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Unrest means BPOs need to leverage Europe’s nearshore diversity

No offshore region has garnered more interest of late than Europe’s nearshore.  This collection of countries that spans from Central Europe to the Caucuses has been at the forefront of both outsourcer and client interest, due to the value that can be derived from language skills, a shift toward pro-business investment policies, and accessibility.

However, in recent weeks, an unfortunate chain of events has highlighted potential weak spots in even some of the European nearshore’s most established destinations.  And with business continuity planning (BCP) topping the list of what clients want from BPO partners, a diverse delivery footprint across the region is essential.

Many in the business world find it hard to keep up with the frenzied changes that pervade nightly newscasts.  Certainly this has been the case of Europe’s nearshore over the past few years.  Consider the efforts to stifle political dissent in Hungary, which have garnered significant attention in Western media.  Equally, the buildup of NATO forces in the Baltics has not gone unnoticed by potential European nearshore BPO clients.  Recently, Poland, which tied for 3rd most popular CX delivery destination in the 2021 Front Office Omnibus Survey, has been mired in the news, partially due to its dispute with the European Union over judicial supremacy. Poland is also having border issues with Belarus, which is rapidly degenerating into a humanitarian (and potentially military) crisis.

The implications of these developments for the BPO community are real.  Enterprise CX decision-makers may be busy managing changes to the customer management ecosystem, but are not too occupied to miss the headlines.  And, with boardroom pressure to ensure that end-user interactions run smoothly, the need to house contact center talent in stable locations is paramount.  This was highlighted in the 2021 Front Office Omnibus Survey, in which experience managing BCP was cited as the most important feature an outsourcer brings to the table by respondents from North America, Western Europe and Australia.

So where does this leave the numerous outsourcers operating in Europe’s nearshore?  There are several considerations.  Probably the most important for those that house operations in current hotspots like Poland, Hungary or the Baltics is to avoid any hasty moves.  These destinations have proven their value to clients since the late 1990s. And, where possible, they should continue to be anchors in the European nearshore for any serious outsourcer.

However, this does not mean that BPOs should not look at regional diversification opportunities. In fact, a wide geographic footprint is rapidly becoming a priority for CX service providers, and Europe’s nearshore has a number of different destinations that can potentially fit the BCP bill.  More than ever, countries like Serbia, the Republic of GeorgiaSlovenia and Croatia are winning new BPO fans due to a mix of political stability, commercially-friendly economic policies, and linguistically talented university graduates.  Admittedly, these destinations are not as scalable as locations such as Poland, but they prove their worth in terms of servicing higher-value customer management functions.

At the end of the day, the implications for any provider housing its CX service platform in one place are potentially severe. Political or economic instability can disrupt delivery, as can natural disasters.  Negative perceptions from the outside world can also creep in.  For those that are heavily based in some of Europe’s current flashpoints, the need to find alternative regional capacity should be a focus. Key considerations need to be end-user language requirements in target demand markets, familiarity with the potential delivery locations, and the potential for disruption in the destinations under the microscope.  The possibility of partnering with a locally based operator in an emerging country may be a way of acclimatizing in the short term. But finding a path to BCP in Europe’s nearshore must be a priority.

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