Latin American and Caribbean shores might soon witness an invasion of European firms in search of customer experience (CX) partners.
A panel of entrepreneurs and IT executives from Europe and the Americas discussed the state and near future of CX last week, during the Nexus 2022 event. One of the main points of discussion was the growing interest of European companies in having CX partners in Latin America and the Caribbean.
European firms which outsource operations tend to prefer countries closer to home. India is one of the most popular destinations for European outsourcing, as well as several territories in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, the Americas is becoming more attractive due to factors such as proximity to the US market and compatibility with its time zones.
“I think the time zone of this region is something to really take advantage of. In two years time, you’re going to see more people from Europe here [in the Americas],” said Neil Sturrock, Global Operations Director at UK-based Foodhub, during the panel State of Nearshore CX: Global Recalculation, Flex Work and Digital Expansion. “I think you need to be on the Nearshore; I think there’s a massive opportunity.”
Latin America and the Caribbean are no strangers to outsourcing investment. Nonetheless, most of that capital flows from North America, especially the US. Europe’s interest could fatten investment flows into the region even more, fanning the hopes for growth and development in some of the countries whose economies were hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think you need to be on the Nearshore; I think there’s a massive opportunity”–Neil Sturrock
The money could make its way faster than expected due to previously unforeseen circumstances. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threw a wrench into the machinery that fed Eastern European talent to the rest of the continent. Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were among Europe’s main sources of workers, and all three are involved in the conflict. Consequently, European companies are considering partner diversification.
“We’re in discussions with some UK partners right now. What people are realizing now is that you can spread operations through multiple regions to get what you need to run your business properly,” said Yoni Epstein, Founder and CEO at Nearshore BPO firm itel. “The Nearshore is a place for guiding the future of CX.”
The Caribbean could be particularly attractive as a CX partner for European firms. English is spoken natively in countries like Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. Besides, customers tend to react positively to Caribbean accents, mentioned Sturrock.
“From my point of view, I can see there are sleeping giants in the region at the moment. Looking at Jamaica, it is leading the way in the English-speaking Caribbean,” said he. “We’re also going to see some of the smaller islands getting on the act.”
Old-school is Over in CX
It seems as if the world is moving faster than ever, and the situation is no different in CX.
CX firms are doing their best to adapt to the changes in the landscape of their industry, as well as to the necessities of their clients, pointed out Nessy Ismet, Client Experience Director at Blueground, a Greek apartment-leasing firm headquartered in NYC. While old-school models remain in place among some companies, others are trying a new approach: moving away from operations and into products.
“There’s a huge elimination that is happening in terms of tasks. Talent and skill level that is multidisciplinary, that can scale globally without any limitations of locations and language, but works towards a common mission, has become extremely critical,” said Ismet during the panel. “Companies change their roadmaps every six months, and you have to be able to adapt to that.”
The thought was echoed by her fellow panelists. For CX partners, providing run-of-the-mill support won’t cut it anymore. Differentiation is the name of the game now.
“Everyone pretty much can deliver. But can you help me be a differentiator or can you prove yourself as a differentiator no matter your size?”, commented Ahmad Shabbaz, Head of Global Community Operations at Snap Inc.
“Forget about just delivery; we’re not going back to that hardcore CX delivery,” added Yoni Epstein. “You have to refocus yourselves and redefine yourselves.”
Beyond Social Responsibility
Mentalities are changing among companies and their CX partners in Latin America and the Caribbean on whether being socially responsible is enough when outsourcing operations to the region. The focus is turning now to the development not only of places, but of individuals.
“It’s not just about training, it’s about how the ongoing training is going to work; how are you using technology to make that happen faster,” said Yoni Epstein. “It’s not all about corporate social responsibility; it’s how you are developing that person, touching that individual that works for you.”
In a context of high inflation and increasing economic uncertainty, business process outsourcing (BPO) became a source of hope for Latin American and Caribbean countries in need of investment. Those with an economy geared towards tourism are particularly interested in the industry as an alternative source for growth, given that travel restrictions devastated the flow of international travellers.
“It’s not all about corporate social responsibility; it’s how you are developing that person, touching that individual that works for you”–Yoni Epstein
Some companies are already making investments in the region with this focus on individuals and their immediate communities. GlowTouch, for example, landed recently in the Dominican Republic with the intention of creating jobs as the first step of a larger strategy for community development.
And development is sorely needed. The World Bank expects the region’s GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2022, a slight decrease from the previous outlook, but threatened by the prospects of stagflation. For 2023, the growth forecast fell sharply from 2.7% to 1.9%.