From Employee To Employer And Leader: Harnessing Effective Communication With Richard Blank
Communication is key in every business, especially when done over the phone. If you are looking for ways to improve your communication skills and lock in those pitches, this is the podcast for you. In this episode, Richard Blank, CEO of Costa Rica’s Call Center, runs through the process of prospecting and how you can build your vocabulary, actively listen, use the right tone of voice, and match the pitch and mood of your client. And their importance in making sure that you don’t just have a productive and meaningful interaction but that your client walks away satisfied with your service and the company as a whole. He also shares insights on creating a culture that allows your team to build relationships, empowerment and drive ownership. Tune and learn how to identify telesigns that tell you the right time to ask your confirmation question and lock in that sale for the first 1000 clients and beyond.
Listen to the podcast here
From Employee To Employer And Leader: Harnessing Effective Communication With Richard Blank
I have something special for all of my coaches in the audience. As a coach myself, I realized I have been spending about 30 minutes per session on admin, and this started to become a problem once I had 2, 3, 4, and 5 clients a day. I’m wasting a lot of time in the middle of the day, my peak time on doing what I call $10 an hour of work. I started looking for a way to eliminate that work with software. I tried many systems, and none of them worked for me.
The reason they didn’t work for me is that they were complex, and I didn’t have time to watch hours of videos. They were expensive. I didn’t want to spend $60, $80, $100 a month or more on something to help me manage my business. Finally, I did things that no other software did that made me successful. I wanted my software to mirror that too.
Nothing ever showed up that would help me. I did what I think all good entrepreneurs should do when you find a problem to solve, and that’s what I did. I created a software product called ClientFol.io. It is an inexpensive $29 a month platform that lets coaches scale to infinity with as many clients as they could possibly handle.
The goal of ClientFol.io is to make your life easier to help you deliver more value to your clients and get more testimonials. That’s what we do. You could see and try it for $1 by going to GetClientFolio.com. Give it a shot and let me know how you like it, and we’ll go from there. Now onto my guest and his incredible story.
Imagine if you could, readers, move to another country at the age of 27 after refusing a place in the family business. With his high school Spanish background, he had what he thought were the necessary tools to start working for an employer training call center employees. Something happened along the way. He discovered that he didn’t like it. He loved it. What he loved most about it were the changes he saw in others, the motivation, and the power he was able to give other people by teaching them something, by gifting them a profession that they could use for the rest of their lives.
He cared deeply about these people. He eventually decided that he would start an organization to feed families, now feeding over 150 families as his contribution to this beautiful part of the world where he lives in. As a result of that, he started his own company and is now the proud owner of the largest collection of restorative American pinball machines in antique Rock-Ola jukeboxes in Central America. He leads his company into the future with a strong foundation in helping others, creating jobs, and enjoying life. Welcome, Richard Blank, to the show.
Thank you so much. What an introduction. I will be able to live up to those expectations. You put it there for your audience. I’m happy to be here with you.
Let’s go back to the beginning because this is where I love to learn more about you. Tell us how this all started for you.
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story with many twists and turns. It begins back in Northeast Philadelphia. When I graduated from the proud Abington high school in 1991, all of my friends were going to the Ivy League. They were looking to study Law, Medicine, Architecture, and Engineering. At that age, I wasn’t sure what to do, but I did know Mitch that my favorite class was in Spanish.If you treat people well, they come back. If not, they quit and then you don't have a business. Click To Tweet
I doubled down on it. I went to the University of Arizona and was a Spanish Communication major focusing on rhetoric, public speaking, and nonverbal communication. I also moved to Spain for a year in my junior year abroad. I was there for two semesters. I stayed over Christmas break and backpacked throughout Europe.
That transformed my mind into mastering the language, realizing that a lot of the things mentioned in the United States that we hold so dear don’t matter when you are outside the States. I had a chance to have 55-minute conversations with people all over the world. It opened my eyes. When I returned back to the United States, I realized I needed some work experience. When I was in college, I did an internship for Telemundo in Tucson.
I worked twenty hours a week. I did promotions and public relations. I did that for a couple of years. Under the influence of Miguel Kitana and Pedro Sevcec, these individuals were a big influence on me in regards to my public speaking and my own self-confidence. Post-grad, I worked for the importers of Corona. Mitch, I always had fun jobs and involved promotions, public relations, and sales but the secret sauce was Spanish. I was marketable. I was bilingual. Once again, I was able to represent myself and my company in the best light by showing this good fate but those that are bilingual like myself.
