Episode 186 : Transforming BPOs into Profitable Value Centers

Romaine Piper is the Founder and CEO of Call Center Escape – an “Upwork” built for BPO companies. Known for his cross-dimensional approach to company growth, he has helped some of the fastest growing start-ups across Silicon Valley, the U.K, and Europe to identify and hone their top growth levers – adding millions to their bottom line. 

No one would’ve guessed his 6-year remote work journey in customer success, sales and growth hacking started in the Jamaican BPO industry as a customer support agent for Microsoft – which is why he’s back to his roots to make BPO companies that are scaling remotely 1.5 to two times more profitable with an industry-first solution.


• So, we always like to ask our guests in their own words, if you could share a little bit about your journey, how it is that you ended up on this path?

• So, the BPO industry, it’s a very evolving industry, an industry with a high level of attrition. What has been your experience as an owner in this industry for attracting the right talent, and actually keeping the right talent?

• Could you share with our listeners, seeing that you’re helping the BPO to strategically position themselves as a value center versus a call center, what are two or three things that you do to help them get to that point?

• What are your views on Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing human capital?

• Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?

• Could you also share with our listeners maybe one or two books that you’ve read that have had a great impact on you, it could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or even one that you’ve read recently, that has definitely left a strong mark on you.

• Could you share with our audience what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about? Either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.

• Can you tell our listeners where they can find you online?

• Now, before we wrap our episodes up, we always like to ask our guests do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote, it kind of helps to get you back on track if for any reason you got derailed.


Romaine’s Journey

Romaine stated that as Yanique mentioned a lot about his background, and the whole tech industry and everything. But here’s the plot twist, he actually started off pursuing his career in medicine. And he had really high grades, he got a scholarship from St. John’s University in New York. But the thing is, even though they’re willing to pay half tuition, he still couldn’t afford the other half, so anybody out there that’s listening, it’s not easy to give it up a scholarship that you’ve worked really hard for, it’s very emotional, he experienced like weeks of crying. 

And so, the BPO industry was to him a quote, unquote, fall back period, if that makes sense, where, he just wanted to like dust himself off, put some experience on his resume, and just try to figure out, “Okay, what’s next?”

Then he realize this is actually a blessing in disguise, because he worked for Sutherland Global Services, and they placed him on a Microsoft account. Being on the Microsoft account, like fresh out of high school, it’s a whole tonne of learning for him. And just to give you like the idea of what it’s like, at the time, across all of their customer support teams, they had over 500,000 articles, which is the most he’s ever seen in a knowledge base, ever. 

And so, this was what pushed him from liking the tech industry to literally loving the tech industry to craving, to for having that passion, and also into what allowed him to work with start-ups around the world. Within those four years, customer success, sales, growth, hacking, etc, and to be advising start-ups. He remembered to that his mom, he thinks around 3 or 4 years ago say, “Hey, now that you can actually afford to pay the tuition for medicine, like do you ever consider going back?” And he said, “Hey, I’m pretty good at what I already do. I love it.” And like that ship was long sale. So, anybody else out there with the BPO industry being your fall back period, literally, you just take it serious, do really well, and you’ll figure it out.

In the BPO Industry – Attracting and Keeping the Right Talent

Me: The BPO industry, it’s a very evolving industry, an industry with a high level of attrition. What has been your experience as an owner in this industry for attracting the right talent, and actually keeping the right talent?

Romaine shared that Call Center Escape is radically different because they are a call center, they aren’t a BPO. What they instead do is they help contact centers to evolve. In other words, to increase their profit per hour per employee, by 150% to 200% by focusing or helping them to strategically focus on two core things, which is their payback period for every new hire. In other words, how quickly can they break even in all the things that they used to invest in that new hire, as well as the employee lifetime value. In other words, how much is their ROI for each employee over the duration of their tenure at the company. 

And so, this is what allows them to help to take contact centers to break away from this traditional cost center model, it just no longer works in this post COVID and post ChatGPT environment anymore, this is a new era. 

