Opinion

Belize carving out a nearshore English Niche

The offshore delivery market is in the throes of disruption. Enterprises are pressuring their BPO partners to find locations that include not only the tried-and-tested, but also others that provide new opportunity.  In the case of English-language sites, new options are becoming less appealing than they were a few years ago, thanks to rising costs and saturation in many delivery hubs.  However, that does not mean outsourcers do not have access to niche delivery alternatives. These may be smaller in scale, but they can still drive high-value interactions with consumers.  It is in this context that outsourcing stakeholders in the Central American country of Belize are seeking to win more investment from providers in the English-speaking world, and to date their efforts are bearing fruit.

On the face of it, Belize may not appear an obvious offshore solution for English-language customer experience management.  With less than half a million people, its scalability is limited, especially compared to many of its contemporaries further afield in EMEA and APAC. Even in the context of the nearshore, it is small end of the spectrum. But this has not slowed the enthusiasm in Belize to develop a robust front-office BPO industry. Apart from English fluency, the country provides outsourcers with an accessible location from North America, cultural affinity with consumers in the US and Canada, competitive costs, and a solid communications infrastructure.  Combined, these elements have been the basis for the most successful of nearshore locations over the past decade.

Over the past several years, Belize has taken advantage of its status as the only officially English-language country in Central America and engaged in promoting itself as a high-value delivery point for North American enterprises. The country’s investment agency has been proactive in making a case for Belize to outsourcers and their clients, which has led to a number of deployments.  Among the largest is Transparent BPO, an American operator that services its clients’ consumers, using both voice and digital channels, from Belize City.  This success is attracting not only interested prospective clients, but also the attention of other service providers, eager to diversify their English-language delivery footprints.

This is where Belize’s outsourcing stakeholders need to think strategically as they move forward.  As an industry, there is limited room to grow. It is conceivable that one or two large deployments could quickly saturate the market.  Thus, by focusing on the higher-value type functions that require fewer agents, but that can drive strong margins, the front-office BPO industry in Belize can grow sustainably for some time to come.

The other challenge facing Belize will be perception in the marketplace.  Given its geographic situation in Central America, Belize sits beside a number of countries undergoing upheaval (most notably Nicaragua), and this can color the perceptions of prospective investors. For a country that is building its reputation among outsourcers and their clients, ensuring a strong level of differentiation from the rest of the region is crucial.  But by doing so, Belize will hopefully disassociate itself from the challenges faced by its neighbors, and thereby cement a unique position in the region and the nearshore market.

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