Global outsourcing provider Teleperformance has announced that it is opening a customer care facility in Georgetown, Guyana, to support the U.S. market. Due to become operational within the next 90 days, the multichannel contact center will house up to 1,500 agents who will provide customer care, sales, and technical support solutions in English.
“This is a move to support and bolster the U.S. market. For a little over two decades now we’ve served the U.S. market and progressively grown our position there. Now we’re just reinforcing that position with the intention to be the very top player in that market eventually,” Mark Pfeiffer, Executive Vice President at Teleperformance, told Nearshore Americas.
The Paris-headquartered outsourcer has around 270 contact centers in 62 countries, including a strong presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, with operations in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. “We already have those nearshore delivery choices as well as pretty robust domestic delivery capability but we liked a lot of things about Guyana to complement the other nearshore locations we have,” Pfeiffer said.
Why Invest in Guyana?
Although it neighbors Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname in South America, Guyana is the only country on the continent where English is the first language and, despite not being an island, it is generally considered part of the Caribbean. “We’ve been looking at Guyana for quite a long time and we think there’s stability there. We liked their persistence and their English capabilities. The market will be served well with the Guyanese accent,” Pfeiffer said. “Overall, it has all the characteristics we look for in our due diligence, which is a strong labor pool with a high literacy rate, a good accent and I think it’s going to be another complement to all our other locations serving the U.S. market.”
Teleperformance’s custom-built campus will be located in the heart of downtown Georgetown – the historic district and commercial center of the nation’s capital. “We have been working on the site for quite a while now. It’s in a great location. We think it’s a place that people are going to enjoy coming to. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art operation with all of the normal systems and tools that we apply anywhere,” Pfeiffer added. He declined to reveal exactly how much Teleperformance is investing in Guyana, but acknowledged that it was a “very significant, multi-million-dollar investment.”
Qualfon Welcomes Competition
Teleperformance is the second major BPO player to enter the Guyana market after Qualfon, which has established itself as the nation’s largest private sector employer. Bob Dechant, Qualfon’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, told Nearshore Americas that his company welcomes the increased competition in Guyana. “We’ve been aware of Teleperformance’s presence in the market for quite some time. They do a lot of due diligence and we’ve been anticipating them finally officially moving into the market,” he said. “We think it’s great. We have nothing but amazing respect for Teleperformance and we believe it brings even more credibility to the market.”
Besides creating greater awareness of the Guyana market in the United States, Teleperformance’s entrance will also benefit the local community, Dechant added: “Our mission at Qualfon is to really make a big impact with the people and the communities in our markets. With us being there and now another player coming in, that’s great because it will mean that much more opportunity for the people that need jobs.”
As for the increased competition, Dechant said Qualfon is not concerned that its own operations will be impacted by Teleperformance’s presence in this small country. “We’re not afraid of having them in the market. We think our experience and understanding of the market and our reputation with the people is second to none,” he said. “We have ten years of experience in the market. We have three centers now, including our campus that we’re launching in February which is going to be the largest call center in the world, not just in Guyana!”
Guyana’s Strengths and Weaknesses
In an in-depth e-report published last February, Nearshore Americas noted that Guyana’s outsourcing industry was primed for strong growth, primarily because of its English-language proficiency and very competitive labor costs. “Cost is going to get you very far. You’re talking rates that are competitive with India and the Philippines,” agreed Jeff Pappas, Principal at Cresa Dallas, who has traveled to Guyana to assess the market on multiple occasions. Another of Guyana’s strengths is the low attrition rate, Pappas told Nearshore Americas. “Qualfon is the major player there and then aside from them there’s one other small center (run by Clear Connect) there. You’ve got people that have been working for those companies for quite a long time so you’re not going to see a lot of movement,” he explained. “So when you’re talking wages of US$350 or maybe $400 a month and people aren’t moving then you’ve got a lot of cost savings.”
As for Guyana’s English language capabilities, Pappas believes it has an advantage over the likes of Jamaica or Trinidad in that “you only hear that strong Caribbean accent when you’re speaking to somebody on a casual basis, but when you start talking business or listen to some of the calls their accent goes away and they’re able to adjust and it sounds like you’re speaking to someone from New York or Texas or Iowa or California.”
In a Q&A on the Guyana market from last March, Frost & Sullivan Principal Michael DeSalles expressed concerns over the nation’s infrastructure, telecommunications and the preparedness of the workforce when it comes to handling technical support. Pappas has similar reservations. “The infrastructure there is a struggle. There’s not a lot of real estate options. The government isn’t as supportive as you think they would be when it comes to attracting business. They’re relatively difficult to deal with,” he noted.
Guyana is also a relatively difficult location to get to, Pappas said: “From Dallas Fort Worth it takes you ten or eleven hours to get there and you have to make several connections. So it’s not that easy. You’re not going to get a lot of direct flights to major markets like Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. There’s still going to be a struggle from that standpoint.”
Guyana’s Size Limits Market Activity
Guyana has a population of just under 800,000 and with Qualfon and now Teleperformance looking to snap up the top talent the labor force will become increasingly stretched in the future, Pappas said. “During a four- to seven-year period our concern is that if the market grows too big you’re going to be looking at the same candidates over and over again,” he explained. “It’s a small country. Our biggest concern is the brain drain. Once people from Guyana work in the U.S. they’re not coming back. It’s not a market that’s highly attractive to expats or people looking for work and play because there’s no diving or surfing there.”
“After Teleperformance I can’t see this being a market that is actively looked at by large players. You may find one or two niche players coming there after a year or 18 months but it’ll be hard for additional players because they’re going to struggle to find the types of employee in that second level of customer service or tech support,” Pappas added. “If you’re doing basic, level-one type work then I think you can be successful there but anyone bigger than Teleperformance won’t make it there now. Teleperformance can come in and kind of become the major player there and be a barrier of entry to other large outsourcers.”