Several factors make the Caribbean an attractive location for outsource company investment, not least its services-based multilingual workforce, which is cultivating top-class customer service. David Kreiss, CEO and founder of KM2 Solutions, a contact call centre provider that operates across four Caribbean countries, as well as in Latin America, says: “The service that the agents can provide is phenomenal.”
Beyond customer service, however, outsourcing providers and their clients are demanding higher value added in the interactions between agents and customers. Through both technological innovations (such as artificial intelligence, analytics and automation) and training, agent roles are evolving beyond just repeating and executing, to tackling complicated requests. They thus require constant personal development to keep up with the needs of customers.
“The Caribbean needs to transform its human resource beyond the cultural empathy and language ability, to people that can add value to transactions,” says Juan Gonzalez, research director for Latin America and the Caribbean at growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
Nonetheless, there are several examples of successful higher value services across the region, such as Hinduja Global Solutions’ 60-person facility in Jamaica, which provides complex and intertwined healthcare data for US hospitals and physicians.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the largest provider of development finance across the Caribbean and Latin America, has played a major role in providing the financial support necessary to develop both the Caribbean’s investment infrastructure, and its talent pool. It is part of the region’s drive to transition from business process outsourcing (BPO) to global services.
The IDB has partnered with both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica to strengthen human capital and skills development systems – which will increase the pipeline of talent for the global services sector – and to create and promote stronger value propositions for increased domestic and foreign investment.
Other Caribbean countries are ramping up their tech capabilities. The hope is that by becoming a destination for tech-driven innovation, there could be benefits for the wider economy. “Curaçao is positioning itself as a smart destination and attempting to attract niche service providers, tech start-ups and individuals to leverage Curaçao as a gateway to the Americas,” says Rejo Sam, global services strategy consultant and associate-director at consultancy firm Avasant.
Some companies in the region have used technology to streamline their call centres and cut hold times, and have hired higher paid skilled agents at the back end of their operations. For example, Advantage Communications in Jamaica has implemented its My Virtual Partner (MVP) technology, which monitors both sides of phone conversations and makes live best practice recommendations to its agents. “We are seeing a 20% increase in productivity from MVP,” says Randy Clapp, chief revenue officer at Advantage Communications, which has six contact centres in Canada and Jamaica.
Besides technology, many countries, such as Trinidad and Barbados, have implemented effective policies to streamline the investment process. Barbados has also implemented an economic recovery and transformation plan, following an approval of $290m from the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility in October 2018, as it tries to both stabilise its macroeconomic environment and prepare Barbadians for the changing tides in the outsourcing industry. Kenneth Campbell, director of investment promotion at Invest Barbados, says: “At the heart of the transformation phase is the retooling, empowering, retraining and enfranchising of Barbadians to be active participants in a new, high-skilled, knowledge-driven economy.”
Public sector lacking
On a regional level, however, there is a lack of the digital adoption necessary within the public sector to ensure that there is an innovation ecosystem conducive and attractive to outsourcing firm investment. “Further investment is undoubtedly abundant in global services, but the track record of many Caribbean countries is mixed in regard to developing a fully fledged strategy to bring both private industry and the public sector together to focus on the opportunity,” says Kirk Laughlin, managing director and founder of media, research and advisory group Nearshore Americas.
Collaboration between countries could bridge the gap between best and worst approaches to the services industry, to ensure implementation of the requisite regulation, training and innovation for further investment. “Across our member countries, the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies [Caipa] has been able to share knowledge and best practices in whichever sector that we jointly promote. We are capable of our higher officials and other government institutions to share exactly what is needed from these investors,” says Caipa president Tessa Jacques.
Given that the trend in the outsourcing industry is towards higher value services and technological implementation, there is plenty of room for improvement – but Caribbean countries are at least taking the challenges head on.