Lighthouse Consulting’s Jamaican Call Centres Provide Disaster Assistance To Hurricane Stricken Collection Agencies in the USA

Following Hurricanes Irma and Harvey many debt collection agencies and many other call centre operations have been disrupted. Yes most had or have a disaster plan and can move seats to another location or maybe another city but this is past a weather disaster, it is actually a much bigger problem for the agencies and call centres pocketbooks. These effected companies will, thanks to their disaster  recovery plans keep servicing their clients but the profits will disappear and if the outage continues the money loss will be the massive disaster that drowns the company in debt.

Lighthouse Consulting is here to provide financial relief to those effected agencies and call centres. 

Lighthouse Consulting can help you open an office in sunny Jamaica and have it up and running in weeks. It will be your office not an outsource situation. I can make it a turnkey operation for you, all you need to provide is staff training, a cloud based system and money. I can even guarantee the cost to be consistent and that cost can be as low as $10 hourly including the staff, computers, internet, chairs, cubicles and everything else needed to do business from the island. Thats just $400 a week per staff member.

This is not just a temporary solution its a business strategy that many collection agencies are embracing. And remember the hurricane season for 2017 will be over in a couple weeks. Lighthouse Consulting has been helping agencies set up their own call centres in  Jamaica over the last 2 years and we have created an ease of entry and a program that handles all the government paperwork for you.

I know you have question so click here to see the 3 most asked questions about Jamaican Call Centres.

Click here to explore the costs in a little more detail

Or just email me at phil@lighthouseconsultinginc.com or call me at 305-853-8773 to get started.

Anatomy Of A Call Centre Worker In Jamaica

Anatomy Of A Call Centre Worker In Jamaica

The island of Jamaica in the Caribbean houses the largest group of English speaking call centre workers in the Caribbean. The number 2 business in Jamaica is Call centres. Tourism is the number 1 industry but there are an estimated 150,000 call centre workers on the island of just 3 million people. So let me tell you more about that average worker here on the island.

Jamaica is the home to many large call centres and lots more medium and small centres. There are large global call centres like Vistaprint, Xerox, Sutherland Global and many more. They are servicing clients  in English speaking countries all over the world and doing all types of phone campaigns. Technical support, sales, customer service, debt collection and more are performed for clients like AT&T, Amazon, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Fingerhut and even international pizza joints. If it’s a phone and the English language Jamaica is the best place to do business.

Lets look at the average employee of these call centres. 80 percent or more of all call centre workers are female and a high percentage of those females are single parents. Historically women have been the primary call centre workers as the men have cultural differences that make it more difficult for them to conform to the standards required by working for a centre. The women have children to support so they, like most mothers across the world will do whats required to support their family. The majority of the men resist the culture change required to stay employed as a call centre worker. Uniforms, time clocks, and lots of rules and regulations deter the average male from the centres but that is changing drastically in the last 5 years. I believe this adoption by males to work at call centres will continue.

The average call centre worker enters the work force after high School so the average age worker is probably 21-24 years old. Many of the workers are 18-19 years of age. Call centres require lots of pre employment screening and testing as well as “good scores” or high grades in High School in related classes and skills. The high schools have curriculum that directly relates to things like english language proficiency, math skills, reading and more to better serve the call centre industry. The island is aligned to serve the tourists and the call centre as its accounts for a large percentage of the total economy.

The average worker does not have a car, in fact most Jamaicans do not have a car its a society of taxis and buses. The average worker lives 45 minutes to one hour away but may require a 2 hour commute daily with multiple taxis involved. Transportation is cheap because its all shared rides so the taxi is always full with other workers but the average worker spend 10-20% of their daily income on transportation.

Call centre workers are generally started at a entry level pay rate. Once they are trained and productive they can easily make much more than that. Most call centres have bonus plans and good benefits like day care, insurance and more. One of the issues that is experienced on the island is late or sick staff but it can be managed if you understand the staffs motivation and work to teach them better habits. It’s cultural to be late so it takes some work to overcome, Island time is the mentality.

Lets talk attitude and dreams. The average worker has a great attitude and dreams of owning a home and car. They want a better life for their children. They see so many things getting better, they see opportunity, they have a vision of a better island. Remember that they have only been governing themselves since 1962. Its a young government and young country.

