like two colors can create a third color. There in mind can create a brand new idea. So Wendy, my friend, I'm open to all of that, but I, I can't change.

[00:30:35] I'll adjust to their culture, but I can't change the essence of Richard or, or you're not getting the pure performance and thought. 

[00:30:43] Wendy: Mm-hmm so that's real interesting. So you would, and what I heard there and correct me if I'm wrong is that there's this, that people wanna know what they're doing. They need the positivity, there's things that go across culture and you'd study what works.

[00:30:59] If you landed in some place. To make it 

[00:31:04] Richard: do it works like crazy here. Let's say you're having a tough day, Wendy, but you're great. Right? I won't do a scene on the floor. Some people like to do scenes, no scene on the floor, you come get some cookies or coffee and we get you away with the supervisor. And I will just almost say to you, you know, you're better than that because remember the fourth round knockout, Wendy, and you're also out of character, that's the way my mother used to speak with me as a child where I wasn't being funny or cute.

[00:31:30] And I knew better. So I can old school Philly them, and that is cross-cultural, but I'm also real with them. And maybe I am the one boss mentor teacher that spoke to them that way in a forthright way. Right. And you may know, I have their back. I was the first one to congratulate you on your fourth rounder.

[00:31:48] But next week I gotta say, Wendy, Wendy, come on, put up your left. You know, you're better than this. What's going on. Let, let's get you back in there. Right. Yeah, I call the balls and I call the strikes. And I think that's why I have the mutual respect of the agents that work here. Do they fear me? What that's their problem?

[00:32:05] Just because I'm a boss, I'm giving them respect. And if they're doing their job, I could be their best friend and biggest supporter. 

[00:32:11] Wendy: Right, right. Yeah. So it sounds like you've really mastered that. And I think it's so important to master it, particularly in a call center. Yeah. You've owned the business for quite a while now and there must have been some mistakes.

[00:32:27] What, what mistakes did you make, particularly when I'm thinking about culture, language, that kind of thing, but what mistakes did you make? That you can share so we can all learn from them. 

[00:32:43] Richard: As you can see sometimes Wendy, I get in the groove and I just start talking. So in the middle of some of my training classes, I'm gonna quote them stuff from fast times at Richmond, higher, their breakfast club and Ferris Bueller.

[00:32:54] And they look at me like I'm crazy. And then I get angry at them for not watching these movies. . And so maybe one of my things is that I grew up at a certain time and the certain influences we had. But then I let them know, listen guys, if you start quoting Mike Damone from fast time since BOLI, there's a very good chance to see level executive is gonna be my age and they're gonna love you to death.

[00:33:17] And so just, you know, you gotta think about with whom you're speaking. And so I would try to, through some of my examples, do it in a certain way to educate them on who I am, why I love air hockey, pinball, and PackMan, and, and why some of these movies with really cool and fun examples. Could teach them something.

[00:33:36] And so is that one of my mistakes, I guess, but it's my company. So of course in my class, I'm talking about fast off. kidding. These are the best movies ever and you know it, and so uh, It just has to be done. 

[00:33:50] Wendy: It's yeah, you bring up a really interesting point as you grow up in a place and a time, and you're making cultural references that they don't get.

[00:33:58] And so you've picked movies, but then there are people who pick sports, like talking about baseball in a lot of baseball and football in a lot of parts of the world just doesn't work. Right. And so understanding who you're talking to and what their cultural references are. Is a really good point. Any other mistakes that you can think of?

[00:34:19] Richard: Yes, because once again, when somebody is emotional, it was most important for me to let them vent and speak in their own language. I understood them. Was it a mistake on my end know, maybe sometimes I would answer them in English to ensure. That my point was crystal clear but require you have to understand my English during emotion could be misinterpreted as they're Spanish with the motion could be misinterpreted through my translation.

[00:34:51] So as both parties are trying to express themselves in the clearest way, we're both not native speakers for our native tongs. And so what I've learned is to do the double. I'm doubling up. I'm sorry. It's going to be done. I will first say it in English so they can, if they don't understand 100%, cuz I, I don't use such big vocabulary.

[00:35:14] I try to keep it as simple and easy for them, but I want them to hear the tone first so I can buffer it and slow it down. And then I will then repeat it in my Spanish to show respect and. 9.9 out of 10 I'm matching. What I may be missing on is if I don't know a vocabulary word for something very specific, or it takes me 10, 15 seconds to describe it.

