March 22, 2023

The Art and Science of Customer Support | Interview with Richard Blank, CEO of Costa Rica's Call Center

The Art and Science of Customer Support | Interview with Richard Blank, CEO of Costa Rica's Call Center
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This week, Ryan chats with Richard Blank, CEO of Costa Rica's Call Center about harnessing the power of human behavior and personality in the digital workspace.

Meet Our Guest
Richard Blank is the Chief Executive Officer for Costa Rica’s Call Center since 2008. Richard's journey in the call center space is filled with twists and turns. When he was 27 years old, he relocated to Costa Rica to train employees for one of the larger call centers in San Jose. With a mix of motivational public speaking style backed by tactful and appropriate rhetoric, Richard shared his knowledge and trained over 10,000 bilingual telemarketers. Richard has the largest collection of restored American Pinball machines and antique Rockola Jukeboxes in Central America, making gamification a strong part of CCC culture. He holds a bachelors degree in Communication and Spanish from the University of Arizona and a certificate of language proficiency from the University of Sevilla, Spain.

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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology people and processes to the approaches they took that will help you to get to the scripts with a digital workspace inner workings.

So welcome Richard to the digital workspace works podcast, you want to give everyone introduction to who you are and what you do.

Richard Blank 0:35
Of course, thank you, Ryan. I appreciate being here with you and your audience. My name is Richard blank. I'm the CEO of Costa Rica's call centre where a near shore dedicated bilingual Call Centre located here in beautiful Central America.

Ryan Purvis 0:49
Correct. And people are able to see this because you got some fantastic looking machines behind Do you want to talk a little bit about that before we get into the fun stuff?

Richard Blank 1:00
No, I always believe in dessert first and my favourite class was recess I wanted to combine the two. I got a candy machine. I got a jukebox. She's a beautiful 1961 Ricola Regis. One man's trash is another man's treasure, right? And so I go treasure hunting down here. I'm willing to drive a couple hours with a with a truck and a few $100. And so I collect pinball machines, retro arcade machines jukeboxes. And so I've created my environment where there's a game room, people can let off steam recharge batteries. I've seen people smooth them by the Pac Man Machine. So it's created a wonderful company culture to reduce attrition and really boost morale.

Ryan Purvis 1:40
Yeah, that's important nowadays, you know, with with COVID, changing the way they work, you need to find a way you could tell it, how you operate, and how it's worked out for you.

Richard Blank 1:55
Well, it's interesting because we have different types of accounts. Here we have outbound lead generation appointment setting sales, clients hire us as well for inbound customer support and omni channel non voice support will do chats and emails, I highly recommend still having some sort of medium where clients can communicate with you in a live way. But today's it's becoming more streamlined for an example, right. And I was doing a lot of thinking before coming on the podcast today. And we can talk about my predictive dialer, by server room infrastructure and QA department. And that's fine. That's a digital workspace where we use our infrastructure to work on your soft skills. But when COVID hit, people needed to go home, so they didn't have the internet redundancy, the electricity with the generator and the immediate IT support, we needed to create that VPN, we needed to set up their CPUs, we needed to get them ready. So legally, they have an environment where they can fulfil the need of the client in the labour law, but they're also able to communicate with it have the support that they need. And so we don't miss a beat. And there weren't many shenanigans, people just weren't accustomed to the isolation and call centres you feed off of energy. So imagine working out at the home gym compared to being with your buddy Ryan, you know, putting up four more reps. And so we made that and zoom assisted us with speaking with the agents and motivating them. But my man, it was almost like a print compared to a painting. There's a big difference between seeing live theatre compared to seeing a movie and there's benefits of both. But we were able to adapt, which was important because if we didn't, we'd sank.

Ryan Purvis 3:37
Yeah, agreed. And what do you guys do you know you back in, in the call centres? Are you still working sort of hybrid or have you it's really,

Richard Blank 3:46
it's really a seller's market. So the agents have so much leverage. Now, if they can show the metrics be consistent in regards to going to work and putting in the hours, they pretty much can call the shots. And I've seen that a lot of the resumes that are coming in, people don't want to come now. I don't blame them. So some individuals live very far away. And there might be some other options out there. But I try to at least establish a foundation relationship where if you come in for the train and maybe have a pizza with us, playing some pinball to get to know you then there's a very good chance we can anchor and bridge from there if not, it's just another virtual agent that just like an Machiavelli's the prince is a mercenary. They'll just jump ship to someone that pays them more money. I'm, I'm hoping that we're competitive, but the self reliance and self confidence and the experience that they get here and being treated with that dignity, Ryan might be the sort of thing that could give me long term stability and agents here.

Ryan Purvis 4:50
Yeah. And your clients, are they mostly in your timezone? Are you working across multiple time zones beyond sort of the Americas?

Richard Blank 4:59
Great question. majority of my clients are United States, Canada, some in Central America and a little bit in Europe. But it the proxy mix to the United States makes it great for Costa Ricans. And plus, since we're near shore compared to offshore, a lot of my clients will fly into Costa Rica on direct flights. It's just a couple hours. And remember, the weather here is great. But it's interesting. Companies such as HP, Amazon, Intel, an Oracle are here. So the labour force and the skill set seems to be of a superior grade, because there's an enormous amount of investments that are made here.

