CRM For Insurance, Argentine Call Centers, Harry Reid's Land Scam, Paraskevidekatriaphobia

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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CRM For Insurance, Argentine Call Centers, Harry Reid's Land Scam, Paraskevidekatriaphobia

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits (And Some That Will Be):

First Coffee remembers when he was trying to get up-to-date information on Latin American call centers a few months ago, and got pretty much absolutely nothing. So it's good to see Zagada Markets, Inc. announcing the publication of its "Argentina Executive Call Center Report 2007: Heart of Innovation and Care."

This short executive report format is characterized as "the first of four concise reports in its South American series," which will also cover Brazil, Mexico and Chile in short order.

The report claims to offer "strategic guidance and detailed decision-making cost estimates and economic handlers to corporate buyers, vendors, investors and executives about how to compare and evaluate Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario for site selection and investment."

The report focuses on comparing these three cities for contact center activity.

While Argentina offers a full range of IT and back office delivery, the activity in its call center voice-based Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service is "a growth opportunity," the report authors think.

The study indicates that "the land of the tango is dancing to the tune of impressive agent growth and increased foreign direct investment flows in the sector." The country is on track to have 33,000 agents by the end of 2006, reaching a projected 41,920 by the end of 2007, reflecting a 31 percent annual growth rate.

There is centralization, understandable in a nascent industry: Fully eighty-five percent of the market’s 40 contact centers are situated in the cities of Cordoba and Buenos Aires, with Rosario a distant third. 60 percent of agents serve international clients, with the U.S. generating most of its operators revenues followed by Spain and France.

The main interest in America, of course, is finding outsource locations to serve the expanding Hispanic American market, which now exceeds 43 million. Currently most of that is served by Mexican vendors, Argentina's hoping it can be seen as a preferable alternative.

And of course, as wonderful as everything else looks, the great caveat companies have in doing business in Argentina is the economic and political instability the country -- region -- seems prone to. Here's where Zagada cheerleads a bit, saying "Despite the renationalization of some industries, (utility), labor cost increases, upward inflationary trends and a rise in the pesos to a 3 to 1 exchange rate to the U.S. dollar, the report finds that additional factors supporting the growth of the Argentina call center market include, its 130,000 plus annual computer science and engineering graduates, extensive bilingual programs, competitive telecommunication rates and extensive coverage in key urban centers."

On the one hand the fact that Zagada mentions such issues is to their credit, on the other we'd need to see the report to know how they deal with them.

Congratulations to Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. First Coffee can now say he's met a Nobel Prize winner, it was at a party about ten years ago when First Coffee was working for the Turkish Daily News. No doubt Pamuk's completely forgotten the evening, it’s not like we get together for golf or anything, but still, First Coffee was struck at what a nice, unassuming man he was -- even as he was being lionized as the Next Great Turkish Writer, once Yasar Kemal stepped off the stage, he had time to chat with some newspaper guy he'd never met.

As today's Friday the 13th, it's time for the traditional First Coffee essay on paraskevidekatriaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th, probably the most widespread superstition in the United States:

With real-world effects: Few hospitals, high-rise buildings or hotels have a 13th floor. Airports rarely have a Gate 13. A British study found that fewer people drive on Friday the 13th than on Friday the 6th, yet hospitals report more accidents.

And Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina cites estimates that $800 or $900 million is lost in business because of people who won’t fly or pursue other normal routines on Friday the 13th.

The origins of the superstition are lost in the mists of time -- it’s not some ancient Christian/Catholic thing, a study done in 1894 found that the Islamic Turks so disliked the number 13 they practically never used it if they could at all help it, and ancient Hindus and the Norse believed it was unlucky for 13 people to gather.

First Coffee finds a credible theory in the fact that ancient Egyptians considered the quest for spiritual fullness to occur in 12 steps in this life and the 13th was the eternal afterlife. So 13 came to mean death, in a good way, since you were transformed into spiritual glory, but after the nice connotations perished with their culture the death imagery remained with the number 13.

Couple that with the fact that there were 13 people at the Last Supper and Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday -- the day of the week for executions in pagan Rome -- and you have a practically shrink-wrapped superstition for Western culture. Readers of The Da Vinci Code know that the Knights Templar were effectively destroyed on Friday the 13th, October 1307.

What’s strange is that the number 13 has long been considered unlucky, Friday’s been considered unlucky, yet there is no evidence that people before the 20th century considered Friday the 13th a particularly unlucky day. It’s a purely modern superstition which nobody can explain. Which, of course, is how a good superstition ought to be.

So condolences to all paraskevidekatriaphobists, and we'll remind you of all this again in April 2007.

Insurance agencies that manage both benefits and property and casualty lines of business can now buy what's being marketed as a complete agency-wide CRM system. Zywave, Inc., a vendor of technology for insurance brokers, has announced the release of BrokerageBuilder 4.0, an agency management tool developed specifically for insurance brokers.

"Our latest version of BrokerageBuilder is the only agency-wide CRM system available to insurance brokers, offering efficient and flexible technology that serves all lines of business from benefits to personal lines and 401(k)s," Dave O’Brien, executive vice president for Zywave claims.

Most CRM systems come with "static" views for prospecting, tracking activities, scheduling, and other account management requirements, company officials say, explaining that the Zywave ReportCenter "allows users to create custom reports based on any field in the system, enhancing business capabilities."

You might have heard of Republican Congressman Mark Foley, an otherwise obscure backbencher who has, evidently, sent some naughty IMs. Have you heard of Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the party's leader? Heard about the report this past week that he pocketed a million dollars in a real estate scam in Nevada, committed a federal crime by not reporting his sale of the land to Congress as required, all with the help of his good friend Jay Brown, a scumbag casino lawyer with strong connections to organized crime?

No, you haven't. Reporting that might hurt Democratic electoral chances in November. That the MainStream Media -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, CBS News, Newsweek, et al -- is simply the leashed, leather garter belt-wearing poodle of the Democratic Party -- 89 percent of the MSM voted Democratic in the last presidential election -- has been quite clear to many of us for a long time, it should be clear to everyone by now. Don’t think so? Imagine if a Republican had used a casino lawyer to help him steal a million dollars. Might even push Mark Foley out of the headlines.

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