So, they help them to shift away from that, and to shift into the new era of what he calls earning more with less. So, that’s also why they call themselves quote, unquote, Upwork for BPOs in terms of like to describe what they do, because everybody’s familiar with Upwork, even if they’re not, they’re familiar with their virtual assistants. So, they certainly know the autonomy, they know the approach that they will take now to having a person on their staff, etc, it’s the same exact process when a contact center partners with them is just that the reason why they added built for BPO part to it, it’s because they optimized for those two core things that makes them more profitable.

Helping BPOs Strategically Position Themselves as a Value Center versus a Call Center

Me: Could you share with our listeners, seeing that you’re helping the BPO to strategically position themselves as a value center versus a call center, what are two or three things that you do to help them get to that point?

Romaine stated that to understand that, they first have to mention, what are the core money sucking areas that contact centers usually have to struggle with. So, it’s usually three areas, its operations, or what he calls like focusing on pleasing the client, whether it’s customer experience, solutions, or investing more in coaching, etc. 

And then you have retention is the second one, which is the largest one. In other words, employee replacement costs. And then also hiring, and training, which is also a huge part of the pie. The thing is, the contact center industry hasn’t really been innovative at all since the foundation in most of the areas, it’s only been innovative in one area, which is operations. Polishing how they deliver that CX experience, but not really focusing on hiring and training, not really focusing much on retention. In other words, if every single Contact Center Executive wants to wake up tomorrow, and see a 10% yearly annual attrition rate, or $100 new employee costs, the industry wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s in today. 

So, those are the things that they focus on, the two core things that especially when you’re scaling remotely, it’s just harder to solve. 

So, he’ll give you an example of how they do it more strategically. So, let’s take hiring. When you add up internal recruiting costs, external recruiting cost, the fact that around 30% of new hires don’t make it to production, he even remembers seeing some numbers of around 50% of new hires leaving within 30 days. 

He thinks it’s best or in other words, he and his team have decided that the best way to really approach hiring would be from like, how you would see like a grocery shop grow. A grocery shop, for example, which is a really good analogy they tend to use would have a variety of different customer segments, whether it’s from like low value to high value customers. 

So, some customers would spend $100 for the month, some would spend $600 for the month etc. What if you market to only one spending $600 per month. In other words, the high value wants. That same principle can be applied to HR, that same principle can be applied to talent acquisition, where the high valued ones, at least based on their guidelines are the ones over three years of experience and have already been working with like previous Fortune 500 clients.

So, when you market to them, it requires you understanding their motivations and not trying to go after the motivations of everybody across the board. You cannot fight Goliath using the resources that you don’t have, in other words, the ones that are at the top, they have all the resources that they need to build these gyms or health centers or anything that you normally see, like the huge corporate BPOs using to attract a lot of people. But if you do the same thing, you’re going to crash and burn as a smaller company. And so, what they’re saying is don’t try to mimic them, try to out compete them, by competing differently instead of similarly. So, that’s one of the ways.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Replacing Human Capital

Me: So, you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation about artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, that’s a big thing now since November of last year, what are your views on AI replacing human capital? I do recall us having a previous email conversation where you mentioned that they’re building computers with human brain cells.

Romaine stated that he doesn’t know why he always love talking about this topic. But growth hackers, we tend to see these things like very regularly, whether it’s Google Glasses, or even with Crypto, we tend to see these new things and the hype built around them, he thinks ChatGPT is the same thing. 

It’s a good product, but they have even better marketing. Because they use the fear of people possibly losing their jobs, to drive the exposure to your product. But growth hackers they always try to realign back to reality. 

In other words, they ask themselves two things, does it move the needle for our business? And another thing that they ask is this something that can be easily adopted amongst the masses?  

They knew that cryptocurrency wouldn’t grow radically as other people would put it, because it has a lot of friction just to be a part of it, it’s the same thing with ChatGPT, it doesn’t really move the needle when it comes to customer service, because customer service, more has to deal with customer relationships. 

These are things that businesses rely on to get more revenue, to get higher customer loyalty, and all of these other things. When you put something that is at the ceiling or near to the ceiling of what it can do in terms of mimicking humans, in control of your customer relationships, it’s not going to end well. 

And a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University mentioned this, they didn’t call ChatGPT, but they said AI is nearing its ceiling. And it takes he believes the research said like over a million times more energy just for it to perform exactly like the human brain for 40 minutes, which isn’t sustainable at all. 