When I was 27 years old, a good friend of mine owned a call center in Costa Rica. He asked me to come down and do some training for two months. When I was here, I fell in love with Central America. I also saw these brilliant bilingual agents on the phone that were converting calls, getting positive escalations, and showing the art of speech. I shed some skin that day. I called my parents and let them know if you could get past their guilt, you could live anywhere in the world. I wanted to try this for a while. I could always click my heels, come home, and work at my family’s real estate company, which would have been fine but you and I had to take a chance.
When I worked at my friend’s call center, I was there for several years. I learned retention, customer support, sales, affiliate management, human resources, and accounting. I learned everything from money to sea level. I learned the business from the inside and out. Any business owner, entrepreneur or someone that wants to start a company, I always believe it’s important to know what people do there for a living.
By sitting amongst thousands of mid-twenty Costa Ricans, I was able to hear the good times and the bad and the success and failures of working at a call center. It hit me. I realized there were ways to enhance the experience for the agent and the client. Since we are friends, Mitch, I will be forthright with you. It took me into my mid-30s to have impulse control, maturity, and enough money saved. I felt that I was ready to throw my hat in the ring and start this call center business.
I did. I started with one seat in 50 hours. I closed my first account on February 6th, 2008, and little by little, and I was growing. I first started renting a station from a glorified internet cafe, a blended center. I could afford it. It was a turnkey station. I paid the rent and agent. I made my margin. Once you go to a couple of dozen agents, it makes sense to rent space.
Let’s take a step back because I would like to dig a little deeper into that transition. We probably have some folks here reading that may still be working for their employer and have perfected their craft over the course of several years and have been thinking about maybe going out on their own. You are at that moment in time when you have been training people. As you said, you observed the brilliance of some of the young people on your team.
More importantly, you were like a sponge absorbing as much as you could and learning. What did you then do? Did you say something to your employer? Did you, at one point, approach your employer or was it one of these things where one day you didn’t show up, made a phone call, and said, “I quit?” How did you handle that?
The last thing you mentioned would have never happened. I was loyal to working with my friend. I don’t even think I missed a day, and this was my friend. This was an incredible opportunity that was given to me. It was almost like graduate school. I also realized that in my mid-30s, I knew what my value was, I know how much I could earn on an hourly basis and what my ROI was.
Cracking the code of running a call center. It’s not that difficult. It’s about empathy. If you treat people well, they come back. If not, they quit, and you don’t have a business. I spoke to my friend and said, “I had a good run. I would like to try this out.” He said, “Richard, I’m going to miss you but I’m going to wish you the best of luck.” Instead of being my consultant, this individual gave me some guidance and suggestions. The rest was up to me. I could have always continued working there and had a stable and comfortable position but it was my idea, not just starting a company. I wanted to start a community. I wanted a call center culture.
I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. I’m not a Business grad but I know that when you work with people and elevate yourself because I was excellent on the phone. I also love script writing. There’s something called a quality assurance department where there are KPIs, which are key performance indicators. The center had extreme structure. People were coachable. They were able to analyze the phone calls. I found that fascinating.
Besides asking you for your information and qualifying you, I was concentrating and focusing on the soft skills. How many times have I said your name if I was doing active listening for rebuttals, confirmation, and questions? Are there any positive escalations when I would make outbound phone calls where instead of getting hung up on by the gatekeeper, that’s my biggest fan transfers me the call? I’m letting you know how amazing a coworker is with you. I’m just looking to give a first-class call experience.
Since English is their second language, I was focused on vocabulary. The agents had to study the thesaurus for similes so they could expand their vocabulary, be more strategic and diplomatic and avoid using the word like help and use other words like a guide, assistant or lend a hand. These were the things that reduced talk time, increased conversion ratios, and gave the agents much more job satisfaction.
I’m not saying I cracked a code or I’m a genius but these were the certain things I heard every day that wasn’t addressed as much as I wanted to. By putting those strategic areas in place, I was only able to build upon them. From there, my attrition is low. I’ve had people with me for over a decade. They are the ones that have been promoted. They are the leaders that I have here at this company.