Ryan Purvis 5:38
Yeah, yeah, I can imagine. I mean, it's a place I've always wanted to go to, and I'll let you know if I ever get there.

Richard Blank 5:45
Or second podcast here.

Ryan Purvis 5:46
Yeah. I'll take you out on that.

Richard Blank 5:49
put that in there. Ryan, well done.

Ryan Purvis 5:52
Anything in advance? And I'm curious, you know, with with you being Nischal, how has that? You know, obviously, you know, where I'm in sort of Africa, Europe, we do a lot with with the Asia side, not the north, not the South America side, North America side. I mean, a lot of North America. But what I'm saying is, when I was talking to someone about a Brazilian development team hadn't even thought about Brazil, for software development, which was very naive with me. Do you find that because you're close to the big brother, Canada's in the US that you get good clients that are prepared for an offer a near shore? Call Centre? Question makes sense. But

Richard Blank 6:33
maybe it does. Actually, a lot of people have had positive and negative experiences offshore, the price is extremely enticing. I mean, you could get it for a fraction of our costs. But then again, you are paying for a government. That's the democratic here. So there is a stable government, also our infrastructure or neutral accidents, but But besides that, let's just say I have a niche market, I have a mom and pop, I'm 150 Strong, I'm not 1000s. So the sort of companies that choose me ones from one seat up to 100 seats, that they'll they like the fact I'm from Philadelphia, originally, I've moved here, I've been here for more than two decades, I've been in the industry. And I'm a straight shooter, I like to talk about metrics, I like to give my experience of other verticals. And from an educated point of view, they make a decision, by default, I lose them on price. But you were mentioning Brazil earlier. And yes, there's a lot of agents that are trilingual, and there's even Chinese speakers here. Now, Ryan, I only choose accounts a that I feel ethically comfortable with, because it's a strict Catholic contract, we'd all do sports books, casino stocks, pharmacies, or sweepstakes. But I also don't want a rogue agent. I don't want somebody on the phone using profanity, or not representing your company or mine in the best light. So I could only choose campaigns for English and Spanish. Yeah. And if random a call comes up, that's Portuguese in the agent does speak when you can't help that. But I want to be able to quality control and listen and understand and I need that sort of relationship with that client. But I need them also to understand the labour laws, and sometimes their company culture, let's say in New York, might be a little more aggressive, while we prefer something more assertive. So profanity might not be at the right moment. Maybe writing to me in bold, does not make its point. And sometimes overzealous supervisors that try to motivate you might just lower the morale. And so we have to be very careful to introduce this beautiful, peaceful por vida culture, and to see if it is a good fit. And so that's what I try to do with these clients that that we entertain.

Ryan Purvis 8:46
All right, tell me how it works. You know, you got a client, they want you to do their, their, whatever it is, do you use their technology? Do you have your own technology that you tie up with this? I mean, how do you protect data and that sort of thing?

Richard Blank 8:58
Depends if it's a pilot project, or if they have something that's in place, and I can plug and play. Definitely we send out a pre launch checklist prior to any sort of contracts. So if anything of nothing, just inadvertently, I can educate them if they're prospecting other call centres, what sort of questions to ask, because it's not you, I'd love to earn your business. I just got to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row. And so my floor manager will send out a list of our goes to onboarding and scripts. IT guy will touch base in regards to connectivity server room and he sort of reporting and that's when we can see if you've oversold yourself and you're being forthright with me gives you can't even come up with any sort of script list metrics, or anything recordings, then we know where we need to be good. And it's okay if another call centre was giving you certain numbers, but it just didn't back up. And so, what I try to do is to give them stability and I like to show them this sort of structure we have so they can gauge Mormons, we can make adjustments, the list the script. And so it's really mean, asking certain questions and explaining why. And so I love consulting. And if you think I'm giving out a secret sauce, have them duplicate what I do. If you want to go for God's speed, I'll be the first one to assist you. Why would you sell your soul and do this? I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I did it. But anyway, making my point. I think that some people have certain expectations. And I'd like to walk them backwards on what, how many? What's the average talk time? What's the average wrap up time what sort of notes are being put in? Can we streamline this with dropdowns? Can I cut and paste? Are there any sort of ways that I can, as I say, mentioning using this predictive dialer, so I can have pretty much eye contact ratio of 100%. And not waste time, click the dial or manual dialling that just kills any sort of rhythm or campaign. And and there's so many suggestions I can make to shave the fat and streamline but the agent needs to be prepared for this, Ryan. Besides being bold, you need the endurance, and your head to be prepared to make and receive eight hours worth of phone calls a day, 160 hours a month. It's not for the faint of heart. It's it's almost like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Conan the Barbarian the wheel of painting. But if you can do it, and bring in that energy and learn how to work with rebuttals and give positive escalations, show attentive listening, and great note taken, using the military alphabet, really taking good meeting minutes, and doing your due diligence prior to a phone call with a LinkedIn profile or a website just to pull out some goodies, then by all means you should be strong, and a warrior. And it's a craft. And as long as somebody is prepared that way, right? And then what happens when your technology turns off, or you don't have a Wi Fi connection? Or your computer just gets water or coffee spilled on it? Do you still have game? Are you still capable of having a conversation and closing and listening and building that relationship? Without anything that is digital? So I think my good friend, you need to combine the two kind of like Robocop All right, don't depend on one. And don't rely on the other. Yeah, use them both to make your paintings.

