Telecommunications: THE REGION'S GROWING CUSTOMER SERVICE INDUSTRY

By Holley, Layne | Americas Quarterly, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Telecommunications: THE REGION'S GROWING CUSTOMER SERVICE INDUSTRY


Holley, Layne, Americas Quarterly


Latin America has a new competitive edge: call centers. The growing Spanish-speaking population north of the Rio Grande, combined with increased English profi ciency, has made the region a highly desirable near-shore customer care destination for U.S. and Canadian companies.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico are the industry's top investment destinations. In each, business expansion is driven by a young, bilingual, educated, and articulate labor force; increasingly solid technological infrastructure; lower operating facility and labor costs; and time zones that allow access to a large market.

Latin American call centers- or contact centers, as some are termed-have represented a bright spot in the outsourcing business, which hit diffi cult times in 2008- 2009 because of the global economic slowdown. Through 2012, the regional market is expected to grow, though at a slower pace than before the crisis.

The April 2011 merger of two leading business process outsourcing fi rms-the Argentine-Colombian fi rm Allus and Canada's Contax- shows the dynamism of the market. Contax was drawn into the merger because of the region's favorable regulatory framework, which includes governmental efforts to control infl ation and ease red tape and tariffs. The combined operation employs 120,000 people (85,000 from Contax) with operations in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Spain, the U.S., and Brazil.

The merger shows how growth is not limited to foreign companies seeking to outsource their customer care operations. Local businesses are also benefi ting. "There's an increasing appetite to go after Latin America from Latin America and not just offshore," explains Jose Romero, CEO of the new Allus/Contax conglomerate. This locally driven growth stems from the success of regional companies such as Mexico-based Softtek, which provides outsourcing services.

However, future growth will require tapping into a maturing workforce pool while keeping costs in check. On the labor front, the International Customer Management Institute has found part- and full-time call center work to be an attractive opportunity for students, the elderly and the disabled, who can earn between $7,500 and $12,000 per year. …

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