It seems not so long ago that the concept of nearshore outsourced contact center delivery in the Americas was seen as risky and exotic. Indeed, many countries that had only recently been in states of conflict or economic unrest were quickly being prospected for their capacity to handle customer interactions emanating from the US, and the results to date, for the most part, can be considered a success.
However, as vendors continue to promote the region as a location of choice for low-cost, US-focused CRM work, there needs to be a realization that many countries that would once have been considered as emerging are now relatively mature, and in order for the nearshore to remain viable, new locations need to scoped sooner rather than later.
One of the most interesting aspects of analyzing the American nearshore is the extent to which the landscape has changed since the region became a viable delivery option approximately a decade ago. For example, El Salvador and Nicaragua now house some of the largest contact center operators in the world, including Convergys, Teleperformance, Sitel, and Sykes (among others), and Honduras and Colombia are two of the most impressive nearshore success stories in the Americas. In the case of Honduras, concerted efforts since 2010 by both the private sector and government have led to incredibly rapid growth in nearshore contact center investment, involving the likes of Startek, Convergys, and KM2.
In Colombia, the results of ongoing outsourcing promotion have developed one of the most diverse and successful nearshore destinations in the world, with a blue-chip list of vendors currently on the ground. For the countries discussed above, the right combination of stability, coordination, and incentives has helped to develop successful outsourcing environments. However, these countries, which were considered unlikely locations for nearshore delivery to the US at the turn of the 21st century, are starting to appreciate in cost and face labor market capacity limitations. As a result, many leading site selectors are logically asking, “where’s next?”
The challenge for contact center outsourcers to find emerging locations in the American nearshore need not be cumbersome, but there is a need to be creative in terms of searching out new delivery centers. Based on Ovum’s research and ongoing site visits, there are significant opportunities to be found in smaller countries, many of which make up for their lack of scale with higher rates of educational attainment and infrastructure sophistication. These include countries such as Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. Also, access to plug-and-play commercial real estate and incentives make other countries (such as Jamaica and Guyana) equally attractive options. However, if new locations are to be viable for contact center outsourcers, it is essential that they complement vendors’ existing site-selection strategies, and that they are able to satisfy the ongoing front-office requirements of both clients and their consumers.
Consumer communication patterns are changing rapidly, and these shifts must be top of mind for outsourcers looking for new delivery centers. One of the most notable changes is the extent to which non-voice channels – such as social media, web chat, and email – are being used as a means of interaction between end users and enterprises. The ability of agents in emerging nearshore centers to use these relatively new mediums in a customer-ready fashion should be top of mind for vendors scoping new territories. In addition, while it is assumed that Spanish and English are readily available in many emerging locations (including many of the countries discussed above), the capacity to source French for Canada is also becoming more of a priority for many enterprises looking for offshore alternatives to North Africa.
This may put locations such as Haiti or the Dominican Republic in advantageous positions. Perhaps most importantly, outsourcers need to be clear that the small populations in many emerging nearshore destinations mean limited ability to scale upwards, resulting in potentially tight labor markets should multiple vendors enter a single market. However, if the right due diligence is undertaken, outsourcers can solidify their nearshore positioning by entering the right (and relevant) markets, which have been relatively untouched to date.
This article is reprinted after approval from the author.