Ryan Purvis 12:36
Yeah, and I think you're spot on. I mean, and it's funny, you mentioned the sort of analogue world of of doing things. You can see it often when you go to a out that we were catching a flight the other day, and there was a power outage, which is very common in South Africa at the moment. And you could see who knew how you had the thing should work because they could automatically go to a manual process where they just dumped people's names and whatever else they needed and carried on processing people, and those that were so reliant on the system. And if the system wasn't there, they didn't know what to do. And they were lost. And you know, that's that's a big problem in sort of how people are in jobs right now, because they rely so much on the technology to tell them what to do. So as I appreciate your comment in that respect, and you mentioned, we had our pre call, and I'm talking about what you called it, it was the sort of smiley face.

Richard Blank 13:34
Boomerang. Yes, you've got my famous buffer boomerang technique.

Ryan Purvis 13:41
Yes, yes, I see that. I can see it, and we, we will describe it for those who can't see it. So you've got a circle that has a line that runs like a like a hammock, and it goes back up to a triangle. And before that triangle, there's two parallel lines that run below the triangle. And inside the circle, and the Boomerang is a minus two and a plus two. And the minus two is a buffer and the boomerang is

Richard Blank 14:11
a boomerang technique you were mentioning at the airport the other day when the system went down. All right, and the best thing to do when there's fire is to stop, drop and roll, stop what you're doing, drop the negativity and see if you can roll on and do something different. The first thing to do is adjust the tone because if you don't have balance or centre, you're not getting out of the building alive. That's number one. Okay? And so the buffer Boomerang is just readjusting tones. For an example you call a company. And what I like to do is I like to do a company name spike prior to an introduction because I'm using my anonymity. And the first three seconds of my speech is something that sounds familiar to them. Then I'll say hey, how's the digital workspace works doing today? And naturally, you will say we're doing great compared to asking how Ryan's doing or two Stick to Ryan. So I'm not anonymous, the whole call because that's shady. But I can mystery shop you for the first 33 seconds and pretend like I've been there. So it reduces a difference from let's say, to attend to a six. And actually I've gotten your interest, you'll ask me who I am, depending on what the tone is. And sometimes it's negative because people are just in a trance. What is your name? So I would capture that negative tone? And I would say, Ryan, that's an excellent question. My name is Richard blank, I would capture the negativity name drop you let you know, it's a great question. Glad you brought it up. So glad we're talking about it, repeating the question to show active listening and sending it back positive and you can readjust tones and faces that way. And so if you're going to do a microexpression read, you can do it visually. And people talk about object and self adapting and facial expressions fine. So be it but what about over the phone when it's sight unseen? These are phonetic microexpression reading, tell signs. And so the only way to read you is to have a neutral sort of areas so I can see inconsistencies. So you don't know me? I don't know you. And in the beginning, you're yelling at me because you just got 10 phone calls. I gotta let you know I love the digital workspace works. I'm your biggest fan. So calm down. And also Ryan, let's make you smile. And then guess what happens? Ryan? You passed me to Mr. Jones. Ooh, the big boss. But prior to the transfer, I'm gonna say Hey, Ryan, I just gotta let you know you were great. And when I speak to Mr. Jones, I'm going to let them know that's a verbal positive escalation. So of course, you're going to transfer me so that Mr. Jones answers the call. And of course, I'm going to say hey, Mr. Jones, I gotta let you know Brian's the greatest you don't even know. And I'm giving I'm giving them the gift. And you gave me the past to pitch Jones anyway, so you think is he's waiting for a telemarketing call to 10 defence now he's at like a two. I haven't even said the name of your company yet in a great way. When he's we'll put them down to a one. So I could double gonna Brian's great. And as the digital workspace starts doing today, you have to give me 30 seconds. It's fine to lose. So naturally, you're going to ask me a buffer boomerang question once again. Who are you? Mr. Jones, so glad that you asked. My name is Richard blank. Well, Richard blank, you got five minutes, what you got going. And what I love to do is I love to give my explanations kind of like a dessert tray, or an equaliser where each one gets its own little thing. And you pause in between for positive or negative reinforcements. But don't don't go too fast. Because that's desert pitching with no away. So someone needs to breathe and draining. And so I wait. And then I go from horizontal to vertical. We take our time, we've got six more to talk about. But if you like this, Ryan, why don't we just start stacking open ended questions where you just keep telling me things. And then we move on to the next one. And then at the end, let's say you didn't like any of them. And I was over 10 Because I gave all my desserts and you didn't want. We're at least saying Hey, Ryan, I'm sure you like at least one. At least you got to rake it once. Sure I like number three, and then you start from there. And so there's ways to give insurance policies. And at the end military alphabet is essential because people have exotic names. You don't want emails bouncing back. A lot of people served in the military. So it's another way to anchor with somebody. If a dog's barking in the background. Instead of saying put your dog away. I can let you know. I love dogs. Oh, by the way, Ryan, What's your dog's name? What's breed? And How old's your puppy? He's 16. Of course, Buffy. And so I can anchor with you, my man. That's another five minutes. Yeah, that's another five minutes. And then at the end of the call, you're calling me, Richie. And we're setting up follow up calls. I call the company back Ryan answers again, thanks me for the positive escalation that I said tells me a couple more goodies about Mr. Jones. And you wonder why I get these accounts. Because I don't force a fit. And I don't pretend like I sent you an email that you saw. And I don't how to squeeze by Ryan, you don't squeeze by Ryan, you. You let Ryan know that I'm happy to be there. I'm showing you my best. And if I can gain your past a pitch, I don't need your digital workforce. I have that relationship. And then from there, we can build it together. And so and so that's what we do my man we go very, very old school. I just use the medium of due diligence, the internet and the phone call to make that relationship. But the rest is still natural.

