Exclusive Interview: ACS Sees Near Shore Playing a Big Role in Future Growth

ACS is building a strong near shore presence. The recent acquisition of e-Services in the Caribbean is just one more indicator that ACS sees Central America and the Caribbean as critical players in its call center, BPO and ITO service offerings. CRM Central checked in recently with Tom Blodgett, ACS executive vice president and Group President of ACS’ Business Process Solutions line of business. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Tom Blodgett's firm, ACS, acquired e-Services recently. He foresees ACS growing its presence in the Caribbean.

Tom Blodgett's firm, ACS, acquired e-Services recently. He foresees ACS growing its presence in the Caribbean.

Why did you pursue the e-Services acquisition? We felt we had a void in our global production footprint. We need something nearshore – Where they spoke English as their native language. We have 5,000 people in Mexico; several in the border towns. We do English call center work – but it’s not their native tongue.

What was the key attraction of e-Services? We’ve done about 100 acquisitions. We follow a disciplined approach and we only buy successful companies and only companies that have successful management teams. In this case, existing management will stay, all the same people will stay.We expect it to be transparent.

What does this mean for your customers? We have one more option to talk to our customers from around the world. We are increasing our presence and becoming a dominant player. We have flexibility and can meet a wide variety of requirements, such as our multi-lingual agent capabilities in the Guatemala center.

What unique value does the Caribbean market deliver? Clients like it because it’s not so far away. We have several clients living in Atlanta. It’s just as easy getting on the plane to go to Jamaica as it is to go to Washington, DC. Proximity to the US is certainly a factor and there are some great labor resources. It also doesn’t hurt that clients like to go visit!

To what degree are hurricanes a concern working in the Caribbean? It’s a factor – a big factor. We have a hundred locations around the world – so we offer more options. We also have rules at ACS where we set limits on the amount of service devoted to a particular site to maintain business continuity.

Do you see problems with scale in the Caribbean? If you look at our presence in Jamaica, we employ 5,400 people. We can support a few thousand more, especially in Kingston. We don’t view our industry as a competitive to tourism. Some major players have had layoffs including Air Jamaica. There is enough to grow the business and we see additional opportunities in St. Lucia. Into the future, we’ll be looking at additional countries in the Caribbean to work with.

What is your take on the current backlash against outsourcing? I think the caravan is moving along. With the tough economic times, customers are being more aggressive looking at who they work with. From our perspective, the tough economy is good for our business; some people start look at doing things differently.

What’s your outlook on Central America? We have over 5,000 in Mexico and we have a very nice facility in Guatemala City, primarily doing BPO work. We recently expanded customer care activity. Finding people is not an issue. You’ll see us continue to grow there, we’re seeing a good base of technology strengths. That will be a hotspot for us.

(ACS is a rapidly growing Fortune 500 company supporting operations reaching more than 100 countries with $6.2 billion in annual revenues.)

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