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Part Two: The Evolution of Colombia

As a near shore site for North American telecoms, Colombia is and will continue to be a viable part of an overall portfolio of delivery locations complementing a global footprint of onshore, offshore and near shore options.  Visionary first-movers with appropriate expectations and patience will see Colombia pay off as part of their CRM customer service portfolio.

With 46% of the current agents in Colombia supporting telecom companies, North American carriers need to leverage these experienced agents early and groom them for future growth.  Many workforce initiatives are underway in Colombia so it is important to realize that deploying a scalable number of English-speaking agents will take some time – perhaps another two years. However, this doesn’t mean that Colombia shouldn’t be a part of an offshore/near shore strategy now.  Early entry rewards farsighted telecoms with a solid foundation that is better prepared and more capable for when the training programs begin supplying the promised workforce.

At the Nearshore Nexus outsourcing conference in April, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe raised some eyebrows when he said: “Outsourcing is growing but the country’s schools don’t produce enough tech savvy students to fill the jobs.”  However, the current administration of Juan Manuel Santos has clearly committed federal resources to continue developing the CRM outsourcing services industry.  Since both men are Harvard grads and close associates, it’s very likely that Uribe was simply re-setting expectations rather than undermining efforts that he actually initiated.

If there is any concern over safety and security, it should be noted that Colombia is now considered to be more secure than parts of Mexico or Central America.  One CRM industry analyst pointed out that lower costs often come with higher risks; that sometimes you pay more for higher levels of stability and talent.  As part of a global solution, the lower costs in Colombia should make that risk tolerable.

A few global vendors acquired local companies to accelerate their footprint and consolidate their service delivery capabilities for both the domestic market and providing offshore support for Spain while positioning for the coming surge of bi-lingual work from North America.  This approach has resulted in a dilution of focus: “Are we supporting Spain, domestic or North America?”  Other vendors took a more direct approach and focused solely on offering near shore support to North American carriers.  Based on Colombia’s commitment to develop an English-speaking workforce, those vendors with a focus on North America will be more likely to concentrate their resources and not be distracted by the domestic or Spanish markets.

Early movers to Colombia with the right expectations will see success now and in the future but as with any investment, it pays to be fully aware of how the realities compare to the promises.