Is Guyana Ready for Prime Time as a Nearshore BPO Destination??
Mar 01, 2015
In the last couple of years I’ve been blessed to travel to several nearshore geographies and BPO sites. We’re talking about with some the leading BPOs on the planet including Atento, Alorica, EGS,Qualfon and Teleperformance. I’ve toured contact centers in Mexico (3x), Panama, Costa Rica (2x), the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
Most of my clients ask,” Really…..Guyana- for nearshore English calls?” Here are some excerpts from an interview with Nearshore Americas (NSA) just a short year ago after my visit:
NSA: What are Guyana’s biggest liabilities? In what areas do they need to improve?
DeSalles: Lack of Global Visibility and Image: I would say that probably the biggest liability for Guyana is that it is relatively unknown as an outsourcing destination by U.S. companies. Many people mistake it for Ghana and believe it is in Africa rather than in South America. With the unknown, comes uncertainty. Guyana needs to improve its global visibility and image. Many people have no idea that Guyana is a former British colony that is now independent with a stable democratic government and strong ties to the United States. I underscore political stability, given the recent events in neighboring Venezuela. It has had the same elected party in place since 1992. It also is one of the strongest and most stable economies in Latin America with a sustained 4.5% GDP growth over the last decade.
Telecommunications: Guyana is still a developing country, and it is working to improve its infrastructure. Its local telecommunications provider, GT&T, is owned by a United States company, ATN, and has invested heavily in telecommunication infrastructure of the country. This includes fiber over land and undersea. However, the telecomm industry does not have competition and prices are not very negotiable. The Government of Guyana and GT&T are currently in negotiations to open the communication market.
Technology Talent: Based on observations during my visit, I would suggest that Guyana’s population is less prepared to handle technical support calls than other nearshore countries like Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica. However, the Guyanese government is working hard to change that. Minister Singh explained the emphasis that has been put on technology education in primary schools, and the government’s one-laptop-per-family initiative is providing every family household with a laptop. It will take a number of years to develop the technical skills that could translate into a BPO competency.
NSA: How did it compare to other nearshore destinations that you’ve visited?
DeSalles: Guyana compares very favorably to other nearshore destinations. There are several factors which are important to note:
Native English: The first the biggest difference is that English is spoken as the official and primary language. Guyana was a former British colony and culturally, I think it is more like a Caribbean nation. My mother was from Jamaica. Guyana is part of CARICOM, which is the trade union for 15 Caribbean countries. This body is headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana. The country is also heavily influenced by the United States because the Guyanese people watch American TV programming and know American products, with the United States is its biggest trading partner. The advantage of an English-speaking population for the contact center industry is that it makes contact centers scalable. Agents in Guyana can really relate to American customers.
Diversity: Another interesting difference is Guyana’s cultural diversity. The largest portion of the population is of East Indian descent, followed by African and then Amerindian, which is the native population that still mostly lives in the interior of the country.
Government Support. The Guyanese government is bullish on BPO development, and with good reason. Go Invest is a government-supported organization dedicated to increasing both foreign and domestic investment, especially in the information, communications, and technology (ICT) industries through incentives and business services.
NSA: Were you impressed by the local talent? Did most people you encountered
speak both English and Spanish fluently?
DeSalles: Qualfon, a BPO company that is the country’s largest private employer, gave us open access to their operations, management team, and customer service agents. While there I plugged into live customer service calls and then had a private focus group meeting with agents. As a previous call center team leader and manager, I was very impressed with their customer service skills. The English is very neutral, and there was no apparent language or cultural barrier that I could detect. I speak Spanish. However, given its proximity to Spanish-speaking countries, I was disappointed that almost no one spoke Spanish. Spanish scalability in Guyana would be very limited in my opinion.
Our research shows that the country has a literacy rate of 90.1%, which is one of the highest in all of Latin America. When we spoke with Mr. Singh, the Minister of Finance, he told us about the efforts Guyana has made at offering universal primary education and that they are getting close to offering universal secondary education.
I also spent some time with Qualfon’s local management team. They are very passionate about their work and are clearly very capable. Most of them have been there since the beginning of Qualfon’s operations in 2005. It’s my opinion that Qualfon has been able to develop a very impressive local management team.
NSA: From what you’ve seen, what would you say are Guyana’s greatest strengths as a nearshore destination?
DeSalles: People Quality Price Equation: The greatest strength for any successful contact center operation is people. The same is true for Guyana. I have stated in the past that Guyana is one of the best kept secrets as a nearshore destination. I said that because it has a very attractive quality and cost advantage over countries. The quality comes from the abundance of an educated, English-speaking workforce that promotes scalability and cultural affinity for the U.S. customers while providing a near shore location at a price point that is very competitive with offshore locations like India and the Philippines.
Qualfon’s Scalability and Plans for Growth: Although the country has a limited number of BPO providers, Qualfon has more than 1,700 employees and has had large-scale operations. In addition, Qualfon is believes so strongly in Guyana’s capabilities, that it recently opened its second center. To top that the company is constructing one of the largest call center campuses in the world, which will accommodate more than 6,000 new employees. Few locations in Latin American can accommodate such large-scale growth for English-speaking or bilingual employees.
New BPO Entrant: In January 2015, Teleperformance opened a new state-of-the art multichannel contact center in the heart of Guyana's capital city, Georgetown. The nearly 50,000 square foot customer care facility provides high-quality customer care, sales and technical support solutions to Teleperformance clients in English from a nearshore location.
The custom-built campus is located in central Georgetown’s historic district and commercial center at the corner of Camp and Robb Streets. The facility will house more than 1,500 employees at capacity. Teleperformance’s expansion to Guyana demonstrates growing demand among its clients for nearshore contact center support for English-speaking consumers.
Based on the developments there, Guyana seems ready for primetime. Just ask Qualfon and Teleperformance. Frost & Sullivan is eager to attend the new site opening for Qualfon and Teleperformance and share our observations and impressions. Stay tuned!
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DeSalles has 25 years of contact center operational experience. He combines this with 10 years of research and analytical expertise in: Emerging trends, convergence, collapse and disruptive technologies in the contact center industry; Insight into site management, supervision and agent development; Customer care outsourcing; Skills based routing; BPO Near shore deployment; Home based agents