Overall the workers are very trainable, have great attitudes and want to work and grow as employees and as citizens.

Problems with hiring quality staff? This works like crazy!

As a consultant I have my finger on the pulse of the debt collection industry but even a layman can see that hiring staff is the biggest hurdle in the US today. The $12-$15 hourly employee in the US is a difficult group to hire and train. First they really don’t want an entry level job and they feel they already know everything so training is tough.

Many of my clients come to me to solve this issue and I tell them It’s a social issue not a business issue. I can’t fix the world, I can’t fix the way these employees grew up, but I can fix the problem.

Yes I can fix it by inserting a different culture of staff. Now your wondering where in the United States I will find a different culture than what seems to exist in every City and State in the US. Well the new dilute is not in the US it’s in Jamaica. These employees have none of the same sense of entitlement of the US staff. The staff in Jamaica are happy to have a job and want to be trained.

Lets back up some now. Call Centres are the second largest industry on the island of Jamaica. Vistiprint, Xerox, Fingerhut, AT&T, Verizon, Direct TV and hundreds more have call centres here. Why you ask, great labor rates, great staff and English speaking. Honestly its the ROI. So the idea of a call centre here is not a new idea and the staff have been working different campaigns for decades.

So how do you take advantage of this labor pool without having to figure out the new culture and a new country to do business in? Lighthouse Consulting Jamaica can provide a turn key solution to you as cheap as $10 hourly including labor, technology and support. Yes for just $10 hourly you can get;

An employee

Computer station

Hi speed Internet connection

Cubicle

Chair

IT support

HR support

So thats an all in cost of just $1600 a month per seat. So that collector has to collect just $1600 in fee to break even. I bet your number in the US is 3X to that number or closer to $5000.

All this and the staff are really more trainable and more willing to work. This is how you solve your staffing problems.

Now your saying “but my clients won’t let me outsource to another country”. Well its not outsourcing the way I help you set this up its your office, you own it. Lighthouse is just your landlord, IT and HR support. The office is in your name, Ill show you how to set up everything you need to open your satellite office in Montego Bay or Kingston, Jamaica.

Call Phillip W. Duff now for more info at 305-853-8773.

My Life In Jamaica And The Heat Of Summer

Well its July in the Caribbean and its hot, not as hot as it’s been in the Western US but it is hot. In Jamaica air conditioning is a luxury not a expectation. Homes here traditionally have AC units only in the bedrooms. Most locals have no AC as electricity is one of the more expensive things on the island. There are no natural resources to burn to run electric plants so Jamaica ships in natural gas from the US to run its plants.

So since my last post lots has happened and a lot more has just gotten delayed in government circles. I have been trying to get all my local docs such as a drivers licence and it is just a big circle of bureaucracy. So to get a new bank account open I needed to register with the NIS office, the National Insurance Scheme. I gathered my local friend/guide and proceeded to the NIS office to get the simple doc which I was told only required proof of your birth to get. I had had my guide go to the NIS office the Friday before to make sure what was required so as not to waste a trip. The following Tuesday we went to the office and it had moved and no-one knew where the government office had moved to. We kept asking people in Sam Sharpe square in Downtown Montego Bay where the NIS office was located a couple days earlier and got a lead as to the new offices location.

Upon arriving at the address given we found a hardware store that reminded me of a big Ace Hardware or a small Home Depot. We abandoned that search and moved on to the next thing on the list buying a TV that I will use as a computer screen at my home office. While we were there we called the NIS office and got no answer. But the guy in the store had a cousin that worked there and called her cell phone to find out that the office was really inside the hardware store from before. We proceeded back to the hardware store and located the temporary office, they are remodelling the one in Sam Sharpe Sq. but they had no phones or computers and could not help me get a NIS card, they suggested I return in a week or so. Welcome to Jamaica.

I was able to get the card in just 20 minutes while visiting Kingston the next week but the drivers license is still in the works. I am getting used to all the delays and hurdles as well as its now my expectation it will take a long time to complete anything so when something happens easily I am surprised and if it takes all day I am prepared as I blocked out the whole day and brought water and snacks.

I spent lots of time last week listening to recordings of the collectors for a particular project that is about 6 weeks into production and was very impressed with the staffs skills. They are performing very well kudos to the clients trainers that came down from the US.