[00:35:39] Obviously you lost a rhythm and everyone's getting upset. And so it's easy for me to have another individual with me. That's been at my company for more than a decade that I believe could speak for me. Me allowing it to be done. If I care about this agent so much. And it's to the point of escalation where I just don't want it to go any further, not on my end, where they start saying things or pulling a Jerry McGuire.

[00:36:04] I I've seen such fading flowers where family or money, or just stress causes someone to have their worst day. And, and I've given a lot of second chances. Not like it, it it's out of pity. No, because I know that they. We're not focused at that moment. And they have responsibilities and they've been with me for five years.

[00:36:24] So my goodness gracious give 'em the pass, but they yelled at your boss. They didn't yell at anybody. They yelled out loud. And I'm thinking about all the fourth round knockouts that this person's been doing for years, that they're cashing in they're they're cashing in with the half. They get a 100% pass, as long as you're not breaking the labor laws.

[00:36:43] When. Take it a pass and then they come back the next day and apologize. And of course I accept it and then we have another coffee and we talk about it and don't tell me that this relat. 10 times stronger than it was prior to that. Right, right. 

[00:36:58] Wendy: That certainly is. Yeah, no, that's that, that really shows empathy and emotional intelligence to be able to do that and not take it personal when you know, somebody, when you have a long term relationship like that.

[00:37:11] Yeah. And I think you're bringing out another really good point in that. How you communicate, like most of the time you can communicate in Spanish or English or Spanglish for that part, which I'm sure you have a lot going on there. But when it's something serious, you need somebody to help facilitate the conversation.

[00:37:32] And I have certainly seen that in cases with clients of Rapport International, where they'll use telephone interpreting where maybe, you know, on the day to day you can get by. But when it's something serious, they use telephone interpreting or they pull in a professional translator to help on something like that, particularly if they need Confidential help.

[00:37:52] And so you're, it's good that you've got a trusted employee that can understand and help facilitate that conversation. But taking that extra, like it can take extra time. It's not like you're all from Philadelphia. I, I, I happen to be from central Pennsylvania. So I get a lot of the stories that you're talking 

[00:38:11] Richard: about.

[00:38:11] Of course we don't have patience sometimes. Pardon? We don't have patients sometimes in Pennsylvania. No, no, 

[00:38:17] Wendy: no. . And and, and so if you're talking to a bunch of people from the same place that have the same speaking patterns, you can talk faster. But you don't get the insights or the creativity or the growth that you might get from, from multiple languages.

[00:38:40] So if you slow down, you can benefit from that 100. Yes. So another, another really good point there. Yeah. I'm glad you shared that. Yeah. So what about people who are in the United States and they're afraid of other languages and cultures now you don't strike me as somebody who's felt that fear, but I know there's a lot of them that have, and I'm wondering if you've talked to some clients that have had those fears and what kind of fears they are.

[00:39:16] Richard: Fix yourself wearing a tuxedo or a dress, but with a very small stain on it, I will come to them with the best intentions in speaking their language. But OB obviously when I was starting out there was that one minor mistake. Just fix my tie, please. Everything else looks great. And as long as you're willing to walk into a room, potentially with a crooked.

[00:39:38] And walking up to someone and letting 'em know how great you look and then them gonna say, you look great, except the tie. Let me fix it for you. So next time you do have a perfect tie. You'll be great because anybody that sees that sort of effort, and that's why I mentioned tuxedo. If somebody comes to you trying to learn a language, and even if it's just a few words, they're coming to me as a first impression, looking the best and sounding the best.

[00:40:03] And if it's my ability to assist them with a cuff link or a tie. It's my pleasure. And then the next time you see him looking sharp, you're even more proud of 'em and to give him more suggestions. And so it was all positive reinforcement. Now, prior to going live, my suggestion would be to study your grammar, to see if it could make sense, because Spanish to me was equivalent to eighth grade.

[00:40:25] Pre-algebra mathematics more of like a, a squared plus B squared equals C squared path and theorem sort of complexity. So I could break it down. And then from there, I was watching movies in Spanish and watching the Spanish subtitles to see if I could follow along with the phonetics. And then I made a 

[00:40:44] Wendy: lot.

[00:40:44] So, yeah, but there's something more here because you, you could learn a language and we're jumping into, well, people have to learn a language to do international business. But I don't think that's the case. Do you, 

[00:40:58] Richard: do you think mine was so different? There were certain sort of opinions that were provided for me.

