Outsourcing in Jamaica: CMP Analysts Weigh in on State of the Industry

BPOs in the region need a unique value proposition to compete on global stage

Kindra Cooper

Business process outsourcing

In a conference keynote last week in Jamaica, analysts from the Customer Management Practice shared their recommendations for the region’s business process outsourcers (BPOs) and regional promotional stakeholders to differentiate themselves from other nearshore outsourcers serving the US and Canada.

Identified as a priority sector by the Jamaican government, the BPO industry injected $323 million into the local economy in 2017, according to JAMPro, an investment and trade promotions agency that does advocacy for BPOs.

About 90 percent of Jamaica’s BPO industry serves contact centers around the world, and in today’s customer-centric marketplace, the pressure is mounting on BPOs to deliver a better customer experience while meeting demands for lower costs. Those unable to differentiate themselves with high-skilled employees, diversified services, and sophisticated IT solutions compete purely on cost, inevitably locking them into a race to the bottom.

Why Jamaican BPOs need to differentiate

With high hopes riding on its potential for future job creation, Jamaica’s BPO industry can’t afford that tussle. At the Outsource2Jamaica conference in Kingston hosted by the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), Max Ribitzky, VP of business development and go-to-market practice lead at the Customer Management Practice, shared insights on what modern enterprise clients look for in outsourcing partners and how progressive BPOs can add value, differentiate and win at business.

“BPOs are only getting a small piece of the pie from the contact center business in the nearshore,” said Ribitzky. “There a lot of alternative countries or regions which offer competitive advantages, and a lot of brands currently working with BPOs in Jamaica also put their eggs in other baskets.”

To compete, contact center outsourcers have to be at the forefront of emerging opportunities in a changing CX landscape. That means going from offering traditional, tier-1 phone support for repetitive, low-level customer queries to serving an omnichannel contact center with full-service social media or live chat support, developing bespoke software solutions specific to the client, and ramping up training and development to offer higher-value services as some possible differentiations.

Brian Cantor, principal analyst at the Customer Management Practice and managing editor at CCW Digital, presented on opportunities for the region in light of a changing CX landscape in need of robust digital channels that still deliver a human touch.

“Where there’s opportunity is if a Jamaican outsourcer can develop a caliber of talent that’s capable of having a meaningful conversation with customers anywhere in the engagement journey,” said Brian Cantor, principal analyst at the Customer Management Practice and managing editor of CCW Digital.

Leading BPOs are already doing that; they hire HIPAA-compliant agents to handle medical insurance claims for healthcare companies, offer technical support for telcos or consult for regulation-heavy industries like finance. Some are even staffed by Six Sigma black belts.

Using automation technology and AI

The problem is that a majority of the workforce perceives automation technology as a threat to job security, or even a replacement for certain BPO functions, so they hesitate to purchase third-party IT solutions that could elevate their value proposition and propel their employees into higher pay grades.

However, investing in AI-powered, employee-facing tools like CRM and knowledge management systems, or desktop virtual attendants and workforce automation enables contact center agents to handle a variety of customer interactions at various stages of the customer support cycle, from sales to customer retention, complaint handling and brand advocacy.

Making past successes known

For those outsourcers already achieving big things, it’s a matter of publicizing their victories, formalizing case studies, ensuring their website, materials and thought leadership pieces communicate those stories, and compiling and analyzing data on key success metrics. In turn, this helps the organization form an identity based on a specialization and unique value proposition, which then insinuates into the company’s marketing message and brand positioning.

“They need to go out to the market and tell a story that is coherent,” said Ribitzky. “They need to bring facts and data and present actual, in-depth business cases as to why their players, their BPO, their country and their region as a whole can handle higher-level work.”

Like many large enterprises offering professional services, BPOs often seem homogenous. The star players differentiate by being specialists rather than generalists across their L&D, culture, operational innovations, tech and HR among other areas.

When it comes to recruiting talent, for instance, some differentiate by offering employee perks like a daycare center, higher pay and work-from-home options to attract top employees. They’re also emphatically declarative about who they are, what they do, and the clients they serve.

“If you have a real story, a meaningful story, it’s incumbent on you to find those differentiators and communicate them very concisely and then rinse and repeat,” said Ribitzky. “Go to market with the same approach. In turn it will educate your own organization on what you’re good at and then you’ll reinvest in that.”

According to Cantor, many Jamaican outsourcers continue to trumpet generic nearshoring advantages like English fluency, time zone compatibility and cultural similarity. Truly successful BPOs will emphasize more specific points of differentiation like proprietary technology or highly engaged employees at competitive rates.

Outsourcers with highly engaged employees are prized, because there’s always risk involved when a contracting company entrusts a BPO to handle frontline interactions with its valued customers, but as a value proposition it’s not enough to remain competitive. For one, employee experience is subjective, immensely difficult to measure and often goes unsubstantiated. One company might regard a quarterly offsite day as providing a great employee experience, while another invests heavily in training its staff for career progression opportunities.

“Every good outsourcer thinks about employee engagement from two lenses,” explains Cantor. “One is how they compete with other organizations for the region’s best talent. Two is how quickly and accurately can a BPO mirror the client’s culture.” As an extension of and representative for the contracting company, BPOs need to closely understand the needs of their clients.

“As you start dealing with high priority clients and more complex issues you need to be a true extension of the brand,” Cantor adds, “and how accurately you can reflect that culture directly impacts how much you can contribute to that client.”

After the keynote, CMP analysts spent the next four days meeting investors and governmental regional bodies, as well as holding consultation sessions with various BPOs to advise them on how to use unique value proposition and go-to-market strategies to channel their message for a global audience.