So, the only way that they can really get to that next level of AI is to merge human brain cells with artificial intelligence, in other words, they call it organoid intelligence, where they use themselves to mimic brain cells or tissue that can operate like the human brain cells, and then to try to configure that or merge that with AI to enhance automation abilities. So, unless that is done, which is around decades from now, or if not a few years, ChatGPT and any other AI tool that’s going to be created will just be good at automating processes, and not so good at automating relationships or being creative as human beings because it just doesn’t have that ability, it’s more of a process based thing and less of a, “Hey, I know exactly what I’m doing” type of thing, because it’s only mimicking, that’s all it’s doing.

App, Website or Tool that Romaine Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Romaine stated that definitely Webflow for sure, it’s better than WordPress, in his opinion. WordPress has a few kinks when it comes to like plugins and SEO, especially with technical SEO, etc. but Webflow is more, you’re like, hey, just handle design and we take care of all of that, all of that backend stuff. So, definitely the Webflow.

Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Romaine

When asked about books that have had a great impact, Romaine shared that the one that he always resorts to is Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis. So, Sean Ellis is literally the person from Silicon Valley that coined the term growth hacking. 

This book will allow people just to understand the realities of growth hackers, and why is it that we tend to always aim to look beyond the surface of things. Why is it that we tend to always focus back on the question, does it drive the needle? 

And also, why is it that allows us to be change agents within organizations like with Volkswagen hiring growth hackers to lead their innovation team so that they can take on either Musk and Tesla. So, this book can literally help you to just have a greater appreciation for the work of growth hackers across the world.

What Romaine is Really Excited About Now!

When asked about something that he’s really excited about, Romaine shared that he knows this is going to sound a bit cliche, but definitely Call Center Escape and it’s a good reason why, not just because they’re helping contact centers to do what was once impossible such as influencing external retention factors or just finding more innovative ways to increase profitability. But also, because one of the solutions, or upcoming things on their immediate roadmap, at least within this year, is it solves a problem that contact centers usually face that would allow or would push clients to cancelling their contracts. What they’re doing is they’re turning this thing, because he can’t really reveal too much right now. 

This solution they’re pushing, they’re enabling for this problem that’s been there for decades to no longer have an impact on any contact center that partners with them to scale remotely, which is a huge deal, because that means that they can go into their sales meetings and say, “Hey, we’ve partnered with Call Center Escape, we have this guarantee. And just like our other clients that are benefiting from it, you’re going to benefit from it as well.” 

That’s going to lead to them literally closing more deals, and even capturing some of the clients that’s been just shopping around for just more providers, so better providers, which has been a lot according to Everest Group’s Research. 

And then the last one is, he would say, one of their big hairy, audacious goal. And that is to follow up on research that was released recently, which stated that when you increase employee engagement significantly, you can boost revenue by 50%, and profit by 45%. 

This is a very notable piece of research, because the Head of Global Growth for Salesforce was one of the persons on a team of researchers, which is a huge deal. And so, what they want to do is to partner with researchers of their own to do a follow up on that report with the help of the contact centers that they’ve partnered with to scale and to present this research to her, as well as to Salesforce, so they can get their endorsement to get Salesforce endorsement. 

In other words, to get the leader of the customer experience space endorsement, this would mean that they’re no longer just putting contact centers at the front runner of the contact center of evolution, but it would also mean that they’re changing the way in which they assume instinctively work, which is a pretty big deal. And he thinks with a prestigious universities such as the University of the West Indies that’s in the top 1.5% globally, by their side to help with that research, he thinks this quote, unquote, dream will be much easier to achieve. So, to answer the question, he’s very much excited about it.

Where Can We Find Romaine Online 

Website – www.callcenterescape.com

LinkedIn – Romaine Piper

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Romaine Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Romaine stated that definitely. He’s not sure how many of the listeners know Charlie Munger, he is Warren Buffett’s best friend, they’re both billionaires. He has a quote that goes, “Spend each day becoming wiser than you were when you just woke up.” This is powerful.

And Romaine tends to literally live by this quote. It’s also why he was able to break into the growth hacking industry. It’s an industry where there are lots of people in their 40s and 30s, he hasn’t yet hit his 30s and yet still have gotten in only because he spends each day just becoming wiser and wiser at what he does. So, it works.

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