[00:41:04] And a lot of careers should be, pre-destined like law, medicine, engineering and architecture, 18 year old. Richard had no clue and I didn't wanna do homework for the rest of my life. That didn't sound like fun. so I knew that Spanish at least would make me marketable because all my crew of friends, no one could do.

[00:41:23] And so that would separate me. Number one, and then number two, I might get a job. So my parents won't grill me. And so I figured at least I could be marketable little did I know that this momentum would've led me here, but learning a second language is great for your head, crossword puzzles, second languages.

[00:41:41] It's a lot of fun. You can James Bond it, you know, you're going, you ask for something like that. You impress everybody, you know, it's cool. But for me, Spanish made the most sense compared to French or German. Because a in Philadelphia you could find it, but in Arizona it's everywhere. So I was like living it and then my internship, I did another 20 hours a week with it.

[00:42:01] And so. It was fun for me. It wasn't sitting down doing math problems or putting something together in hard that people do. You could use it everywhere. Mm-hmm no, 

[00:42:10] Wendy: and I get that completely because I have that aptitude for learning languages too. And I love it, but I know a lot of people that do international business without knowing another language.

[00:42:21] And so it's certainly helped you to get to where you are with learning a language. But what about those people who are afraid of languages? How do they function without knowing the other language? Have you run into people like. 

[00:42:39] Richard: Absolutely. And slowly they function. And what happens is after a while, that sort of composure of being polite gets old because instead of contributing, all you're doing is just sitting there and then some people feel uncomfortable having a 1, 2, 3 minute conversation.

[00:42:57] And then the stop is the translation. So not saying you're doing something. But I think there need to be some sort of perimeters and boundaries in the beginning, because if you only have 20 minutes, 15 of it, can't be spent, you know, catching Joey up with what's happening. Maybe some notes could be given prior.

[00:43:13] Maybe certain vocabulary words. So you can go into a certain section knowing we're in third, fourth, fifth chapter, by hearing that title or word and someone is astute enough. And this is why I really stress on phonetic study. What helped me master phonetic micro expression reading was I used to watch shows in other languages like Chinese was my favorite.

[00:43:34] I have no clue what they're no clue what they're saying, except me how man he, how and stuff . But so I was forced to. Study only phonetics. And you could almost in a 10 minute conversation gauge with the props that they have and what the setup is, what's going on. Who's superior, who's making the moves.

[00:43:54] What sort of tone it is. So if anything of nothing, these people in this, and then afterwards you get the recap. So just calm down, people can go there and really. Give you an arbitrary, neutral, third party perspective of the tone of the call. There could be misinterpretations there when someone says, oh no, no, this is when we were hitting the contract, but he sounded like, and was speeding up here.

[00:44:16] Why did you do this here? Oh no, no. He wanted clarification. So if it were me. I would have this person in the corner, not knowing a single word, maybe certain sections of the conversation so they could give me some sort of feedback. I would've never seen in the moment. They'll get the recap, but unless they're participating, they just need to be an observant, but be an active observer is my suggestion.

[00:44:41] And have someone there to translate for you. 

[00:44:43] Wendy: Mm-hmm . Fantastic idea with, I do turn on Spanish TV sometimes, and watch it just to get that, but you're right. If you're watching videos that speak another language, you can pick up so much from body language and that's something to remind people that don't speak the language in the country that they're they're doing business.

[00:45:05] So learn 

[00:45:06] Richard: those mics body language. You're imagining phone calls with, with international interpreters on the phone. And so imagine it's not zoom. Okay. Let's just go there for a second. We don't have the luxury of site. And so besides watching the body language, and yes, I do agree with you, but it also can be deceiving.

[00:45:25] I believe that the purest form of speech is pure sound and even the purest purest form, Wendy, the real tell sign is the answering speed, which is not even sound. And so if somebody, as I mentioned before in a structured environment for a period of time, can just, as you say, observe the phonetic sound non-visual for those 20 minutes, they I'm gonna tell you are gonna give you some sort of perspective you would've never seen before.

[00:45:52] And then you compare the super notes. In my opinion. 

[00:45:57] Wendy: I think you've just given everybody homework to just go observe conversations and see the body language and the expressions, the response time tuning out the words, but listening to the phonetics, that is so interesting. 

[00:46:10] Richard: This is, this is the micro phonetic expression reading.

[00:46:13] I know that people can't see it, but this is what I talk about constantly about when there's spikes or dips in regards to their rate and their pitch. And when that happens, I also gauge to see if people on the other side, ask tie down or clarification questions or do extended pausing. And it's a beautiful give and take.

