by Emmanuel Joseph
A Barbados-based call centre that had been pushed to the brink of collapse about two years ago due to an “epidemic” of employee absenteeism, is now facing another problem — where to house an “exploding” workforce.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY found that the US owners of the local branch of KM Solutions, located at Number 4, Harbour Industrial Estate, had, up until about two years ago, been considering pulling its investment in the operations and shutting it down because of non-performance.
In an exclusive interview today, Regional Vice President, Tony Jennings disclosed that just before he took over the operations two years ago, the company was suffering from a serious bout of absenteeism that threatened its future.
Jennings revealed though that with the assistance of Human Resources Manager, Kimberley Stoute, and Project Manager, Corey Watson, the company was able to regularly engage staffers on the need to be on the job, weed out the persistently guilty and hire the right people through a much tighter recruitment process.
Now, Jennings explained, KM Solutions was bursting at the seams with a staff of 200 well trained, dedicated workers.
“But we have a problem with space. So I have been converting the conferences rooms into production lines,” the executive noted.
He said the last remaining conference room, in which this interview was done, had already been allocated for conversion.
In fact, Jennings announced that business was growing so significantly, that the company was in the process of finalising a “very major” contract, which would require the hiring of an additional 400 employees.
He said management was in discussion with the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation the use of a nearby building to temporarily place parts of its operations, but was considering a more permanent solution by relocating the entire business to the offices which once housed the NCO, a Harbour Road call centre that had employed some 1,200 people before its closure.
Jennings gave the assurance that under his watch KM Solutions would not suffer the same fate as NCO, or even another call centre in the same area “that was going”.
The Jamaican-American business leader warned Barbadians of the need to improve their work ethics and competitiveness, otherwise the country would continue to lose business to other markets such as Mexico, Honduras, Panama and even Jamaica.
“When I was on the other side, when I was a client looking to put business in a call centre, one of the companies that I talked to, they were in Barbados and they were in Panama and they were in a couple other places… I asked, and because I was friends with some of the people there, one of the sales people said to me, stay away from Barbados, if it rains they don’t come to work, you can’t depend on them, they are prima donas, they don’t like schedules. So I stayed away from Barbados, and put that work some place else,” the vice president recalled.
However, as fate would have it, he continued, he was now on the servicing side, where one of the companies he now managed was in Barbados. The other branches are in St. Lucia and Grenada.
“I would tell you,” Jennings argued, “I have been at this business for a while. I have done business in Jamaica, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and a number of other countries. I can tell you, I never had the problem of getting people to come to work in those countries. Getting people to come to work was not like here in Barbados.”