Ryan Purvis 19:39
Yeah, it's interesting because I when I was growing up, I used to work at a national for my sister, she used to run a convention called the National secretaries convention. And, you know, used to talk to all the EAS and the secretaries and all that stuff. And yeah, once you got to know them, you just had a connection to the next person straight away and it was always that they would tell you exactly that. Would you know how they would have, they would know when someone spoke to them. Instinctively, this is not someone that needs to get through. And through that, you know what you have to say all these things about recognising them, there's a lot of people don't recognise the, the person answering the phone, usually, because they know it's not the person they want to speak to, if they're trying to be a cold calling, and that sort of stuff. So I'm glad you explained that because, you know, if I think as you're talking about all these people that phone us, and you get them all the time trying to sell you something, and how bad they are at it, you know, and it's all those things that aren't even trying to connect with you. And they say, Oh, I sent an email last week, like 500 emails that I haven't read. Which one was it? You know, that's not the way you, you're already you're already losing the battle before you start?

Richard Blank 20:46
Well, you don't have time to go out for a three hour lunch. So what can I at least in the first 30 seconds, I made nice, I said the name of your company. Well, I properly introduce myself, I complimented you, Ryan, and I was going to let you know you were great. I'll do that 160 times a day. So at least these are good hours that I'm thrown out there. And then secondly, if you're going to leave a voicemail, or do an email prospecting, as I mentioned, a due diligence, don't just call me sir, talk about my pinball machines, 15 years in business from Philadelphia, at least you'll get my attention now you got a shot at it. No one's gonna hand it to you and no one bats 1000 my goodness gracious, go from half court to fell foul line percentages. And you, you just do it by just a seconds worth of due diligence or active now, concentration. That's it, Ryan,

Ryan Purvis 21:34
and I think your techniques are replicated and replicable to someone in business. You know, just just networking with their peers, even. You know, you've got to ask you flash.

Richard Blank 21:46
Are we compromising ethics, her values and morals? Did I teach someone to lie? No. I just asked her to be a little more assertive in regards to saying the name of a company and being nice to Ryan. But some people are too cool that they don't have that personality with a stranger. Well, Ryan, strangers or friends you haven't met yet. And you keep talking about these individuals, these amazing people that assisted you along your way that lent a hand and they're the greatest. They're the ones who've been with the companies for decades. Yeah. And it's like Undercover Boss, you treat them like gold. Because at the end of the day, they're the ones that are having coffee with the boss talking about the day, and how they got 99 mean people but Ryan was like the nicest person on the phone ever. Yeah, but he's a little more expensive, or his company is a little smaller reason Costa Rica here, but let me ask you a question. Big Boss was the last time he gave me a compliment? When's the last time you looked at your website and spoke about your loading docks? I want the marathon runner. I don't want the university professor. I want someone that shows a little bit different. Yeah, I really do. I want the maverick. Because I think this individual is really going to fight for it kind of kind of like the people I hire Ryan, I'll take a 10 year veteran or I'll take a kid that's bilingual was structured discipline, cognitive skills, but no bad habits. Were in his early 20s, I can mould him like a squatter. Tonight, I could teach them the skills compared to debriefing them and getting rid of bad habits, or possibly being a jumper or cancer. So each person should be judged individually for their for their core strengths. Not saying there's nothing wrong with your podcast, it's wickedly cool, man. That's why I reached out to you. But I'm also letting people know that you have an essence prior to anything that's technical or digital. And I really look besides that I want you to give me a coming of age moment. I really want to see what sort of vigour and backbone you have. Because on rainy Wednesdays, your technology will not save you. That's all.

Ryan Purvis 23:46
And I think it leads is very nicely into a question I was gonna ask you. So obviously, you know, the world is abuzz with with the chat GDP, plan platform and what it can do and your vision force coming out now, and it can do so many things. And I think what you're talking about is the human element that no AI is going to be able to replicate. Which is finally connection with another human. Is that something you're seeing or worrying about or being told to be worried about? I don't know what the is.