[00:46:32] After a couple minutes of observation, you can almost read the conversation that's expression reading, and then it will give you the advantage when to interject or then to listen. Or to cut the fat and just focus on one thing. And so for anybody that's having really good conversations, it's really about, not about what I know it's about what, you know, Wendy and adjusting it accordingly.

[00:46:56] Wendy: Right. All right. Oh, this is golden. This is fantastic to really well we're here today. Yeah. All right. Well, let's get to know a little bit more about you. What's your favorite foreign word?

[00:47:10] Richard: "Rascacielos," which means scratching the sky or skyscrapers. I always thought that was the coolest word in Spanish. Rakas Uhhuh RACI for skyscraper. And my second favorite word in Spanish is Booo, which means owl. Cause I think it just sounds great saying Booo and it goes with my O my Billy accent. So it's natural for me.

[00:47:34] Wendy: That's great. I did not know the word for Al in Spanish. I remember when I was in college, I had to give a presentation and I knew every word except for bear. I don't know why bear was in my presentation, but I got to that one point. I was like mm-hmm . Oh yeah. Also I know it now. All right. Favorite vacation?

[00:47:56] Richard: Wow. My favorite vacation ever. I guess it's when I go back to Philadelphia to visit my friends during my reunions every five years. So we can just ride around the old neighborhood, go to the old spots. And, and these are my favorite people in the world that when I was growing up my best friends and, and the ones before the fame and the fortune, as you would say, Wendy, and the pinball machines, these were.

[00:48:21] True friends that were there during the tough times and the good times. And so when I go back, it's, it's a great way for me to be grounded because I'm still in Lala land in P Avida and living this sort of. Life, which I'm very happy. And, and when I go back, I get to smell the wood burning in the fireplaces and see the colonial buildings and play in the snow, you know, and go to my old high school where I'm friends with the principal, Angela burs, and I give speeches and I hang out.

[00:48:47] And so. I get to relive one of the most beautiful times of my life. And it also is the Richard circle where it reminds me of how far I've come. And then when I come back to Costa Rica, I'm even more excited to do more things to then come back five years later and tell my tales. And it's just a lot of fun of the, you know, the city mouse going into the country and doing their a.

[00:49:08] Oh, 

[00:49:09] Wendy: that's fantastic. I love hearing that. And how about a memorable cultural experience where you were caught off guard or embarrassed or funny, or, you know, anything memorable that you'd like to share? 

[00:49:22] Richard: I guess it was one time that I was 25 cents short on a drink that I had. I, I was short on cash and.

[00:49:29] Wonderful, beautiful woman behind me, this Josefina, one of the old school, San Jose elegance took out out of her purse and opened it up and took out a coin and handed it to me. And I'm just staring, looking at this woman. And I said, you are. I said investment. I always say. Aris Willette an hill. And I, and I called her an angel and I just stood there for, and I know people were in line and I didn't care.

[00:49:53] I stood there with this woman for a moment and just let her know how amazing she was for a quarter. And, um, but it was just one of those times where I didn't ask for it. I would've put the drink back or run down to my office, a block away and come back for it. But this woman who I've never met before, tapped me on the shoulder and opened out her little purse to give me a quarter.

[00:50:13] And, and I just thought that was very sweet and I, you know, spoke to her and and walked around with the, on the arm. I waited for her to buy her thing so I could walk out with her and wish her a nice day. And it was just, I. That was cool. And that was without the cameras being there. And it was just one of my moments and I wish I could see her again.

[00:50:31] I haven't seen her in 10 years, but yeah, I waited until she walked away and kept waving, you know, it's just one of those beaver Cleaver moments and I just really enjoyed it. 

[00:50:39] Wendy: Aw, that's fantastic. And it's so funny. So like she probably doesn't, I hate to say it even remember you because she was doing, she was being her angel, but you will remember this 10 years later because it 

[00:50:55] Richard: was your name.

[00:50:56] That was the only thing I didn't do. I just kept calling her, I guess, angel or something, but I, I, it would've been nice to found out her name. So I could've said Donna Gloria or something like that, then 

[00:51:06] Wendy: I, it would've. Ah, that's fantastic. Well, how about any final recommendations for people who are thinking about doing global marketing or international business

[00:51:17] Richard: fortune favors the brave. And I believe if you leave your castle, you'll definitely be able to slay dragons and save princesses, have the sense of adventure in you realize that where you come from may or may not have any sort of influence of where you're going. I would definitely suggest learning the language at least in a simple way, if you can.

