US organizations have been outsourcing product support to offshore locations for many years, but as Nearshore’s reputation continues to rise, North American companies are growing more curious about the region’s viability as an alternative.
With its advantages of time zone alignment, solid English-language skills, and a young, well-educated, tech-savvy talent pool, the Nearshore region has a great opportunity to stake a claim in product support. The question is, what should Nearshore tech support providers focus on to compete against their offshore rivals?
Right now, the offshore region holds several key advantages over Nearshore when it comes to outsourced product support, but, with a little creativity and dedication, none of them are insurmountable.
The Perks of Maturity
The foundational advantage that offshore holds over Nearshore is maturity. Countries like India and the Philippines are the forefathers of offshore product support, allowing them to achieve a much higher level of government support for the industry, which has led to deeper integration into the region’s employment culture.
In recent years, the Nearshore BPO industry has garnered an increasing amount of public sector support, but it still falls far short of what we see in offshore markets. Areas like Manila, for example, can offer richer incentives to attract BPO providers, while the city’s universities offer courses that lead to employment opportunities straight out of education.
Maturity, of course, takes time, so we can expect to see Nearshore measure up against offshore in this space eventually. In the meantime, Nearshore product support providers would benefit from lobbying their governments to integrate BPO-related studies and career tracks into university curriculums, as it would spark new interest in the sector and help to expand the talent pool much faster.
Product Labs are Essential
Offshore tech support facilities tend to be built around product labs, which are designed to facilitate extensive hands-on relationships between agents and products. This relationship is vital for achieving a positive customer experience, as it strengthens the agent’s knowledge and familiarity with the product.
In the Nearshore region, product labs are less pervasive, making it more difficult to compete against offshore providers, whose customers have grown accustomed to the availability of product labs, especially when supporting verticals like consumer electronics.
For clients, it is advisable to ask whether or not your potential Nearshore product support partner already has a virtual or physical lab , or at least plans to create one. If not, there is a high chance that construction and implementation costs will factor into your final bill.
Training Teams for Tech Support
With BPO services becoming a massive part of offshore culture, agents in the region know that cross-training and multiple re-assignments throughout the year are part of the job. Nearshore workers, on the other hand, can often resist these kinds of changes, making them harder to retain.
Solving this requires a cultural shift that comes through time and targeted training. Companies need to prepare their agents for the possibility of sudden assignment transfers by training them on multiple products. Again, a product lab is a great way to improve this, as agents can have immediate access to their new products and the resistance to change is easier to manage.
When choosing a Nearshore partner, it also helps to investigate whether the product is already available in the country you are looking at. If not, expect significant training costs as agents need more time to familiarize themselves with your product.
“Mass market adoption is achieved when a product no longer feels like a chore to set up and use, so the best support call is one that never needs to be made,” said Peter Butler from Everise PX. “To get there, companies need to invest in product and service specialists who can systematically draw insights from customer support data and effectively test the results in the field.”
Tapping into a Niche Talent Pool
With a population of around 13 million, Manila’s labor pool is nearly as big as the workforce in all Central American capital cities combined. Product launches result in support surges or coincide with seasonal ramping, so the size of the available talent pool is a huge factor in organizations’ decision-making process.
Even so, there are some ways that Nearshore can get around this clear disadvantage.
Several Nearshore markets, such as Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, have benefitted from recent waves of millennials returning to their home countries after growing up in the US. About 250,000 deportees leave the United States each year, bringing a level of native English fluency and American cultural understanding that greatly surpasses that of offshore markets.
This mass migration coincides with a larger trend of tech-savvy millennials in Nearshore markets who grew up around BPOs and are more likely to see the industry as a stable, long-term career option. Their experience with these products, combined with a Nearshore partner who has strong product support expertise, can result in a cost-effective solution in root cause analysis and the extraction of product improvement insights.
Furthermore, product launches and upgrades happen with limited notice, resulting in a need to aggressively ramp up support staff and put a premium on expansive offshore talent pools. If Nearshore providers can attract agents with the right skills and experience, they can hone in on higher-value support like white glove services, carving out a niche in the broader product support segment.
Overall, Nearshore and offshore are like David and Goliath when it comes to product support, but by attracting the right talent, establishing product labs, pushing to integrate BPO services into the local culture and training people for sudden adaptation, Nearshore providers stand a much better chance of toppling the giant.