Richard Blank 24:18
I always see pros and cons to everything. Let's look at the basic AI that we have now, which is an IVR integrated voice response where you're pressing a button or giving your options to a bank. It's frustrating, isn't it? You need to repeat they don't give you the whole menu. Yes or no right? Don't you usually just press zero or say help? I'd like to speak to somebody please. Yes or no? Yeah, I do it. So then what happens okay, so the ER Ay ay ay ay ay is not working. You finally get in touch with somebody because they've reduced staff by 80%. So now you got Billy on the phone. You don't think you're going out them guns blazing. You don't need this individual is taking So much AI heat. So imagine that sort of live morale that of the front line that's getting there. So unless you make it seamless, unless we can work hand in hand with AI just to pass it off to me, almost like somebody putting in an order, and then the people make the box, you know, with the little stuff in it. And so but I still think the human touch needs to be there, because AI will never know to talk about the shore cheese fries or American football. They can, but not like you and I were chatting off the air. All I'm doing is checking off boxes and qualifying you. I might ask you questions, but that was programmed questions. And it's really not authentic or sincere. AI is not spontaneous. They can't do it off the cuff yet. So until you have that sort of immediate spark connection in the moment, AI will never be as competitive as you and I my friend, you'd rather have lunch with me than a computer, wouldn't you? Oh, exactly. Exactly. Especially if I'm paying. Yeah.

Ryan Purvis 26:05
In Costa Rica on the beach. Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, you know, with, and you mentioned at the end, I was looking at an article today, I mean, Facebook's taking another 10,000 people off the books, you know, so there's always that to do more with less mentality. How do you find, you mentioned looking after your staff and keeping them? How do you find your customers coming to you? Or they're looking for an exponential solution from you? Were you doing more with less as well? Or, I mean, how do you manage that sort of interaction.

Richard Blank 26:40
Both I can plug and play an existing organisation offset and be able to compare numbers or I can help somebody ramp up that just does not have the infrastructure or the time or they're just working out of their own. Call Centres will always be essential, in my opinion. And I as I mentioned before, I love the redundancy, the backup, electricity and support. But there's a creative nature to it, I can really look at your script and make suggestions. There certain word choices I use through the source that can make a more strategic or diplomatic AI can print out something for you. And in fact, I've seen it things before where AI makes these paintings and stuff. But I still think humans want the human to do it. So we can be proud of ourselves. Even if the skyscraper is not as high I'd still rather see the rock formation of a human being that makes it but I don't know people people dip their toe in the waters, a lot of people are concerned about overseas or near shore, they they like that sort of control. And I like checkpoints with people, I got to make sure off the bat, this is what they're looking for. If they're looking to do something grey area shading happening as their cover, I'm not going to be their fall guy. This is not the Maltese Falcon. But I want to make sure that the agents feel comfortable with what they're offering them. So a they choose it. And we can be very competitive with labour force, and they can go home and tell their parents what they do for a living. So as much as I want all the accounts in the world, I have to be exceptionally selective. Because if nobody shows up here, we have no agents. And so it's really just about getting to know one another. And as I say before, if they're being facetious with me, or giving me unrealistic metrics, I can almost break it down with them in a certain way to where I don't embarrass them, I will really use my own examples, to let him know that you're in my wheelhouse a little bit. You know, and that's okay. Because I know that you're calling and you want to give me your seven seats, I really want to, here's the thing, you got to make sure that you're straight with me, because I don't need to yelling and screaming on a Wednesday morning before I get on a podcast.

Ryan Purvis 28:52
Yeah, no, I understand that. And I was thinking you made a comment about spending the time in the call. Now, my sort of loose knowledge of your environment is that everything is throughput based, you know, trying to do certain amount of calls per hour, certain amount of, you know, you said almost tick box exercises, but it sounded like you almost give you guys with more freedom to build a life with the person they speak. In your approach,

Richard Blank 29:22
there is always structure to a call, you have an introduction, body conclusion, and I need to make sure either you qualify, we get the appointment the sale or retain the client. And so there there is really, if you think about it, they're islands. And it's just you and I deciding where we want to put the bridge and what type of bridge it is. And I mentioned before you can use tips and tricks to try to connect with your company. But the strongest bridges and the real connections are that spontaneous dog barking. are you mentioning that you're a baseball fan or I don't know, but this is what I do know someone starts mentioning pinball machines with me and they were really know the topic, my credit cards almost at the ready and I'm dying to do business with you, I will find a way to work with you. Why? Because you're cool. And I like where we're starting. And maybe through that medium, we can discuss things through pinball. And I also judge character during chaos, because if you're yelling, screaming and demanding me prior to a contract, I don't know if I want to work with you, when times are tough. I mean, I can handle it. I'm a big boy. But I believe that people should leave something on the table, especially being courteous, right. And your lack of preparation also shouldn't be my emergency. And so some people are calling to me panicking because their company's lights went off, or the call centre in India shut down or five people quit in their local office, and they want to start by Monday. And you need how many people 10 realise how long that takes. And you want the top closers in the country for a brand new campaign that's going to test me for a month. Right? And then I got to interview to get your 10 people that's got at least the minimum of 30. Minimum. And how long do you think it takes for me to interview what two minutes? So you have an hour, we ask a lot of questions, they take tests. And that's even prior to you even starting the campaign. So you're looking at at least $1,000 worth of an investment of advertisement, HR resources and interviewing 30 people for a full week prior to you going live? Thanks. I mean, I don't want to rush because if I can't rest at night, after putting in a full day that I'm no good as a fighter the next day you you have to match my pace, because we're in Costa Rica, and I can do this, but you're also commissioning me as a painter, and you do not want to take away that natural artistic wu wei sort of flair that I had that that has made this work for 15 years.