[00:51:37] But finally, I think more of it has to do with me time where prior to taking such very large decisions, I think you need to give yourself some time away from your phone away from friends and family. Just to take a walk because sometimes when you ask yourself questions, you'll get different answers when you are at a different state of mind, because when there's anxiety, if you are under pressure, if you're desperate, you make certain decisions.

[00:52:07] Now the decision I made coming here at 27 was on a whim. But it was built up after so many years of momentum and training for this where this one in a million opportunity almost felt like destiny. So if it feels like a forced fit, ask again. If it's a woo way where there's no resistance and you are moving towards this naturally, and the stars are aligned for you.

[00:52:32] Then Wendy, I would say is go, Wendy, go. And I'll be your biggest supporter for you in what you're doing. And I won't be a naysayer. I won't be a great believer. I'll ask you questions and be a friend and we'll talk about it. But if you're passionate about something and it's really gonna make you happy.

[00:52:49] And you're gonna feed families and do a good thing in this world. Then by all means, go for it and take your chance. Wow. 

[00:52:58] Wendy: What a motivational talk. I'm just thinking, I gotta pluck that clip off and play it for my son. Who's a graduating high school student this over the next couple weeks. So that was really well said.

[00:53:12] Where can people, you 

[00:53:12] Richard: that's wonderful. Have a question. I'm sorry. You say he's graduating. Hey, where's he going to college? What's he gonna study? 

[00:53:20] Wendy: He is going to Costa Rica for his first semester with Verto education, which is a fabulous program that lets students do their first semester, first year abroad.

[00:53:32] And he's and they get college credit that will transfer into one of their 70, uh, schools international. Huh? I should actually find somebody from Verto education have 'em on this podcast, cuz they're really cool. Program, you know, I'm 

[00:53:46] Richard: gonna find him and buy him some ribs for lunch and play some pinball with him.

[00:53:50] and let him walk around the center for a bit, you know it, you 

[00:53:53] Wendy: know it that's congratulations, 

[00:53:56] Richard: boy, look at 

[00:53:57] Wendy: that. Yeah, he is. And so hopefully he'll be, uh, fully bilingual Spanish. All right. Now, back to you, where can people reach you? If they wanna learn more? Get in touch. 

[00:54:06] Richard: Well, just like your son is flying down here on a first class ticket.

[00:54:09] That's number one. If they're not coming to Costa Rica to enjoy, they can call me at triple eight, two seven one six seven five zero. Or shoot me an email at CEO Costa Rica's call center.com. And, and one last thing, if I may. We have a wonderful Facebook fan page. I got 97,000 local Costa Rican Ticos, and you can really get a pulse on the local business process outsourcing market, and also see the fun things that are going on at night.

[00:54:35] So I'm sure when your son joins and goes to that page, he will find plenty of things to do. 

[00:54:41] Wendy: And what's the Facebook group called? 

[00:54:43] Richard: Costa Rica's call center, 

[00:54:45] Wendy: Uhhuh Costa Rica's call center. Okay, fantastic. I'll go join there right now because I'll be going down to Costa Rica to take them there. And I'm very excited for my trip 

[00:54:55] Richard: and when we put this podcast out there, of course, it's gonna be featured on that site.

[00:55:01] So the 97,000 people will see it. I just hope they don't tease your son while he is here and mommy's on a podcast. So that could be kind of. I'll make sure I'll make sure that we talk about it. 

[00:55:12] Wendy: Oh, excellent. Well, thank you so much for all your wonderful sharings and learnings. And it really has been a, an enjoyable conversation.

[00:55:21] So thank 

[00:55:21] Richard: you, Richard. Thank you so much for your time and your audience this time had a great time today. 

[00:55:26] Wendy: Thank you. All right. So listeners, I hope you learned something here, certainly forward this on to anybody that you know, that's thinking about nearshoring into Costa Rica, because Richard's a, a very valuable resource to.

[00:55:38] Fine. Definitely go to Facebook and join global marketing and growth to get into the conversation about the podcast. And you can join the Costa Rica call center to learn about information down there. Remember to subscribe. So you get notification every time we. Launch a new episode. And if like Richard you're listening and you think you'd be a good guest, certainly search for global marketing show and apply to be a guest.

[00:56:05] We'd love to have you on thanks so much. And we'll talk to you next time.


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