IAOP: As India Wanes, Does Central America Become a New BPO Hub?

I kept hearing it throughout the IAOP Central America chapter meeting this week in Guatemala City:

India is reaching a BPO and KPO saturation point. Companies want more options but they want the same kind of process discipline that originally put India on the map. Is Central America ready to fill those big shoes?

qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqLori Blackman, president of DNL Global and a key behind the scenes organizer of the event, made a great point when she insisted the greater Latin America region has to take a close look at itself and decide what it can do better than anyone else. As a result, I kept asking my new provider friends: What makes you different? Beyond building call center operations, what’s the long term value play for your operation? Lori says it’s the natural ability to sell and smoothly engage with people which makes for promising opportunities.

I agree – but to be honest – industry leaders are definitely not there yet in terms of saying “our most precious resource are agents who have a natural proclivity to sell, or upsell.” Mario Lopez, a director with Transactel, pointed out that the region has to walk before it runs.

As far as filling the shoes of India, it’s safe to say that Central America has some room to grow. Standards of organizational process (a theme hit hard by former BP global CIO Don Althoff of British Petroleum which I will blog separately about), where companies and nations get on the Six Sigma and ITIL bandwagon, is not exactly a competency most regional providers are touting.

The “good news” as Stephan Manning, an Offshoring Research Associate from Duke University, pointed out during his presentation: Latin America is rising to become a top destination for call center business, in part because of Spanish language strengths. Demand for administrative support and BPO work, as well as product development (a theme we heard about repeatedly) are all up.

The flipside: There is a nasty race to the bottom in the price-is-everything world of call center sourcing. Commoditization is a very real concern and Manning – as well as others – stressed that providers need to take serious steps toward building a roadmap to higher value, and higher margin services, like KPO. My belief is KPO capabilities will begin to show up more and more and it will be introduced by the major, global players already beginning to build a beachhead in the region. The upside is huge – as long as providers commit to playing for the long haul.

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