We share a lot of common philosophies. When I build my Power Tribes for clients, the first thing we do is focus on building the culture before we even bring in a single person. I have a culture system that I’ve developed over the years. A lot of it is based on empathy but in my world, it’s based on shared empathy. In other words, it’s not just empathy flowing down from the top but creating a bubble of empathy in the entire community. When everybody is in agreement as to what the values of that community are, few people violate those values. We provide guides and guide posts, if you will, to make sure that people stay within the scope of the community. When they somehow don’t, the community will self-correct.
The community will take care of whatever disobedience or issues that come up with an individual. Not because they are trying to act like the company. It’s because they are preserving the value of what collectively they have built and are now a part of. It sounds like you’ve done many of the same things. That’s incredibly valuable.
I was intrigued by this concept. Before we switched on the recorder, you talked about the perfect phone call. You talked about what it would take to get on the phone with somebody where you do not break rapport but instead elevate the conversation to the next level. Could you talk a little bit about that because that’s interesting to me?Expand your vocabulary and be more strategic and diplomatic. It will reduce talk time, increase conversion ratios, and really give you and your agents more job satisfaction. Click To Tweet
It’s important to put it into perspective that the agents need to feel comfortable making that call regardless of what the vertical is. We are selective of the campaigns that come here besides fulfilling your needs. I have to fill the agent’s needs. We are in a strict Catholic country. I must ensure that their ethics, values, and morals are not compromised, and they can go home and tell their family what they do for a living.
Let’s just say that we are making an outbound prospecting business-to-business phone call. I can pretty much do simple steps and break down a phone call for you. You will enjoy it as well. I believe that every attention span is broken down into 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Let’s use that as our base. Every conversation has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. We use that equation as well. We are making an outbound phone call, and let’s say we are calling your company for the First Thousand Clients. Mitch, quick question. Do you have somebody there that works with you that answers the phone at your company that I could use as an example?
I have a VA who helps me with some outbound calling but it’s mostly for appointment setting. They don’t try to close.
What’s this individual’s name?
I call them the First Thousand Clients, and all of a sudden, Tracy answers the phone. She was like, “This is Tracy, First Thousand Clients. How may I help you?” I go, “How are the First Thousand Clients now?” What I do immediately is do a company named spike. Not saying Tracy is not doing well but hopefully better than Tracy. I’m not asking how Tracy is doing. I’m asking how your company is doing.
In the first three seconds, I’m still using anonymity, not for the whole call that shady but my first impression is your information. Tracy likes me. The first thing she will say to me is, “What is your name?” We call that the buffer boomerang technique. When someone asks me a question, if they have a negative tone, I got to buffer the negative tone. I got a name drop and said, “Tracy.” I boomerang it by saying, “That’s an excellent question.” Repeat the question. “My name is.” I throw it right back at you, “Richard Blank.”
There could be some buffer boomerangs with anybody on the call multiple times. I answer Tracy. I re-adjust the tone. She likes my answer and says, “Okay, Mr. Blank. You would like to speak to Mitch. It’s not a problem. I will transfer the call.” I’m like, “Tracy, before you transfer me, I want to let you know you did an excellent job, and I’m going to let Mitch know.” That’s a positive escalation. Of course, she wants to transfer it. Transmits called to Mitch.
Mitch goes, “Hello, this is Mitch.” Before I say anything, anonymity, I go, “Mitch, I got to let you know. Tracy is the best person to have to work for you.” Automatically, you like me. You are going to ask me a boomerang question, “What’s your name?” I’m like, “Mitch, that’s an excellent question. My name is Richard Blank.” “Hello, Richard Blank.” Now we are in a conversation. I got you in there. A got a couple of points.
It’s important that when you ask me a second boomerang question, “Richard, what does your company offer?” I’m like, “I’m glad that you brought that up. What my company offers is A, B, C, and D.” When I go over the list with you, that’s horizontal. I have to make sure that every single thing that I bring to you is presented almost like a dessert tray where I can almost see your noise and your reaction to it. The worst thing salesmen and saleswomen do is desert pitching. You talk so much there’s no oasis to drink what you are saying because you just run through something.
Let’s say I go through A, B, C, and D. You like A. It goes from horizontal to vertical. All of a sudden, I started asking you open-ended questions. At least, I’m going to say at the end of that, “Mitch, I’m sure you like at least one. At least, in the beginning, I’m raking you.” Find out the one you like. You ask the questions. Here’s the most interesting part. People do have Telesigns.
