Jamaica has bagged another sizable industry player, as VXI Global opens two new contact centers in Kingstown, adding over 1,000 more people to its global workforce of 28,000.
Since landing in 2016, the company has been using its Jamaican ops to serve almost all of North America with inbound sales, inbound customer service, and some tech support, as well as a little bit of outbound work.
We asked David Zhou, CEO and Co-founder of VXI Global, about the status on the ground in this Caribbean BPO hotspot, as well as discussing what the industry needs for further development.
Nearshore Americas: What led to your decision to build operations in Jamaica last year?
David Zhou: The decision came after hearing that some clients have had a positive experience with the country. Some of the KPIs from the clients’ metrics were equal to or better than some of the other shore locations.
When we first got here, I was surprised at how much talent was available, as we filled our first site with 500 people in a few months. If I’d known it would be this easy I would have built our second site much faster. As it stands, we have 600 seats in the second site, which will be fully staffed by September.
Familiarity with US culture is also a big driver, compounded with the solid labor market, strong work ethic, and English ability, Jamaica is a great option for us. We wanted to be a little bit more balanced from a Nearshore perspective too.
David Zhou: The strong cultural affinity and proximity to the United States makes it very easy to find the right people. We’re in the people business, so people are the number-one assets for our company. It’s critical for us to adopt an internal culture that retains people with us for longer and helps us find the best talent in the market. To find them, we use a lot of social media, but the best source of good talent is word of mouth and our referral program. We’re also in talks with government bodies and universities to promote the industry in Jamaica and cater to the younger generations.
In terms of the talent pool size, we are at the early stage of industry growth. In Kingston, Jamaica, there are around 1.3 million people, and our intelligence tells us that within that population there are only 30,000 people involved in our industry, so a little over 2%. The unemployment rate nationwide is around 15%, and when you look at the target demographic of 20-35 year olds, that percentage is even higher. In the next few years, there will be no problem with attracting qualified candidates.
Nearshore Americas: How would you measure the overall perception of BPO in Jamaica right now? Are people on board with it, or does it still have a ways to go?
David Zhou: It’s still very new, so we’re trying to support the Prime Minister and the national educational institutes to make sure there is a deeper understanding of the industry. Everyone involved needs to know what it takes to support BPO from a hardware, soft skills, infrastructure, and talent perspective. They are still a little behind overall, but the nation is in a unique position to catch up quickly.
In my experience, there isn’t a negative perception of the industry in Jamaica. The perception of BPO depends on what kind of projects you’re bringing to the country, as well as the company culture you’re trying to build there. I personally talk to some of the agents, interview them, and do focus group meetings, and it’s clear that people love these kinds of jobs as they provide decent pay from a Jamaica standard, as well as the room to learn more and the room for professional growth.
Nearshore Americas: How do VXI’s agent and management salaries compare to the rest of the country?
David Zhou: While I can’t speak to specifics, I can tell you that we try to keep a close eye on the industry and try to stay in the top percentile for the country. Our goal is to remain in the top 25% of outsourcing players in Jamaica.
Nearshore Americas: What kind of opinions and feedback are you getting from clients that have dealt with your Jamaican teams?
David Zhou: Multiple clients in multiple lines of business have had good experiences from the customer metrics side, and are happy with the performance and results. If you ask clients who do not have experience with Jamaica, oftentimes people will ask if it’s too crowded or too small, because they don’t know the country very well. You just need to take the time to educate them.
In the past, there have been concerns that the telecoms infrastructure was not stable enough for our industry, but from our experience we’ve had no issues since we arrived almost a year ago. This was one of the reasons we didn’t invest here five years ago, but we feel comfortable operating in Jamaica today.
Nearshore Americas: What are your plans for expansion and growth in Jamaica and nearshore in the near future?
David Zhou: We will either expand capacity at our current location, or expand into a second site in Jamaica. We just expanded to Guatemala also, and there are a few other countries in the pipeline. It all depends on the progress in the next couple of years, but we will continue to explore nearshore locations by growing our current footprint.
In the short term, we want to serve the technology, media, and telecom sector, and eventually the banking, financial services, and insurance industry as well – I don’t see any industry that cannot be served from Jamaica.