The Nearshore industry has grown rapidly in the last few years. With the pandemic and the dramatic expansion of digitally-driven industries, demand for outsourced customer services has only increased. We’ve seen the value of the global outsourcing industry climb and companies pour into Latin America and the Caribbean to access the highly-qualified, English-speaking workforce available in the region. This has provided thousands of jobs, although it has led to a tighter labor market in some key outsourcing countries. That’s not the case in Guatemala.
Despite having more than 25 years of experience as a provider of outsourced customer services to the United States and other English-speaking countries, the country has remained off the radar for many. Its potential for the outsourcing industry is only increasing. Customer service companies overlook Guatemala at their peril.
According to the Association of Guatemalan Exporters (AGEXPORT), the national customer service outsourcing and Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) sectors employ some 48,000 workers. An impressive 80% of those workers are bilingual, with the overwhelming majority of workers dedicating themselves to English-language customer service.
The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 guide, which ranks countries by ease of doing business, placed Guatemala seventh in Latin America, well above renowned regional economies like Brazil and Nearshore competitors like Argentina.
Recognizing the possibility of significant foreign direct investment from the outsourcing world, the Guatemalan government included outsourcing services in an initiative focused on dramatically advancing the potential of the country’s major export industries.
The initiative, known as Guatemala No Se Detiene (“Guatemala Does Not Stop”) has lofty aims. Among them is the goal of quadrupling foreign direct investment next year. As part of this effort, the Guatemalan government plans to scale up accelerated English language courses from beginner level to B1 and B2 level in order to provide a larger pool of talent that outsourcing companies can potentially choose from.
All of these reasons influenced 7.ai’s decision to grow its presence in Guatemala. This year, we’ve opened two new delivery centers –one in Guatemala City and the other in Quetzaltenango, often referred to as Xela– to support the thriving office we already had in Guatemala City.
Our company has invested heavily in these sites. The Park Avenue Building location in Guatemala City required an investment of US$5 million. In Xela, the initial US$3 million investment will more than double in the upcoming years, once each phase of development has been achieved. The state-of-the-art premises are purpose-built for the modern customer service industry, and to provide a balanced work environment where our dedicated workforce can work, socialize and learn.
These new sites will create around 2,000 new jobs in the country, adding to the more than 2,500 people we already employ in Guatemala. The offices will work in a hybrid model and be supported by agents working remotely inside the country.
Some competitors may ask why we’re doing this. The move to a digital work environment and the adoption of a Work-From-Home strategy, allied to the increasing use of technologies in customer service, has given plenty of companies the chance to pivot away from brick-and-mortar workspace. But the speed of industry evolution requires customer service outsourcers to be able to quickly retrain and upskill their customer service agents, ensuring that they stay abreast of the latest tweaks, upgrades and developments on the digitally-driven side of customer service delivery.
As 7.ai bridges the gap between traditional BPO expertise and technology expertise, the need to continually update our agents’ knowledge in order to provide digital-first customer service is evident. This sort of training is best done at the physical delivery centers, where agents and trainers can meet face-to-face, and where continuity in quality of service can be guaranteed.
On the opening of Park Avenue Building, 7.ai Latin America Vice President Padhu Bhonsle said that: “We believe that customer service is a universal priority and people are our biggest assets who continue to deliver outstanding results for our clients.”
From Guatemala, we provide customer services to some of the world’s biggest Fortune 100 brands. Staff retention levels in our Guatemala offices are among the highest we have globally. Our people are passionate to outperform, with a clear purpose and alignment to our culture of “We Care”.
We have always believed in Guatemala’s potential and chose to be one of the early entrants in this market to establish and develop the outsourcing industry more than 15 years ago. Its talent, business environment and people-friendly culture attracted us to invest more in the country. We expect others will follow.