I love micro expression rating, and everybody can read facial expressions and body language but over the phone, we are eliminating three of our senses, taste, touch, and smell. Scientists claim that when your senses are eliminated, the other ones expand. I’m expecting you to have active listening but also, people claim you can’t see somebody. I say quite the contrary. There is metaphysics. You have image streaming, and people claim that books are better than movies. I would encourage more adjectives and a lot more descriptions when you are speaking with people.
I’m on the phone with you. Every 30 seconds to 2 minutes, I am gauging it list your rate and your pitch, and how fast and loud you are going. Your tone should always be consistent. Match them if they are positive but you should always be empathetic and confident. The mirror imaging technique, which you’ve spoken about, and everyone knows, I believe should be done at your pace, how fast and how loud you are going. Why? It’s because every 30 seconds to 2 minutes, you might have a spiker you did. You might adjust. Usually, someone that’s astute will realize that that’s a perfect time to ask a confirmation pin down or even clarification questions to move things forward.
People are capable of manipulating their tone rate and pitch. That’s why I believe the greatest Telesign is asking these tie-down and pin-down questions are answering speed. That can’t be controlled. That’s subconscious. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. After three weeks, it becomes a habit. You are still able to work simultaneously while you are also paying attention to people in regards to their phonetic Telesigns.
If they ask these signs, you asked to tie down and pin down confirmation questions. Why confirmation question, you say? Since we are doing these Zoom calls and people were working from home, there’s a good chance a dog might be barking in the background. These things can kill calls. My suggestion is inadvertently and passive-aggressively first to tell you how much you love dogs. That’s the me too technique. Follow up by saying, “Mitch, what’s the name of your dog?” You are going to say, “Fluffy.” “Fluffy sounds great. Put them outside.”
The next thing you know, you put them outside. You come back but I’m going to anchor you. I’m not pitching you before. I’m not continuing my pitch. You and I are going to talk a little bit about your dog Fluffy. That’s usually when you say to me, “Excuse me, what is your name again?” “I’m glad you asked, Mitch. Once again, my name is Richard Blank.” Now you are name-dropping me for the rest of the call.
We get to the conclusion of your call. I’m going to recap it and rake it again, “Mitch, since you still have me on the phone, you said you liked A, remember B, C, and D.” “I liked D.” Here we go again. All of a sudden, I’m stacking open-ended questions. I’m not done. I’m going to confirm all of your information through a military alphabet. Why? It’s the cleanest form. Instead of ending the call, there’s a good chance you know somebody that served. We are going to talk for another five minutes about my uncle, that served in World War II, and my dad in post-Korea.
I’m still not done. When the phone call is finished, I’m going to follow up with an email to you with a positive written escalation about Tracy. Why? It’s for when I call you back again. Tracy answers the phone, and I reintroduce myself. She’s going to say, “Richard Blank, in ten years, I have been working with Mitch, no one has ever written about me. Thank you so much. I’m going to transfer you right away.” This is the Richard circle where if you need to touch a company a couple of times, you make friends with people. This individual, Tracy, could tell you about your promotion, your company culture, and any anniversary that you have when you are making decisions and with whom you work.The worst thing a salesman and saleswoman do is desert pitching. You talk so much that there's no Oasis to drink what you're saying. Click To Tweet
You are probably going to ask Tracy, and she is going to be like, “I received twenty phone calls. Richard Blank was the best. I think you should put him on the top of the pile.” If you do this structured 32-second to 2-minute positive escalation spike in dip, raking it, phonetic micro-expression reading, you are going to be great. As I said before, you might make less phone calls a day. You might be on the phone a little bit longer but it’s much more quality calls.
If you are planning on leaving a voicemail or doing email template prospecting, my suggestion is to look at a LinkedIn profile or a website and get something custom-made when you are doing this. If you wrote me and started talking about pinball machines and jukeboxes, I’m going to read your entire email. Those are the side of things that people will see you put a little bit of extra effort in.
It was interesting for two reasons. One is because you systemized the process, and you’ve mapped it out step by step. That does two things. Number one, it’s obvious that this works because you’ve done this for so long and many years over many individuals who’ve made these calls. Number two, you understand the psychology, even the NLP behind much of this.
When you are teaching people a system, the odds of them succeeding is much higher. What you did is you gave us a master class, if you will, on how to conduct a simple but effective prospecting call. I will say that there are elements of it that I wouldn’t use. If someone constantly repeats my name or constantly tells me what a great question I’m asking, I get a little annoyed by that. It makes me feel as if they are gaming me. Does that make sense?
