Barbados is often recognized for its 166 square miles of pure island paradise, but it also has a few hidden gems that are made of the “right stuff” for the call center industry.
Barbados attracted its first call center in the mid-1990s but, during the past 15 years, the local industry has been undergoing a transition. A new wave of energetic, creative, and educated entrepreneurs is emerging on the island, bringing with them a unique and nimble approach to the standard contact center.
By limiting the volume of staff they hire, these smaller, boutique call centers are discovering that they can drive revenue with lower attrition, lower shrink, higher attendance, and ultimately happier frontline staff, which is also making for an improved customer experience.
Encouraging the Growth of Boutique Call Centers
Barbados’ call center entrepreneurs are emerging and evolving for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the government has been focusing on growth in locally owned entrepreneurial businesses. Secondly, the ownership and operation of a sole proprietary operation with fewer employees is appealing to the people of Barbados. Finally, an increased ability to utilize personal leadership and management styles aligns well with the local culture.
“The government of Barbados actively encourages investment in the ICT industry and is working with private enterprises to proactively develop it into a vibrant engine of growth in the Barbadian economy,” said a spokesperson from Invest Barbados, the country’s investment promotions agency.
Today’s call center industry in Barbados provides tremendous opportunities for generating foreign direct investment, foreign exchange earnings, and employment for the country. Furthermore, Invest Barbados, has placed a high priority on attracting new call center operations, the island, offering them a number of economic and ease-of-doing-business incentives.
The Boutique Approach
Cypress Business Solutions is one of the local boutique contact centers on the island that is doing things a little differently.
Renika Mascoll, Call Center Director at the company told me that the sweet spot for her is 250-300 agents, and that the decision to run the operation in this manner was based on people, process, and technology.
“Bajans are a proud and hardworking people,” she said. “They are individuals with goals and aspirations like in any other country, but what makes this culture unique is the sense of pride in what they do.”
“They like being hands on, directly involved in decision making, and understanding the many aspects that impact the business,” she continued. “But they also appreciate flexibility, development, and understanding from the leadership. A small, intimate environment fosters this culture for people, and it’s been working really well for us.”
Cypress also takes a unique approach to its management style, according to Mascoll. “We try to develop a dynamic environment,” she said. “From our previous experience in various industries, we have established that workplace appreciation, participation in decision making, skill enhancement programs and company culture is what contributes most to productivity and staff motivation.”
The process of identifying the right individuals for the company and its clients begins with the interviews, where they are questioned about skill sets and education, but also about what they expect out of their job and the responsibility associated with providing a high level of customer satisfaction.
In the end, Mascoll believes in the philosophy of managing output, expectations, and time, not the individual, per se.
Barbadian law firm Lex Caribbean, in collaboration with the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF), a private sector non-profit organization, is also dedicated to creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Barbados that attracts and supports entrepreneurial activity both locally and internationally.
Together, their common goal is to address the challenges that many entrepreneurs face and support the foundations of developing businesses.
BEF makes a bold statement on its home page, stating that its goal is to make Barbados the number one entrepreneurial hub in the world. “The goal of the BEF is to support the development of the country’s entrepreneurial environment and to make Barbados the entrepreneur’s island by 2020,” it reads.
Based on what I have seen, suspected, and learned in recent networking and seminars, this is not a long-shot goal.
A Promising Entrepreneurial Future for Barbados
Presently, there are nine call centers in Barbados providing employment to more than 1,000 people, but the full capacity for the industry is estimated at 4,000. Some of the activities currently being pursued in Barbados include customer care, technical support, order processing, third party verification, and accounts receivable management.
As someone who lives in Barbados and has been working in the region for more than 16 years, I would have to agree with the boutique model for this tropical paradise, and the country is definitely on my radar of recommendations.
There is local talent willing to lease and invest in start-up opportunities, so a boutique solution may just be the right choice here for small businesses, first-time outsourcers, and specialty lines of business.