To some, Guatemala may appear to be the perfect location for a customer contact center. From languages spoken to educational and university infrastructure to government embrace of the emerging call and contact center industry, the Central American country has significant benefits that can be highly attractive to center providers and their customers.
Yet, Guatemala lives in the shadow of others. Locations like Panama, Costa Rica, and even Colombia, often are first off the tongue when discussing near-shore contact centers.
So Guatemalan leaders decided to change the conversation and cast their own shadow. Today, improvements in education, language skills, and even infrastructure have made Guatemala a new voice on the customer contact center scene.
As a result of its efforts, one global contact center provider opened a new 500-seat facility there in June. It was the company’s second center in Guatemala in the past three years.
It did so only after addressing a lengthy list of due diligence items commonly raised by those site selecting new facilities. The site selection team included contact center experts and a global real estate advisory firm versed in researching global market conditions. It explored real estate site availability, existing and planned infrastructure and improvements, labor and talent acquisition opportunities, educational institutions, and costs of labor and living – all of which can affect the provisioning of a contact center.
With an approach that incorporated both quantitative and qualitative research, the recent site sourcing effort revealed Guatemala as a desirable call center destination that meets a variety of essential business and workforce needs.
During any market research process, executives must address the topic of geography and geopolitical realities. To that end, Guatemalan leaders could not have planned some of its geographic attributes any better.
Guatemala City is a roughly 2.5-hour, non-stop flight from Houston or Miami. For executives or managers who need to interact with teams on site, or travel to the center, a market’s near-shore presence removes barriers of time and distance. Its location in the US Central Time Zone also improves real-time conversation and facilitates timely collaboration.
Guatemala’s real estate costs are on par with other comparable markets in the region. But its utility costs can be higher. Even a local Value-Added Tax raises the cost of computers and electronics.
Guatemala and Guatemala City are politically and socially stable. Discussions with local business executives and leaders found that graft and corruption, two concerns common to some emerging markets, were insignificant in Guatemala.
Also, the workforce’s education levels are rising, and the prevalence of languages spoken – Spanish, English, Canadian French, German and Italian – have helped broaden the scope of potential customers the market can serve.
While labor costs are similar to those found in other markets, expenses for the workers themselves – as with any metropolitan market – can be high and cut into workers’ take-home wages. Unlike some Latin American and even European markets, where mass transit is reliable, convenient and inexpensive to workers, in Guatemala, many workers commute by car to work. Yet, parking is expensive.
So the contact center provider stepped in. The building chosen is beside a local mall. Because most work in the center is done during the workday, the operator arranged to use the parking lot at the mall to accommodate employees’ vehicles. Provider and employees share the cost, which is a fraction of other parking solutions in the city’s business district.
Meanwhile, the government and a local consortium are investing in “jitneys” to improve commuting options. Some upgraded buses soon will include Wi-Fi and more convenient schedules.
This June, the first 300 of the planned 500 seats at the center came online. It eventually will grow to 700 seats. The sourcing and opening of the center came only after rigorous analysis that explored everything from real estate and utilities to labor and infrastructure. The due diligence and data analysis helped verify quantitative findings.
The resulting research revealed a destination that effectively changed the conversation and established Guatemala as a key player in the regional contact center marketplace.
Edited by Maurice Nagle