Well Sumfest http://reggaesumfest.com is starting, its the biggest Reggae event in the world, 7 days of music and partying. Its based in Montego Bay so I expect lots of traffic and crazy US and Canadian tourists. Its good for the city in many ways but I like that everything is getting cleaned and painted for the event. It seems like some of these areas only get this attention annually but it really helps the look of the city. All the businesses have new signage, streets are cleaned and curbs have fresh yellow paint. This years festival is the biggest ever.

So if your following this blog your likely interested in agents in Jamaica and this blog shows how valuable my program is by guiding you through all the government hurdles and keeping your costs level even if things like the electric bill increases drastically. No matter what happens your costs are consistent with my program. Call me to learn how you can have staff and overhead in Jamaica at just $10 hourly.

Where’s the elephant hiding in your business?

When I first began helping my clients open up their collection offices in Jamaica it became apparent that that the obvious is often hidden. The problem its hidden from us by our own prejudices and things we have always been told. About a year ago a girl on the island said to me in answer to simple question something that has stuck with me and fits so many situations on the island. She stated “It’s cheaper to buy 50 paint brushes than a paint machine”.

What was meant by the statement? Well in Jamaica labor is cheaper than a machine and it does not require gas, maintenance and does not break down. As Americans involved in the debt collection business we know that the biggest line item on your P&L is labor. We have always been taught this and we believe it but the truth is “Its the Elephant hiding in your business strategies”.

hidden elephant_4ac1e49e108f3.jpg

Labor is cheap and ultra effective in Jamaica. The call centre industry is booming and has been the number two industry on the island for decades. Tourism in number one of course but Xerox, Vistaprint, AT&T and many more American call centres are based in Jamaica. There is said to be 1 call centre worker for every 10 people. The Jamaican staff that I can help you hire are very trainable unlike their US counterparts. The staff being hired in the US as collectors these days are difficult at best but you already know that.

If you own or run a collection operation in the US you should call me to discuss how you can reduce that labor line item and gain a better staff member at the same time. I can help you set up seats for as little as $10 USD per hour, per seat. That means you just need to recoup $400 in fee to pay the costs for a weeks work and facility charges. After that your in the profits on the total costs. The great thing is that for the $10, I’m including the internet connection, computer equipment, IT, HR and cubes in that cost. It is all inclusive!

Come down and look around. Let me show you other shops. Look and you will be doing business in Jamaica. Ya Mon!

Does The Santander Supreme Court Decision Change Everything? I think so!

Ok what does the recent 9-0 Supreme court decision in Henson V Santander https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-349_c07d.pdf mean for the debt collection and especially the debt purchase industry? It means it could be the wild west. Does it mean that a convicted felon in N.Y. can buy a spreadsheet of debt for $5k and collect it as first party with no fear of the FDCPA and no need for licensing?

Here is how InsideArm explained the ruling “In this unanimous decision, the Court determined that Santander Consumer USA, Inc. did not fall under the plain meaning of the term “debt collector” in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it purchased defaulted loans originated by another lender and proceeded to collect on these loans because it was not seeking to collect the debts “owed another”. The act of purchasing the loans meant that the debt was owed to Santander—not another entity” . https://www.insidearm.com/news/00043001-industry-association-urges-caution-when-i/

So will this change the face of debt purchase and therefore the face of debt collection? Possibly! So if your a debt buyer and you want to reduce your exposure to the FDCPA then you would have to collect the money yourself in-house. The collection agencies that have always done the work for you are now a possible FDCPA lawsuit liability. Will the third party agencies disappear and be replaced by in-house shops? Will this spur debt purchase again to be a big business? Will the Supreme Court amend the decisions to say something different or re interpret the meaning?

There are many questions and possibilities but on the face it looks like this to me based on the decision. I believe this will change the debt purchase industry by allowing it to grow. If the decision allows for someone to buy debt and collect it as first party then the need for third party agencies will diminish for the debt buyers. The debt buyers who in most cases were already increasing there in-house shops due to the no resale provision in most sale contracts, making the buyer keep the debt forever, will now build those in-house shops bigger and bigger. They will expand offices, build payment sites, buy software, increase head counts and embrace nearshore operations to reduce costs.