Ryan Purvis 31:57
You mentioned you mentioned tests and that sort of stuff. I mean, how do you do the testing is that obviously it'd be an oral piece that I would think depends on

Richard Blank 32:06
of course, the oral exam, but let's just say you, you had something where it was a customer support, there are typing tests we take just to make sure you can get enough data entry customer support. So that's there. Some clients want cognitive tests, because they believe that they can gauge somebody's personality. And they've been wrong. In fact, my top supervisor, my floor manager, he had a nickname high blue, because a client called me 11 years ago and screamed at me on the phone. You can't promote him. Why he's high blue. What's high blue? means he's not he has no personality, you can't work with people. Well, I gotta tell you what, there's two types of leaders out there. There's the ones that yell and scream. And they're the ones that are common cool, that can land plays, and so and so hearts and this individual is a tall bearded, strong individual. He's he's your he's your he's your big brother, your uncle, one that will protect you is the better? Why does he need to scream through his intelligence and composure and being calm? That's exactly the sort of leader that I need in this environment. And so this client that I had for a very long time, influenced me to make one of the worst decisions that thankfully, I dodged a bullet and never made. But so to answer your question in regards to test well, why don't we just put your your resume aside? And why don't you just talk to me for a minute stop giving me memorised answers, and stop telling me you want to be promoted to a supervisory board even made a phone call for a company? If they can expand and literally Ryan told me a story, then you got me because I want to see depth. I want to see if you have passion towards something. You want to see if you can make yourself vulnerable in front of me, Ryan, you don't have to disclose something to do by my prime. But let me see a little bit of your guts which guy so I can gauge you. And we usually take it from there my friend.

Ryan Purvis 34:07
Yeah, I think it's such a you know, telling a story in any space is important because if you can tell the story of us you understand what's needed. And you can read the room read the people, you mentioned micro expressions or something along those lines and expression. Yes, tell us Yes. And I think that's something that a lot of people struggled with moving to remote working and you know, being on a camera like we are now not be able to pick because you're not picking up as much as you would in the room. If you're sitting across me, body language is there which means you either become more tuned to it or you turn your camera off and no one sees you. And I mean, how do you how do you teach that? I mean, how do you explain to someone what to look for one more centred?

Richard Blank 34:55
I believe in metaphysics, image streamings important imagination and descriptions, adjectives. So you need to expand, you're losing your taste, touch and smell over the phone and over zoom, your hearing should be expanded. So that's why as I mentioned spontaneous thought and being at the reading, telling the story is really not just about telling me a story, it's about just to see, as I, as I mentioned, you can you can grab on to something at the moment, you can anchor, are you capable to do this. And if I read somebody for the first time, it's a read, but they're nervous. I don't know if they're tapping, clicking scratch and chewing, who knows. So that's why I think the greatest form to really read somebody is to close your eyes, even if you're with somebody, and to listen to them phonetically. Okay. It's really the purest form, in my opinion for for telltale signs. In fact, Ryan, you're gonna love this. I gauge tone, rate, pitch and duration, your tone represents your emotion, I recommend to my agents to be confident and empathetic because it reminds people of attorneys, doctors and a loving parent. But people say you need to do a mirror imaging technique. And yes, there is a technique like that. But you should be mirror imaging their rate of speech and their pitch, how fast and how loud they go. Why? So I can engage spikes and dips. It's not the semantics, it's not your word choice, and I took out your tone. That's my consistent variable. But I've had people not to be complacent or bored. The able to do this while they do their job. And after three weeks, it becomes habit, where and this is what we're talking about is your phonetic microexpression reading. And it's almost like an xy chart. Yeah. And all you do just to see in 30 seconds to two minute intervals run just how fast you're going and just for argument's sake, put me at an 88. In regards to speed eight in regards to sound and I'm in quadrant one, you've done this for a period of time. And so it allows my agents if they're not up to that speed, or having that rapport to then ask a clarification tied down or pin down question, transitional question. And so it's helped the novice and it's also assisted the Pro and in my opinion have probably been about 90% accurate on this. Because people are giving telephones you said Well, Richard, they're not used to being seen on Zoom and, and being analysed so closely in a period of time. And Ryan, that's to our benefit, because all they're doing is scratching their face or giving telephones, I'm even seeing more phonetic telephones because there's more of a focus group controlled, intense period. And how about this madman? When you're bilingual, imagine that sort of intense concentration, because you are translating in the same period of time. So my agent is even concentrating not much more for bullet shots. Yeah. And so I made it a game. Because if you can't play or think like a 12 year old, it's going to lose its stimulation. And por lo Manos, at least I can get them to get something out of these calls. Because if they're more in the moment in practising these incredible soft skills and landing shots, they're doing perfect pitches. It's almost like a perfect card player. Now you're playing percentages, you don't that 1000, but you'll be rich, you'll be a top performer just on your performance alone. And that's the sort of thing we re instil with the agents so at least they don't get bored or see it as monotonous. There's a lot of mental preparation, structure preparation and artistic, phonetic. Things that we do that allow them to still find enjoyment in this job.

