The Full Story
Jamaica will host the 2004 Contact Centre and Strategic Sourcing Summit of the Americas from February 8 to 11 at the Half Moon Hotel, Montego Bay, after outbidding Puerto Rico and Miami.
The island’s investment/export promotions and facilitation agency, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), is organizing the Summit, which is regarded as one of the highlights on the international contact centre calendar.
Addressing a JIS Think Tank on February 4, Julian Robinson, JAMPRO’s Investment Promotions Manager, explained that this Summit was one of a quarterly series of networking events, which focus on contact centre outsourcing in four specific regions worldwide – the Americas (the Caribbean, Latin America and North America); Canada; Europe; and Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
In vying to host this Summit, Jamaica competed and won against Puerto Rico and Miami, noted Mr. Robinson. He said this was an indication that companies viewed Jamaica as a good location to conduct contact centre activities. This was consistent with JAMPRO’s attempts to market and promote the location, he added.
Pointing to the Summit’s importance, Mr. Robinson said that more than 150 company executives would attend. He emphasized that their presence was critical to the development of Jamaica’s contact centre industry, as they would have the opportunity to interact with local service providers and to view first hand, local call centres.
Highlights of the Summit include the official opening on Monday, February 9 by Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell; a ‘Jamaica presentation’ by Mr. Robinson and a case study by Patrick Casserly, Chief Executive Officer of E-Services Group International, which is one of the largest contact centres locally, with 1,100 employees in two locations.
On Wednesday, February 11, JAMPRO will conduct site tours of three facilities, E Services Group; Vista Print, and National Asset Recovery Services.The JAMPRO executive expressed optimism that the Summit would provide economic spin-offs for Jamaica. “We (JAMPRO) are hopeful that out of the conference a number of participants will get a first-hand view of Jamaica’s capabilities and hopefully make a decision to invest in Jamaica by establishing their own facilities or outsourcing to our existing contact centres locally,” Mr. Robinson said.
Outlining the advantages that Jamaica offered to regional investors, Mr. Robinson noted that Jamaica was the third largest English- speaking country in the hemisphere behind the USA and Canada, and that citizens were highly exposed to North American culture, and identified with many North American goods and services.
Another distinct advantage highlighted by Mr. Robinson, was the island’s close proximity to Miami, Florida. This facilitated company executives establishing contact centres and monitoring performance.
Jamaica’s telecoms infrastructure was also considered world class and the existing centres were cost competitive as companies saved up to 40 to 50 per cent in operating costs by moving their centres from North America to Jamaica, said the JAMPRO official.
Mr. Robinson gave details of the types of call centres. For inbound call centres, a customer could call a tele banking centre to query bank transactions and account balances. Other examples of inbound calls were technical help desks where a company offered technical assistance to customers who have purchased appliances from consumer electronic firms; and the centre that handles e-mail support for web hosting firms by responding to queries from web masters about problems with their sites.
In outbound centres, telemarketing or tele sales calls originate from the centre to clients being sold products or services. Another example is the collection centre where banks or credit card firms pass on bad debts information to collection agencies to recover the debts.
Mr. Robinson pointed to the various training agencies that the Government had established to ensure that companies had an adequately trained pool of customer care representatives to employ.
These include the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust that has a call centre curriculum; the Caribbean Institute of Technology, a software training institute that has an 11-month software development training programme; and Cisco Academy that trains network engineers.
Addressing queries about the competitiveness of the island’s call centres, Mr. Robinson observed that while the country’s telecoms rates were higher than what competitors paid in other parts of the world, this was offset by lower labour costs. He noted however, that Government’s liberalization of the telecoms industry had helped to bring down costs significantly.
Major issues to be discussed at the Summit include legislative matters relating to the ‘Do Not Call’ list issued by the USA last year, including 50 to 60 million people, as well as how to deal with the protectionist lobby which fears that off shore outsourcing will take away American jobs.
A statutory body, JAMPRO was established in 1988 to initiate and co-ordinate the development of plans, programmes and policies for the economic and financial development of Jamaica.