What will this do the average collection agency out there? Not too much because only a few agencies are dedicated to working debt buyer business, most are healthcare or banking type collection shops and these accounts will not be effected in the same way as debt buyers. Hospitals will continue to hire agencies, banks will still place the debt with agencies prior to sale. But it will have an effect on the agencies that are dependent on debt buyers for business as they lose market share to the in-house shops.

Many debt buyers will also go on with business as usual because they hold themselves and their third party agencies to standards similar to the FDCPA whether they are required to or not. The biggest debt buyers will continue to place accounts but they may increase their in-house staffing and reduce the outsourced debt volume. But look at the Square2 model which did not work well before this ruling. They had franchisees not third party agencies to collect there debt.  Now this decision makes their in-house shops first party and the franchise idea has much stronger legs.

There are many scenarios but this will have some impact and it is likely to be big in my opinion. Call me if you want to discuss this and how you can protect yourself or find opportunity in this decision.

My Life in Jamaica Continues

Well its been another month in paradise and here is what is going on with Lighthouse Consulting Jamaica and Phillip Duff its CEO. It was a wet week in May on the island which lead to heavy flooding. Most of the interior of the island received hurricane volumes of rain for a 4-5 day period causing many roads to be washed away and lots of flooding. Montego Bay and Kingston were the least effected areas. There was no hurricane it was just a tropical storm with lots of rain.

Following the biggest day of rain in which the entire island was getting inches an hour my internet and TV went out at my residence. The company that I and most of the island get service from is FLOW, think of them as Comcast. I have learned patience from the island already so I waited a couple of hours for service to get restored and then called FLOW to find out what might be the problem. I got the following message;

“Due to heavy rains the Montego Bay area Flow’s service has been interrupted. We apologize for the inconvenience, Also due the inclimate weather in the area many of our service reps were unable to make it to work today so unless your need is a life and death situation please call back at another time.”

Life or death? Internet and TV service that is life or death? HUMMMMMM. Well my service was restored later that night but that was an interesting message.

So the last week of May has been challenging as I had 1 new collection agency client in Kingston training 24 collectors to work on their system and at the same time had 5 guys in Montego Bay as prospects. The two cities are a 2.5 hour drive apart. Thank God I have a strong partner and team, Karl my partner was able work with the new client in Kingston while I entertained the prospects in Mo Bay. Both of us did make the trip back an forth to see the other but it went very well over all.

I was able to experience a new thing on the island by flying to Kingston and back to see the new client. The experience was a great one and this will be a common travel method for me. The flight was on a 24+/_ seat Inter-Carribean Airlines Turbo Prop plane that made the trip in 22 minutes a great improvement. It allowed me to meet with the new client and have lunch before I headed back to Mo Bay to sleep in my own bed that same night. The trip was easy and I will repeat it many times in the future.

While the new client training was happening in Kingston I had 5 executives from a large collection agency in the US at Half Moon the most wonderful resort on the planet in my opinion. Half Moon in Montego Bay has hosted every US President since the 50’s and every British Prime Minister as well. Jackie Kennedy wrote her will at Half Moon on Half Moon stationary. There are images of many famous people in the lobby such as Richard Branson, Prince Harry, Prince George, Usain Bolt and many more.

The prospects fell in love with the island and were ready to do bussiness here even before we went and visited the call center in Mo Bay. I know the CEO of this company very well and told him the 5 day visit “would change his life” and it did. He found a way to turn off the cell phone and relax in the private villa with a pool and a maid and butler. He also clearly saw the opportunity of doing business here. The great English language skills, their understanding of the US culture, the low cost of start up, the overall ROI, the reduced cost and the ability to have staff that want to work. He signed on the bottom line to start with 88 agents, 🙂

As this business is growing at a pace faster than Usain Bolt I have had to completely give up my US residence and be on the island 100% of the time. I have 10 new prospects a month and 5 of them are signing contracts so I have to be here to make my clients and myself successful.

If your reading this blog your interested in either just want is happening or being part of it, let me suggest you come to Jamaica and let me show you what you can do here. Let me show you just how easy I can set you up to have your own office collecting your debt in Jamaica at half the cost your paying now. “Come to Jamaica, you’ll do business in Jamaica.”

Knowledge is like manure. It’s no good unless it’s spread around.