Ryan Purvis 38:45
And how would you I mean, we got we kind of talking around it, but how would you? How would you train someone to listen? I mean, you mentioned closing your eyes. But on the other things that they're doing, are they are they actually writing on your diagram yet they're they're actually writing on that diagram to see sort of where they think the voice is. And you're, you're helping them with what you hear as well. So there's almost a feedback loop.

Richard Blank 39:07
So new ways to look at it. Because if they're coming in with bad habits, and they hear the call, then they're just reinforcing a bad habit or don't know any better. So I've made suggestions of certain artists for people to listen to, you might laugh at it, and it's dating me, but I don't care. I enjoyed Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. I thought they were excellent speakers. And I enjoyed Remington Steele and Templeton pack. I think these were incredible speakers on television. These were wonderful characters. And I let them listen to old time radio or listen to Queen's English to the BBC. So they can really listen to delivery, articulation, pausing. And so from there when they listen to their own calls, because self improvement is from self analysis. There. That's their own sound mirror. They will know now because they're listening to the pros. Now we can immitate Basil Rathbone. But we can obviously see how they enunciate and what they do. And that's very nice. And so from there, they're able to build upon those skills. And since English is their second language, we really focus on dictionaries and the source, they can expand vocabulary because one word you could exhausted or it might not be appropriate. And so if they're calling in regards to a certain industry, we were really focused on transitional words, you know, and building upon that sort of reinforcement vocabulary, just to make nice, instead of saying Help, it's guidance, just lend a hand instead of saying, Excuse me, it's for my clarification, or for my edification, we make things at your convenience. And we make appointments tentative. So we lock in, we just don't lock it in too much. So you say yes or no, we give Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, and we follow up. And those percentages hit tentative turns into locked in if they want, but tentative still gives me 50% to call you back. And if not, then we can lock in a second date. So I've been able to recover second or third touches that way. Why do we do this? So they have a general structure. So they have a plan every day. So they're not lying on the phone to get the appointment. And as long as they can master these steps, by all means you have your 10 steps. Now you're a master. And you've gone to that level. And then the next thing we only work on is just how you address vocabulary. That's it.

Ryan Purvis 41:30
And I mean, with your calls, I mean, are they going towards video now? Or is it still? Mostly voice? So?

Richard Blank 41:39
It's voice? Yeah. I mean, but we do our meetings and video. Yes. And some, but it's mostly voice.

Ryan Purvis 41:45
But the reason I'm asking that question is you said how they dress. So are you? Are you guys dressing up? So that they

Richard Blank 41:54
in fact, I was kind of making a joke because I'm wearing a suit. But I have seen? Yeah, I've seen I've seen shedding skin. Yeah, I've seen people once they got their first bonus, or they were the top producer, they spent a year with me. They look a little different. They're a little bit taller. Right? Maybe physiologically I don't see McDonald's five days a week. Now I start seeing food that gives them muscle because now they're going to the gym. I'm like, What is going on here and they go, Well, Richard, this job, recharged my batteries, and made me enough money. So then I can conquer the things outside of the office, which then affected my work performance here. So when I say dress better, you don't need to dress like me. I just want you to love you. And if you're treating yourself well, and you're rewarding yourself for your hard work, I think it's fan tastic and I'll be the first person to go downstairs and tell Ryan's mother. how amazing you are. Because I know that's a gift that keeps on giving as well.

Ryan Purvis 43:04
Yeah, I think it's an important point that if people are not necessarily healthy, but you know, it's a cycle, it's not just about working all the time. It's about having the balance and and, you know, it sounds to me like you're your team, teach your people. You're constantly helping them to rise the level and the higher they go, the more you that push you up as well. Is that Is that a fair? Assessment? Yeah.

Richard Blank 43:31
This is a huge burnout industry. In fact, in the United States people see telemarketers through Hollywood glamour vacation, Wolf of Wall Street boiler room, prime gig Glengarry Glen Ross, but it's transitional people look down upon it, while in Costa Rica pays more than most vocations. And so it can be a strain. And people do burn out, but I thrived because I love the art of speech. I mean, you get hung up upon that's part of the game. And if you can have a romantic debt, where before you hang up on me, I said the digital workspace works. How're you doing today? Ryan? You sound great. My name is Richard blank. Click that Shakespearean. I'm a Tarik card full walking off the cliff with the sun on my back. Oh, why not? And you can jump clouds 120 times a day. I guarantee you're gonna land a few too. And so as long as you don't lose that sort of passion, as long as we keep this buggy whip alive still before AI kicks in, and people can still feed off of that energy and as we say in Spanish local tour, portables these are speakers who spoke for Caesar who speaks for the kings. They have power, their bridges, their mediums, and as long as we still have this beautiful artist's vision, we connect with people and we slow down for a second. As I say before, you'll have the longest term clients that will give you referrals, they're not going anywhere. And what's gonna happen is you can upsell them or, or if worst comes to worst, they might even give you not an exit interview, but on the DL, they might make suggestions on what you're doing. Because you're messing up a little bit, those are the clients that love the kitchen, they don't want you to close, they know the owner, they just gotta let you know you're putting too much soul down and he an hour, you're not putting enough cheese on the burger. That's what you need to do. And put your ego aside. Because a lot of owners have this leverage, all they want to do is make people afraid of you and fire you. While writing all I want to do is delegate and promote you. massive difference. And I'm also humble man, I'm a guest in this country, this should have never happened, this was a one and a million shot. And so I needed an IT director, human resources director, accountants, attorneys, supervisors, I couldn't do it all on my own. And I'm here with you today. And I can tell tall tales and stories. But the reality is I needed a force down here, and I was not on a home court advantage. So my wife and I started this company together, I might be the owner, she's the boss, Grace Borbone rocks. And so a lot of your entrepreneurs, business owners are people that are wanting to put their toe in the water and hat in the ring. You know, be very conservative with your money, act, your wage, you know, work at a certain pace that's comfortable for you. So you Don't overextend yourself. And if you can do these things, and just be happy with the little bit that you have, that spark can eventually turn into an inferno just just be happy with the creation of something, the genesis of it, or even your excitement of doing something. Because that sort of momentum is very positive. It's very healthy. And sometimes dreamers do walk alone. And come on Ryan, you know about forced marches. It's not a death march. It's a forced march. And sometimes we got to do it. And the fact that we're talking about it here today is a testament to our two individual journeys. And what got us here today, you