I wouldn’t say that’s an excellent question and giving you the template of what to use. You can’t say it every time. I couldn’t agree with you more in regards to a name drop. The pronoun of saying, “You,” is as powerful. I would suggest a 5-to-1 name drop. Do the name drop when you are doing a tie-down question but the rest of the time, I would be saying you or are for the emphasis and bringing you back in.
Telling you that something is a great question, as I said before, would sound repetitive. I’m glad you brought that up. It’s something I could see you using, but it’s showing active listening. The most important thing is if someone is giving you a negative tone, instead of answering immediately, it’s almost like in a director’s class in high school, you are getting yelled at.
I want to make sure that since they are meeting me for the first time, we can speak to one another amicably, and there’s a chance I can adjust the tone. The goal is not to be slick or even to be clever but there has to be some assertiveness to move this conversation forward. Aggressiveness, you are going to hang up on me. Passive, you are going to be bored with me but there has to be a way for me to answer your questions and find out what you are interested in. Sometimes, I use the wu wei technique, where it’s the least resistance.
That’s why I ask you open-ended questions stacking, so you do the talking, and I do all the active listening. You are hearing more of a template. When a conversation is going on, I’m pretty much 60/40, 70/30, you talking and listening because I want to know what you know. I got to bring up something that you make this show look easy.
I have been doing this for years but a lot of your audience does not see what happens off the air. It’s called dedicated practice, and anybody that’s studied Art, Music, Languages, or anything. They have to realize there’s a lot of time put into it off the air. Any times you can practice by yourself for self-reflection and self-analysis, you are going to be phenomenal.
Unlike any other activity that you do, where you might need to load up something, have some equipment. This is speaking. This can be done anywhere, anytime, at any place. My suggestion is to constantly review your delivery. If you are actively listening to people on television or in public, you should be analyzing their give-and-take styles. If there’s a crosswalk or interruption, that’s your fault. You are not understanding their pace.
Secondly, you could say to somebody, “Mitch, for my clarification, was it A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 because I don’t want to say, ‘Excuse me, what did you say? Could you repeat that?” There are certain swords you could fall on to keep someone from not becoming ego defensive or going down rabbit holes. Are you just getting frustrated? Is it manipulation? Sure it is. There’s a certain structure that I have here where, in the end, I’m not forcing a hand or twisting an arm. You are going to realize we have been on the phone for twelve minutes when you told me you only had two minutes. Go figure.
What I would call a highly structured formula-based selling, I love it. It’s appropriate and valuable to be exposed to the master, if you will, and have you share this with us. As a note, I ran call centers most of my adult life, and in my own company, we had 50 or so people that were on the phones constantly. With Tony Robbins, we had several hundred.
When I sold my company to Sage, I presided over 300 people in call centers. We were focused on how to get the most, both out of the individuals who were doing the job but more out of their time with potential customers. A lot of what you shared are things that we’ve done, things that we systems that we put in place.
One of the most important tools, which I would like for you to talk about, and something I’ve maintained in almost every selling situation, whether I’m working with a client or doing it myself, is the use of a script. What we found is that a great script is not something that someone writes to enhance another. It is something that is a living document that sometimes evolves every day as it gets perfected over the course of time.
What we used to do is we would write a script. We would put it in the hands of our best people and then record those calls, listen to them and ask them for suggestions as to where they felt the script fell short. Over time, didn’t take that long. Maybe a month or two, we had a working script that was powerful that we would get a 19% closing rate on a one-call close using these scripts. Do you find scripts to be valuable as well? If you do, tell me why and how.
Sometimes the shorter, the better if it needs to be a long strip or broken up into certain pieces. A lot of the time, the clients have unrealistic expectations in regards to how they write the script. They are expecting people to be sitting by the phone with their credit cards at the ready. A lot of the time, it is rapport building.
Scripts can be adjusted. It’s a roadmap in the beginning. You’ve run call centers. In essence, the script is about qualifying the call but there are certain times that your third point could be brought up at the end or possibly in the beginning. I’m not sure where you are eating dessert during dinner. The agents need to be well versed in the conversation to make sure that the subs are there. In the recording of the calls, I like the live role-play. I believe in best practices and specific soft skills.
