The Outsource2Jamaica conference, held in Montego Bay in April, brought together local and international companies involved in the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, and who recounted their experiences and challenges, and discussed the sector’s growth and future prospects.
Highlights of the event can be seen in the three videos below.
Jamaica’s BPO industry numbers some 53 companies employing more than 26,000 people, according to the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), and which makes the country a major BPO destination in the region.
And while the industry is now better understood in the country, with the government and population aware of its importance to the economy and the local job market, the business is transforming as companies embrace digitization and artificial intelligence (AI), panelists at the event agreed.
Patrick Casserly, a Jamaican BPO entrepreneur, said during a panel discussion that “people trust in Jamaica”, highlighting the fact that the country receives three million visitors a year.
Jackie Sutherland, founder and CEO of Contax 360, said that her company was instrumental in bringing some of the big players to Jamaica.
“We have a certain amount of pride regarding the growth of the industry and our role in that,” she said.
“When clients are looking at bringing their business to Jamaica, some of them are very passionate about working with someone that knows the culture and is invested in the country. Jamaicans have what I would call ‘Jamaica pride’, and a lot of our employees stay with us because they are very passionate about working with a locally owned and operated company, and so it hasn’t been a challenge in competing in that space with international companies,” she added.
“You can’t be afraid of your competitors, big or small, the David and Goliath story shows you that,” Yoni Epstein, the founder and CEO of ITel BPO, said during the same panel discussion.
“As a small player entering the industry you just have to believe in your foundation, your fundamentals, and why you started your business, and keep building on your business development plans,” he said.
Gloria Henry, president of the BPIAJ, said in an interview with Nearshore Americas: “There are locally owned companies that have tremendous capabilities, and we want to start to provide opportunities, B2B linkages, so they can provide solutions, and not just domestically”.
“Domestically, I believe the message is out on the sector, and there are a lot more local people understanding the sector and wanting to invest,” she added. “It has been a lot of work, but also a lot of joy seeing the growth in the sector.”
Panelists also discussed the constant evolution of the BPO market, but in which gaps persist as contact center companies begin to offer more digital services and position themselves in workforce development and management.
“What BPO was two or three years ago is not what it is becoming,” Nearshore Americas’ managing director Kirk Laughlin, who moderated one of the panels, said.
“As we seek to take advantage of the processes that BPO and shared services provide it is important to see how we can standardize those processes to streamline them,” Perrin Gayle, senior vice president at Scotiabank Jamaica, said.
“And we have a very strong education system here in Jamaica as well, which puts us very close to adapting to new technology, and so as things change, the workforce is well able to adapt to that,” he added.
And as well as embracing new technology, there is a need for BPO companies to embrace analytics, according to David Fullwood, a Jamaican IT executive.
“If you look at what we are doing now with analytics, we are really in our infancy, and that will drive a lot of the changes as we go forward, but with more access to information we will bridge that historical divide between the technology folks and the service delivery folks, and that’s the big change I’m seeing coming down the pipeline,” he said.
“AI will not replace the people, but give us better tools so that we know what our customers are asking for. We are truly in a global market now, and the removal of those boundaries is what is driving a greater sense of excellence.”
And Jim Iyoob, CCO at Etech Global Services, talked about the characteristics of the workforce in Jamaica that make it a successful BPO market.
“We love Jamaica, and here’s why: Servant leadership is really what’s happening in the call center business, and which is about people wanting to serve, and everybody I speak to in Jamaica is so happy to help, and the training that we provide to make people a ‘super agent’ is easier to administer in Jamaica,” Iyoob said.
“And at the end of the day, customer experience is about serving others, and not yourself.”
“We are a nation that likes to serve,” David Fullwood said. “The BPO space is just another way to welcome visitors to Jamaica, and as we lay on the technology we just have to get better at it.”