Ryan Purvis 47:13
know, exactly, I mean, a lot of things you said, resonate, you know, think about the energy thing, you know, you can have good meetings, bad meetings, and you need to, you know, in Africa a lot from South Africa, up south, right. So you can go into the next meeting without carrying the legacy of the other meeting that didn't go so well. And then the other point is, you can't do it on your own. And I think that ability to connect with other people, so that you can do something is huge, and staying humble is hard. I think I think I think a lot of people especially working from home by themselves, you know, forget about how the people you know, on the other side of the phone or the other side of the screen, feel because they don't see them after the after the meeting. So you kind of have a coherent image as opposed to seeing the real image if if you get where I'm going with that.

Richard Blank 48:01
Of course the worst thing to do is to compromise your ethics. So you can't look at yourself in the mirror. I'm gonna share a secret with you. The moment that I had to shave my hair because I hated the clown crown. That's when I really had to be humble. Oh, man, do you know I feel great. Now. You can't you can't tease me on anything. It's almost like Eminem, and three mile you know, I took away all your rhetoric. But listen, you could be the meanest boss and down and if no one shows up the next day Good for you. You have options out there. And besides a paycheck and you don't need to lowball either there are looking for an environment so they can grow or they're looking for dignity, or they're looking for a mentor. I'll give you another great example. I got a kid here that's got so much talent, but he's so hyper. And so what I wanted to do was to isolate this individual, not that he wasn't doing something wrong. I mean, but you can't do this in between every phone call. It's like a red light. Why are you isolating me? Well, then why do artists go away to write a book? Why does the warrior go to the mountain to learn their craft and then come back? I go sometimes the genius the mad scientists needs that sort of isolation, so they can harness all of their energy. And he's, you're not in trouble. Come on that your boss putting you there and you're by the window to subscribe. So anyway, and then the next thing you know, he just made twice the amount of calls to twice the amount and goes Richard, you were right. i No one before my other jobs thought about isolating the ego because you never had a real mentor. The child would think you're being punished and in the corner. But the genius would realise someone's investing in me. And maybe they see something I don't see. And if I can put away my impulse control and look at it as an adult, then maybe I can grow from this. This was not a dunce moment. This was a this was a Francis Ford Coppola Black Stallion moment where I needed to teach us incredible strong structure. How to run a truck. Yeah. And look what top producer in one day just for sitting still by himself. And so those are the little things that I tried to do, just to see if I can get the best out of somebody. That's all.

Ryan Purvis 50:22
Yeah. No, it sounds wonderful. And I love all your your references and analogies. And I mean, I'm assuming you're a big reader.

Richard Blank 50:30
A lot of movies.

Ryan Purvis 50:35
know what it is what it is, but they're great because you tie the points up really well. Is there anything that you want to share with the audience to get in contact with maybe or as a follow up?

Richard Blank 50:46
No, thanks for and I appreciate that. I think your audience should buy a first class plane ticket and fly down here to Costa Rica and come visit me that's number one. Fight either extreme, extremely large Facebook fan page of about 111,000 Local Costa Rican ticos, it will once this goes live, you have new fans, but it will give your audience a really good grasp of the business process outsourcing in Central America, I did mention some bullet points we we are north of Panama south of Nicaragua. But you know, Costa Rica is really known for our Eco tourism and medical tourism. It's a beautiful country. And, and it's a wonderful lifestyle. And if I can capture that, and mix that with my Philly, and Ryan and make on our phone calls. Man, we got one of the best dishes in town. So I think on your next podcast when you come visit me, and we have it on the beach, it'll be awesome. So I'm really looking forward to and Ryan, I can't thank you enough. I really had a great time with you and your audience today

Ryan Purvis 51:51
was a great chat. I'm so glad that you reached out the website that people should go to sorry. I think I asked them the beginning. Where should they go? Look up your company.

Richard Blank 52:02
Costa Rica's call (

Ryan Purvis 52:06
Cool, great stuff. So

Richard Blank 52:09
take out the apostrophe. I was brazen enough.

Ryan Purvis 52:14
That's great. Thanks very much.

Thank you for listening to today's episode. And the big news, our producer editor. Thank you, Heather. For your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DWW podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website Please also visit our website and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends and colleagues.