I have noticed that when agents do stand up, they are breathing better and moving around a bit. Even though you can’t see it in the film, there are things called illustrators where it’s congruence. Your audio matches the visuals. Your body is in motion for what’s going on there. It’s important that people have visual stimulations at their desks because there might be certain things that could get you through a rainy Wednesday.Understand the difference between natural and forced attrition. If somebody is just not coming to work and doing their job, they have to go. Click To Tweet
How about this? A script is a script. If an actor is not feeling well that day, they are going to sound plastic. They won’t be a painting. There will be a character, not in character. Even though you could have been making these calls for years and your company has been around forever, every call with you is still raw. You are still Mitch. It’s still something that you still, the essence that what got you in this in the first place.
With a lot of these people, they need to create that space or possibly have someone sitting next to them that are on a hot streak that is capable of coaching. Even if they are two aces and at the same level, maybe it’s something that rubs off on you. I know that they need to make a certain amount of calls per hour. You are talking about ripping a great call, going downstairs, and listening to it.
I’ve given people permission to put themselves on non-ready status or even training status. If you and I are sitting next to each other, you are having the best phone call ever. I’m in between calls. I might pause for a minute, not stealing time. I’m high-fiving my buddy, Mitch. I’m listening to him with his rebuttals. I’m sucking in that energy. I’m supporting you because it’s a team effort. I’m not there for twenty minutes listening to you but there’s nothing wrong with adding wind in your sails. You look at me, winking. You have that best friend environment here.
This has been great. I’m glad we have had this part of the conversation so far. I would like for you to take a step back here and talk a little bit about the business itself. You, a call center business model, is fairly standard. You have a sales team that goes in five customers. You bring them in, you orient your customer, you take what they are selling, create the scripts, assign a team, and they begin calling. That part is pretty repetitive and simple. Get a little bit deeper into it. What do you do, for example, to ensure that you are profitable every quarter and every month? How do you stay profitable as a call center?
Less attrition because when you are bringing in new agents, you don’t know. There’s that certain time of onboarding and training. I compete against Amazon and other large call centers here. You understand the difference between natural and forced attrition. Somebody is not coming to work and doing their job. They have to go. I will lose people because of scheduling distance and a friend, a boyfriend or a girlfriend working there. That will cost me money. I will do everything I can to keep these agents that we’ve invested in.
My biggest thing, and I know we were going to cover it, is my gamification culture. I’ve created a certain retro arcade game room, which is a safe, neutral environment for agents to meet others from other departments, let off steam, recharge batteries, or even spend time with their boss there. I’ve seen that instead of a cigarette, Instagram or being alone, these individuals are making friends, and that’s the support that people may need.
You know this as well as I do. A lot of what happens outside of the office can affect what they do here. If you and I can recharge their batteries and give them jobs stability, they are able to go out of the office and confront any challenges that they have. This is that positive circle. Besides bringing in new business, being selective of my clients, not having any surprises with them, and making suggestions, it’s all about the core.
If I do not have my people, I cannot give them their dignity and not treat them like a number or a robot, then I will scale and grow. Speaking about scaling, a lot of the time, and especially with your 300 agents, I’m sure you brought in people that might’ve not had call center experience but were incredible people. It allows you to mold them and not have any bad habits.
Possibly giving this young agent a brand new perspective of a script and seeing how they read it compared to your top person could show you something you’ve never seen before. I’m open-minded. Finally, my agents here are bilingual. English is their second language. To me, it bears the mark of higher education, and they are walking into my center as a division one player with structure and discipline. All you and I need to do is be great coaches, and we can get the best out of them.
Going back to my own experience, one of the things that we found is that initially, we wanted to get the best people. We would hire people with lots of experience. Later, we discovered that those were not the best people. What we discovered is that the person who came in with a completely blank slate and was willing to do what they were told, simply read the script and respond as we are explaining how to do, as you’ve explained before, had higher numbers than our clever more interesting employees on the phone. They ventured off into areas to make the call too long. They didn’t close.
The guy who read the script took it right down the path like a bowling ball right down the center of the alley, and he got the sale. That’s why we had a 19% closing rate on qualified callers. This is the stuff that makes somebody and something great. Not just good. It’s these extra things that you’ve talked about now. Let’s change gears for a minute here. You are talking about gamification. Apparently, you seem to have a collection of pinball machines and shoot boxes. Get into that a little bit. Tell us why did that start for you? How did you get started in the collecting business?
Mitch, didn’t you use to go to the arcades in the ‘70s and ‘80s, wasn’t that the place to be?
