The Coming Divergence in Call Centers: The Nearshore Contact Center versus Offshore Call Centers

Mar 10, 2011, 11:11 ET from Sky Communications

PANAMA CITY, March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Panama has enjoyed, and through intelligent legislation and taxation policies, encouraged the growth of "offshore call centers" that leveraged Panama's bilingual population, strategic location and low labor costs.

But Panama's neighbors have done more than watch enviously as the industry grew; Guatemala and El Salvador are contending for once Panama-destined business, with the former growing 450% since 2007. And Nicaragua, Belize and Honduras are also following the path carved out by Costa Rica and Panama. As telcom expenses decline and data networks proliferate throughout the region,  Panama's continued growth in call center services will be challenged by these even lower cost alternatives.

"So we change the game," says Clive Archer, CEO of Sky Communications SA, "and add more value than just a voice on the phone.  In these days of social networking, instant messaging and mobile texting, our clients need to communicate to their customers in the manner that their customers prefer. So our 'call center' is turning into a 'contact center,' leveraging those communication technologies and continuing to find other services that we can more cost-effectively provide from Panama."

Sky Communications is a good example of a diversifying "nearshore contact center". Sky Communications, with its 250 employees, specializes in delivery services to primarily online brands and customers. "Our clients' customers are online; they often, but not always, prefer to interact online," Archer explains. "So we've built systems to facilitate those communications, be it via email, online chat or even social media. These additional services keep our clients with us, in Panama, rather than being seduced by a lower priced offering elsewhere in Latin America or even Asia."

And it seems to be working for Sky's clients: one has grown 45% year on year despite the downturn, another is reportedly the fastest growing sportsbook in the US.

"Their growth is pushing our growth," Archer added. "We're looking for more staff, new accommodations and additional products for existing clients. We're also on the hunt for new deals, potential acquisitions and of course new clients. We are already in talks with some very interesting firms from Costa Rica to Argentina; watch this space."

"We're glad we made the right choice in Panama when we decided to invest here after scouring the planet for options," Archer continued. "Here we have the infrastructure, the banking, the people, options, even potential partners—all these elements are essential to our growth and the success of our clients. Other places you just run out of runway."

Other countries are investing to compete in the call center space, but the perfect storm of innovation, investment, good legislation and talented population on the isthmus should ensure Panama's position in the new world of the "nearshore" contact center.

SOURCE Sky Communications