Do you know anyone who hasn’t had a frustrating experience because the contact center rep they interacted with didn’t speak their native language? We didn’t think so.
The truth is that while enterprises have multiple business reasons for establishing their contact centers in offshore locations in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, the reps’ language and communication skills often have a negative impact on the overall customer and brand experience.
And although many companies have developed their own solutions to assess candidates’ language capabilities, they’re plagued with multiple challenges, including:
Commercial language and communication assessment solutions have been around for years. But innovative vendors – such as Pearson, an established player in this market, and Emmersion Learning, which incorporates the latest AI technology into its solution – are increasingly leveraging a combination of linguistic methodologies, technical automation, and advanced statistical processes to deliver a scalable assessment that can predict speaking, listening, and responding proficiency.
For instance, technology-driven solutions may test candidates’ “language chunking” ability, which means their ability to group chunks of semantic meaning. This concept is similar to techniques that are commonly used for memorizing numbers. By linking numbers to concepts, a person can be successful in retaining large sequences of digits in working memory. Without conceptual awareness, memorization is hard.
During an assessment, through automation and AI, the candidate may be asked to repeat sentences of increasing complexity. Success in this exercise relies on the candidate’s ability to memorize complex sentences, which can only be done when they can chunk for meaning. A candidate’s mastery of an exercise to repeat sentences of increasing complexity is a great predictor of the candidate’s language proficiency.
Organizations that embrace technology-based solutions for language assessments can anticipate multiple benefits: reduced costs, decreased hiring cycle times, improved quality of hires, better role placement, freed time to devote to value-add initiatives, and improved customer experience and satisfaction. Ultimately, it’s a triple win for the organization, its candidates, and its customers.
For years, India has been the epicenter of offshore technology services delivery for U.S.-headquartered enterprises. But our Market Vista Annual Report 2019 and Predictions for Global Services Delivery Locations 2019 reports show that a host of factors are driving a much closer look at Latin American countries as a destination for the delivery of IT services.
So, what’s making Latin America click with companies of all sizes, including some of the world’s biggest brands, like Amazon, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, and Microsoft?
The time zone differences between India and the U.S. are impeding demand for agile development. But because Latin America and the U.S. share similar time zones, the delivery and client teams can collaborate in real time.
Due to strong government and educational support, Latin American countries are producing an ever-growing number of talented professionals with relevant, and often advanced technology skill sets, like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
The abundance of low-cost technical talent is driving a surge in Latin American country-based technology start-ups through accelerator programs such as 500 Startups, Techstars, and Y Combinator. Investors are also betting high on tapping the potential of technology start-ups in the region. For example, SoftBank Group in March 2019 announced a US$5 billion Innovation Fund, touted to be the largest-ever technology fund in Latin America.
Although India is far more cost competitive than Latin American countries, competition in India is increasingly intense given that it is home to more than 1,100 shared services centers and thousands of service provider delivery centers. Because there are fewer service delivery centers in Latin America, competition for talent is comparatively lower, making it easier for companies to hire the best talent.
Most Latin American countries have significantly improved in English language proficiency over the years. And their Spanish language skills are valuable to the U.S. market given the large Spanish population residing in the country.
What are the top five Latin American countries doing to advance their attractiveness to technology services clients?
With their strong trade links, nearshore advantage, and growing technology talent pools, several of the Latin American countries offer a multi-pronged value proposition to enterprises seeking an IT services delivery destination.
To learn more about the region, please read our Market Vista Annual Report 2019 and Predictions for Global Services Delivery Locations 2019 reports.
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An interesting offshore/nearshore locations strategy dichotomy is emerging for today’s major third-party service providers and enterprise firms, as well as their GICs. On one hand, they are continuing to set up delivery centers in new and unexplored locations due to increasing competition, business continuity planning, and risk diversification. On the other hand, the pressure of new disruptive technologies, changing consumer demands, and need to maintain points of parity with competitors is pushing them to consolidate their footprint in the top 10 locations.
Top-10 offshore/nearshore locations include – India, Poland, Republic of Ireland, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Singapore, Romania, Malaysia, Mexico, and China
In the past few quarters, new center setups in the top-10 locations have jumped by ~10 percent, from 60 percent in 2015 to 70 percent in 2016. The key driver of this change has been availability of talent; only selective locations currently have the capability to support complex digital services. Thus, both external providers and GICs are leveraging these locations for digital services centers and setting up relevant centers of excellence. While several other non-top-10 locations are also investing in building digital talent, they are still not considered a viable option for digital delivery.
While most firms are investing in the emerging technologies/digital space, they are still in the nascent stages of building capability. As they mature, they will start diversifying and distinctively leveraging different locations for supporting elements of digital, thus driving a uniform distribution amongst top-10 locations in the next three to six years.
Following are highlights of our research on the future of digital services delivery destinations:
To learn how locations activity spanned in 2016, please refer to Everest Group’s report titled Market Vista™: 2016 Year in Review: Global Services Industry Facing “Winds of Change.”
Recently, an official from the Trump administration accused Indian IT providers of abusing the H-1B visa process by “flooding” the lottery system with applications, giving them an unfair lottery draw advantage. The statement again spotlighted the issue of importing foreign IT services workers to the U.S., thereby limiting job opportunities for domestic candidates. It also underscored the huge extent of outsourcing being done by U.S. corporations, especially to offshore-heritage providers. What it didn’t discuss was other types of companies’ usage of the H-1B program to import skilled talent into the country.
Everest Group conducted a quick analysis on the Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) employers filed to obtain H-1B visas in the last few years. We classified the employers into several categories:
(For the uninitiated, a certified LCA (ETA Form 9035), is a prerequisite to H-1B approval. The LCA must be certified by the Department of Labor (DOL) before the H-1B petition (Form I-129) is submitted to USCIS. The LCA contains basic wage and location information about the proposed H1B employment. Please note that a certified LCA does not guarantee H-1B visa approval, however, certified position trends are good indicators of H-1B visa usage. Also, note that the data below includes positions certified for new H-1B visa applications as well as renewal and transfer of H-1B visa.)
One of the Trump administration’s suggested reforms is to increase the minimum wage for H-1B visas from US$60,000 to US$130,000. But as this minimum wage recommendation is applicable to companies that are “H-1B dependent” – and most offshore-heritage providers fall into this category – the required increase in minimum wage, whatever it ultimately is, will likely affect offshore-heritage providers more than any other type of organization.
At the same time professional services firms have quietly increased their leverage of the visa-led model, offshore-heritage providers have been the unfortunate recipients of far greater scrutiny and negative limelight. In order to successfully compete, offshore-heritage providers have no choice other than to prepare now for the impact of visa policy changes. As the old saying goes, “better safe than sorry.”