Your $5 had to last a whole Saturday. I loved it growing up. It was a wonderful culture during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The machines, the cabinets, everything was beautiful. When I came down here, a hobby turned into an obsession. I have a huge call center. I have this space. In Costa Rica, it’s almost treasure hunting. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If they want to call it trash, call me Oscar the Grouch. I will take them all. When I see something online, I will get my buddy and his truck. I will drive a couple of hours and kick a few tires. Next thing you know, I’m driving back to the office with the 1961 Ricola Regis for a couple of hundred dollars.
We have electricians here, and in the United States, there are a couple of companies where I can order the parts. The restoration is beautiful. These machines are older than the agents. When you listen to Elton John’s Pinball Wizard talk about the flippers, the buttons, and the lights, you get the experience. What’s amusing to me is when the agents go, “I played pinball before. I played it virtually.” I’m like, “There are a lot of things you do online that are not even close when you do it in person.”
One of them is gaming. They can always go home and play Xbox, PlayStation, and games on their phones. Why don’t you and I give them a free play area where they can try something they’ve never done before? When my clients walk into the center, they realize three things. A) They don’t have an arcade. B) Look how I treat my people and how I treat myself. That is very important for me that people do have an area to let off steam and have the best time.
Here in South Florida, we have a place called the Silverball Museum. It’s a dedicated two-story building with a fantastic restaurant and bar but over 150 restored pinball machines that anyone can play as many as they want for $20. As long as you can stay there all day, all night for $20, you could play every game there. You could do Skee-Ball. You could do all these great things. It’s one of my favorite places in Florida.
My daughter and I, whenever she’s here, we try to get down there and have lunch there. We go and play for an hour or an hour and a half. We have fantastic junk food meals like burgers, cheeseburgers, and fries. We go back and play some more. She’s always trying to beat me, and I’m always trying to beat her. It goes back to when we were kids. When I was her new dad, I was a kid. When she was a little girl, we used to have competitions. It brings back all those beautiful memories. I’m sure it does for your employees as well.It's all about the core. If you give your people their dignity and do not treat them like a number or a robot, your business will scale, and you will grow. Click To Tweet
How old are some of the machines, anything from the ‘70s or ‘60s?
Some of them are barely electric. Some of them are mechanical with the old solenoids. Everything is spring driven. It’s a wonderful experience, and we always enjoy it. Thank you for sharing that part of your life because it’s always interesting to find out. Look at the way you lit up when you started talking about your pinball machine. That’s great.
We are going to be transitioning to the next element of our interview together. Richard, what I want to do here is allow people to get to know you a little bit better. The way we do that is by asking a couple of questions. Some people call them silly questions. I like them, and they tend to provide insight into the individuals. The first question is about your aspirations. The way I asked this question will tell us a lot about what you care about and who, in fact, in particular, you value. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
That’s the easiest answer that I could give you. It would be the late Ms. Helen Keller.
Tell me why.
She is a master communicator on many levels and a genius in regard to mediums. There’s a Helen Keller Institute in Costa Rica for blind and deaf children. This individual, back in the day, if you look at the photographs where she was beautiful and elegant. She shines. You see her with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Mark Twain, and Charles Chaplin.
One of the things that she did, regardless of her multiple ways of communication, was to touch lips. That is something that, once again, it’s either your intimate partner, a doctor or somebody you give permission to. These powerful, influential individuals in the world met with Helen Keller for that reason to meet a person that inspired the world. You are asking about the walk in the park, having lunch, and what we would talk about would me being in awe of her experiences and explaining to me what drove her from one area of her existence into being one of the most amazing people that have ever lived in humanity.
I would be asking a lot of communication questions, stimulation questions, and how she was able to begin to create these languages. Since she couldn’t see or hear, this expansion that she got in regards to the other senses. I would love to know what you would want to eat. Whatever it was, I would get her double of it, whatever she wanted. Walk in the park would be more of a sensation.
I don’t know what positive reinforcement would be given to me but I would be drinking it all in. For me, this individual, for communication, was a master communicator and a genius in regards to creating languages and getting individuals to gravitate towards. I would be trying to unlock as many secrets as she would be willing to share with me.
Out of almost over 300 episodes, you are the first person to say on Keller. That’s great, and I loved your reasoning as well. Richard, this is the grand finale. This is the change the world question. What is it that you would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world?