As a consultant and thought leader in the debt collection industry, I spread lots of manure I mean knowledge around the industry. But just like manure helps many plants to grow and flourish, so does knowledge in the collection industry. Does your company need some fertilizer?

As a consultant to the ARM industry, it amazes me just how few companies are looking for more knowledge. Most are just in survival mode; whether the industry is strong or weak, but there has always been enough companies looking to get better that I have remained busy for the last 17 years. Still, it amazes me that there are not a dozen other companies like Lighthouse Consulting offering the same services that I do. Do you want to know why?

It’s because of the type person who is drawn to debt collections is not a person who takes advice well. In most cases I am called when the owner or operator has reached the limits of their management capabilities. They call me to get past an issue or set of problems, but really do not want to be told what to do. So over the years I have learned that the hard part of consulting is not the solutions I present, it’s the way in which I present those solutions to the owner/operator that that determines how they will accept or reject my recommendations.

So I have learned how to get the buy-in from management and staff to get the changes not only implemented but embraced by the entire team. Changes that are not embraced, never become effectively implemented, and therefore have no positive  or lasting impact on the organization. I am hired to make an impact, and changes in operations, strategies, policies and procedures are at the heart of all the consulting I do. So I have learned to educate the client instead of tell them what to do.

Educating my clients is the core of what consulting is to me. I do not always just tell the client what they should do I lead them to the water and hope they get thirsty. If you want to help your company to grow, then invest the time to educate your team and then foster an environment to spread the knowledge within the organization and to each individual. If you need more knowledge to spread around, call Lighthouse Consulting.

The 3 Most Ask Questions About Agents in Jamaica

While I have been speaking to people regarding opportunities in Jamaica I have been getting the same three questions over and over so I thought I’d like explained them here.

The first question that is pondered is can you understand the agents? My answer is clearly yes. The first time I went to the island as an auditor for Bombardier Capital the language skills were very good along the call center workers yet there was a clear accent among other Islanders including resort workers.

Here is a link to a redacted call from a recent (August 2016) collection call from a Jamaican call center in Montego Bay. 

Over the last decade even those accents have diminished tremendously. I’ll tribute a large majority of this to the fact that the island started receiving Cable channels from the US and Canada about eight years ago. So they are watching the same channels you are in Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Montréal, Los Angeles and Miami. This exposure to used car commercials and endless reruns of Seinfeld has changed their language skills and understanding of the US economy.

The second most ask question is do they have the infrastructure to handle my Technology needs. The answer to that has been yes for many years. Initially most of the infrastructure for call centers doing business on the island was created by the government in an area called the free zone. Nowadays the same infrastructure exist throughout the island but especially in Montego Bay and Kingston.

The final question everyone ask is is it safe? My answer is you’re just as say in Montego Bay as you are in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles or most larger cities in the United States or the world. Jamaicans really want to be Americans therefore their attitudes towards foreigners are very positive. The Jamaican government makes sure there are only a limited amount of visas issued to the United States as it fears there might be mass exodus if borders were oped wide. I have traveled many places in the world and most places they do not like Americans, one of the reasons I have been traveling back to Jamaica over the last decade is the Jamaicans positive attitude towards Americans.

The ONE reason you can’t lose with a Jamaican BPO

Most people first think about near shore or off shore BPO when they are looking for better labor rates but they may be missing the biggest reason to use a BPO in Jamaica.

When you begin to look for better labor rates you are first lead to off shore options like the Philippines or India and when you get further into your due diligence you discover the labor rates are not as good as you were looking for, even though much better that what your paying in the USA.

As your research leads you to near shore operations you see more value for your dollar with the Caribbean workers. You find many English speaking countries with nice Universities and a labor force that desire to have a job not a labor force that feels entitled to work and benefits.

St Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico all have BPO operations and the BPO call center crown jewel is Jamaica. Why Jamaica? The biggest reason is the exchange rate, yes the exchange rate. Yes the workers are priced appropriately, they are effective and experienced, they have excellent verbal skills and work ethic but the largest reason is the US$ to JD$ exchange rate.

“The value of the Jamaican dollar has depreciated by 4.8 per cent for the financial year to date compared with a depreciation of 3.2 per cent for the same period last year.” See reference 

There was also a notable increase in the employed labour force by about 40,100 people. Overall, GDP at best is projected to grow at anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent on average for the entire year”. See reference

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