For the last several years, Colombia has been among the best performing Nearshore markets in terms of BPO and call center attraction. The country, which last year made its desire to attract more customer service companies clear with its Friendshoring initiative, has consistently sought to build on its strong English-speaking labor force and proximity to the US in order to draw further foreign investment in.
“The BPO sector in the country is growing at an exponential rate. It has become a very important part of the country’s GDP. Whereas 10 years ago the companies here focused on customer service, the market is now moving towards becoming a provider of more value-adding services,” said Paola Garcia, the former vice president of investment at investment promotion agency ProColombia, of the country’s CX industry last year.
“The standard agent rate is around 2 million COP per month (approx. US$533),”– Sofía Gualdrón
Part of the attraction is diversification: Colombia has five cities with populations over one million. But CX industry activity is split between Barranquilla on the country’s northern coast, Medellín, the “City of Eternal Spring” and perhaps better known for its technological innovations, and the centrally-located capital, Bogotá. It’s in the capital where business is really booming.
The capital, with a population of over 8 million and a strong cultural affinity with the US, generates one-third of the country’s GDP and boasts an economy stronger than that of several other Latin American countries.
Whether the return of former clients to the capital, the entrance of powerful global players or regional upstarts making headway with new footprints, Colombia and Bogotá are a popular choice.
Wage Rates in Bogotá
The pandemic has had little impact on BPO and call center wages in Bogotá, sources told Nearshore Americas.
Sofía Gualdrón, a recruiter and selection specialist for North America at Sitel Group and formerly a team leader at another BPO company, said that wages have only increased in accordance with living costs.
“The standard agent rate is around 2 million COP per month (approx. US$533),” said Gualdrón.
Andrés Hernández, a senior supervisor at Bogotá-based call center Nub78, offered similar rates.
“Agents coming into the company, so at the lowest rung in the ladder, usually receive around 2.2 million COP monthly (approx. US$585),” he said. “This is well above national minimum wage rates,” Hernández added.
For that, agents are expected to work hard.
“Usually, agents work around 10 hours, some up to 11 hours, five days a week” said Gualdrón. This includes an hour for lunch and at least two short breaks either side of lunch. Though some companies do provide meals, Gualdrón’s former company did not. The working week is generally five days, though agents are expected to work the weekend.
Hiring bonuses are usual and, according to Hernández, agents who complete their KPIs can increase their monthly wage by 25% to 30%, though this can be campaign-specific.
As expected, further up the ladder an agent goes, the higher the salary they earn. A junior team can expect to earn 2.5 million COP to 2.7 million COP monthly (approx. US$665 to US$718) while a senior team leader should make 3.5 million COP to 3.7 million COP (approx. US$931 to US$984).
Though wages have remained stable throughout the industry, a recent new entrant into the local economy has set the cat amongst the pigeons in terms of salary structure.
Both sources mention the arrival of Asurion, an IT services company out of Nashville, Tennessee. The company’s customer support center will generate 1,500 local, full-time jobs across technical support, customer care and sales in 2022. For technical support, base salaries begin at 3,000,000 COP (approx. US$798) while other benefits include daily lunch provision, uncapped commissions, transportation bonuses and life insurance. For tech support and sales positions, the company will pay a hiring bonus of 4 million COP (approx. US$1,064). Understandably, competition for positions at Asurion is fierce and only the very best candidates are being hired.
One source has already applied to Asurion but was rejected and they intend to apply again once the mandatory six-month waiting period has elapsed.
Watch this space to see how other competitors react to Asurion’s bid for Bogotás finest talent.
Bogotá’s Bustling Nature
Ahead of such salary competition, and the general bustling CX market that Bogotá has become, organizations are attempting to differentiate themselves, Hernández said.
“This isn’t so much by wages but by offering agents to work on text-only campaigns or contracts that don’t include weekends,” he explained.
And though the capital’s CX labor market continues to get tighter, new labor pools are emerging as a result of regional instability and the impact of the pandemic.
“Recently, we’ve seen many more Venezuelans entering Bogotá’s CX industry,” explained Gualdrón, a result of the Tent Partnership for Refugees initiative that Nearshore Americas recently reported on. Companies that have pledged to provide jobs for the estimated 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants who have entered Colombia in the last several years included Sitel Group, Alorica and Sutherland.
The pandemic, meanwhile, forced business across Bogotá to shutter, and older people have recently taken up positions as agents, Gualdrón added.