You mentioned earlier about feeding families. Not as large as your 300 seats, I’m half of that, 150 but you know that each time you give someone stability, they are able to sustain their family. In Costa Rica, there are multi-generational families. There might be individuals taking care of their grandparents. What I am trying to do is to improve on self-reliance and self-confidence. I can beat the last boss these individuals have.
I can break the stereotype of being a boss that’s looking to fire you. Mind you this, when you are an owner of a company, and you do know this, Mitch, that you have leverage. You could hire, fire, make or break somebody. You and I always chose the former. To me, it’s important in this delicate stage of people’s lives to put wind in their sails, to let them know that hard work does breed success, that an owner of a company doesn’t mean you have to fear me.
If you are showing up on time and doing a great job, I’m the first person that wants to promote you. If you have an issue with that, that’s on your end. I’m trying to get in regards to maturity and clarity. I want to know the greatest positive reinforcement. When I’m in that game room in the morning, playing my pinball, a lot of people will just touch me on the shoulder and say, “Good morning, how are you?”
The fact that you get the shoulder touch is amazing. They feel comfortable with me. With that, my friend, all wrapping it up to you, I must be doing my job well to have somebody working with me that is comfortable enough to not only say good morning, tap me on the shoulder and wish me a great day. That’s working.
It says a lot about you and your style. Those people are lucky to have you as their boss. I used the word boss in the traditional way. I know you are much more than that. You are more parental to a lot of these folks. They look up to you and admire you. Admire not just what you did for yourself but what you are doing for others. This is a successful life, Richard. You should be proud.
I am a guest here. I take that seriously. I followed the Labor Laws, and I understood their culture. I mastered their language. Regardless of being an owner of a company, they see me as a man with essence, and I can earn that neutral respect from the beginning, putting work aside.
We are about to wrap this up but I do have one more question. Usually, our guests are generous and have something that they would like to give to readers. Is there something that you have that you would like to give the readers, either a download or a free gift of any sort?
I wish I did but I’m not selling a thing. I don’t have a book or a seminar. I want to extend my friendship. As Confucius says, “Instead of exchanging money, I would rather exchange ideas.” If my idea can assist somebody in finding their balance and center if they want to make more money or have better relationships, you and I won. We did exactly what we both set out to do now.Each time you give someone stability, they are able to sustain their family. Click To Tweet
Richard, tell us the name of your company.
Costa Rica’s Call Center.
Is there a web address that people can look you up on?
CostaRicasCallCenter.com. They can give me a call toll-free at 888-271-6750. Finally, Mitch, you would find this interesting, especially, you being in the BPO industry. I have a Facebook fan page with about 98,000 Costa Ricans there. It will give you a pulse on the business process outsourcing industry in Costa Rica, and you do know about nearshore.
We are close to the United States in Central America, with 95% literacy because we put all that money back into education. There’s no standing Army. We have a democracy and great infrastructure. It’s a wonderful place for expats to retire and people to build their businesses. It has been wonderful many years I have been here. As I said before, I have been impressed with those that work with me.
Richard, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon.
Mitch, I got to come to visit you, and you got to take me to that arcade, please.
You got to deal.
About Richard Blank
Richard Blank es el Director General de Costa Rica’s Call Center, una división de Consultores Cheyenne, una compañía integrada en Costa Rica.
Al principio del nuevo milenio el Sr. Blank se trasladó a Costa Rica para enseñar a más de 500 agentes sobre las técnicas avanzadas de telemercadeo para uno de los centros de atención telefónicos más grandes en America Central.
Utilizando su estilo de motivación único de discurso público apoyado por una retórica pensativa y apropiada, él ha preparado con eficacia algunos de los mejores teleoperadores del centro de atención telefónica de Costa Rica en los últimos siete años. Además, el Sr. Blank se ha creado una reputación al operar una escuela para el servicio de atención al cliente y telemercadeo y es a menudo solicitado para las sesiones de formación y consulta personales del centro de atención telefónica.
En anticipación a CAFTA, el Sr. Blank se unió como un socio estratégico de la Cámara de Comercio de los Países de la Costa del Pacífico, Beverly Hills, California y SelwayGlobal Communications, en Tempe, Arizona para aumentar las telecomunicaciones internacionales de Costa Rica y la atracción de negocios. El Sr. Blank tiene una licenciatura en comunicación y español de la Universidad de Arizona y un certificado de conocimiento del idioma de la Universidad de Sevilla, España.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join Your First Thousand Clients Community today: