The outsourcing of services employs 55,000 Guatemalans

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By LatAm Reports Editorial Team

The so-called call centers are the most visible face of the BPO export sector, but it is not the only activity that offers outsourcing services, as these have diversified into the segments of telecommunications and technology, finance, manufacturing, retail and e-commerce, human resources, means of communication and entertainment, travel and transport, health and insurance, logistics and distribution, public and construction services.

This export sector emerged about 20 years ago in Guatemala and began with what was known before as call center activities, providing services at the local level, to North America and other Latin American countries, explained Eduardo Castillo, president of the association attached to the Guatemalan Association of Exporters (Agexport).

The sector has grown from 15% to 17% an average per year, so it already generates more than 55,000 direct jobs, and about 2 indirect jobs for each of these. That is, people who are engaged in administration, maintenance, related industries, transport, technology and others, he adds.  This also means that of the total number of employees mentioned, 60% is from the call center segment and the other 40% of other BPO activities, adds Castillo.

The new service offer includes automation of operations, attention to specific technical topics; services are provided in Spanish and English, and have gradually been added in other languages, such as German, French, Italian and Portuguese. And also in certain activities in which it is no longer necessary to master another language, but also a little experience or technical or specialized skills such as medicine, marketing, human resources, finance and even legal services.

In other words, current tasks need to be able to respond to a call in the national or foreign language, but also to provide more specialized capacities such as analysis in sectors such as mass consumption, distribution, health, media, transport and specialized services in financial, lawyers and others, it adds.

The services provided are usually by telephone, email or chat, which are called the front office because they have a direct relationship with customers, but there are also back office services, which are tasks related to the administration and the proper internal functioning of a company. Here you can mention financial processes, accounting closures of a particular month, accounts receivable or payment application. And with the advancement of technology, some areas already allow automation, robotics and the use of artificial intelligence. 

The figures of the sector

Apart from the average growth data in recent years and employment, the sector refers to other figures:

In 2023, services were exported for US$922 million, an increase of 5% over the year before that. In relation to the number of people working in this industry, versus the total population in Guatemala is 0.2%, although in countries like Mexico it is 0.7%, so there is a lot of growth opportunity.

Last year this industry helped generate Q507 million in revenue for the Guatemalan Institute of Social Security (IGSS), Q33 million to the Technical Institute of Training and Productivity (Intecap), and a figure equal to the Institute for the Recreation of Private Enterprise Workers (Irtra). In addition, Q433 million value-added tax (VAT) and Q27 million income tax (ISR), derived from wages paid in the sector, which averages Q5,000 150 per month.

By 2024, the industry has positive prospects because, at the discretion of the manager, there has been exponential growth every year and considers that the country is no longer taken into account only because of the average cost of the labour force, but because it has the capacity to embrace new technologies to offer more services, allowing it to position and compete with other markets or countries in the region.

Challenges to overcome

However, work is still needed on training people in the fluidity of English, for example, apart from working on the increase in the technical skills that companies are demanding, the infrastructure to operate and citizen security.

Another challenge is the decentralization of services to various departments, to create a more integrated ecosystem, so there are opening spaces for discussion and contact, such as the first edition of the Guatemala BPO Innovation Summit held on Wednesday, April 24, in which it discussed the panorama, the future of the sector, the growth with the trend of nearshoring and success stories of cities that have created opportunities.

It was sought to listen to what other countries have done and try to replicate good practices in Guatemala to continue growing, which in the end is no longer just a matter of employment generation, but about how Guatemala is positioned in an ecosystem of global competitiveness so as not to lag behind. When we compare Guatemala with Mexico, Costa Rica or Colombia we fell short, Castillo added.

Examples of success

Examples of companies operating in Guatemalans and already have a solid track record in the outsourcing of services are given below:

Alorica

Alorica is 15 years old in Guatemala and 25 years of providing BPO services in other countries, both in local markets and in export markets.

Luis Marroquín, senior director of operations and Country Manager of the firm, said that this firm offers a wide range of outsourcing services, including customer service through calls, chat, email, content moderation and social media management.

In addition, process automation through robotics and artificial intelligence services, apart from real-time voice translation technology in more than 75 languages. This will revolutionize the way you do business in the country and the region and allow fluid and effective communication with clients from different parts of the world, further improving your experience and operational efficiency,” he says.

The executive explains that its service in general extends to global customers, including companies highlighted in the Fortune 500, covering a variety of industries from retail, telecommunications, energy and the media, among others.

The company has created 115,000 jobs in 18 countries, offering services in more than 35 languages to more than 250 customers. In the BPO sector of Guatemala has about 5,000 employees, thanks to the growth of the company’s sales and services in recent years, resulting from increased demand, the expansion of the customer base, improvements in operational efficiency and prices.

Alorica has 15 years of operating in Guatemala. (Photo, Free Press: Courtesy Alorica).

With regard to sales, the company has maintained an annual growth of about 10% in recent years and our goal is to continue to expand through diversification of services, the implementation of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and process automation, and the exploration of new geographic markets, he added.

Conduent

Diego Mellado, leader of the Transport Projects Office of the firm Conduent explains that the company has 36 years of operating in the Latin American market with various types of services, such as solutions for transport and toll collection.

In Guatemala he started operating with another brand more than 20 years ago, and in 2017 the new brand that absorbed this operation and his experience was formed. The company offers mainly technological but also tangible solutions.

For example, the Unit that runs Transport Services Mellate is responsible for supporting through safe and affordable ecosystems for the mobility area,

such as the management of road use collection (toll), with more than nine million steps processed a day in the countries where it operates, and more than 300 transport agencies served.

From Guatemala, Conduent provides support services for the implementation of systems that serve to process transactions are used in this nature, as well as transactions in charge of charging fees, both for road and transit collections. (Photo, Free Press: courtesy Conduent).

Another is the transit service, which is mainly dedicated to charging fares, intelligent mobility through Artificial Intelligence, mobile dispatch tools, control of public transport routes, as well as the issuance of public transport tickets such as trains and buses (about 100 million daily, in several countries)   

In Guatemala, work is done on the three pillars of the company: attention to transport, commercial services and services to the government. “The country is constantly evolving and appreciated by Conduent’s international leadership to consider professionals who provide services from here,” he added.

Globally there are more than 60,000 employees and in Guatemala they are more than 5,000. Here we have a range of services, from partners that serve call center or call management for various brands, and in the area of professional services with consultants expert in operations processes, projects, integration, financial consulting, human resources and marketing, among others.

Xerox

The company Xerox, Services Shared Guatemala, has more than 10 years of operation in the country and this is the company’s main headquarters in Latin America, as it has installed such services through a Center of Excellence, providing services for the United States, Canada and Europe in the area of digital transformation.

Xerox was born in the United States and its original turnover of business was the manufacture and distribution of photocopiers and printers. It is currently in a process of digital transformation to be able to provide other types of services such as robotic process automation, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

The term robotic process automation (RPA) refers to software or bots, as they are also called, which perform processes automatically and are basically used to perform repetitive tasks and do not add value to the operation such as data entry, system information reading and reporting generation, among others.

For example, these software performs the same activities or processes that a person would do completely automatically and that is what allows for a more efficient process, that it can be executed more quickly and without human error. They can be applied in different areas, such as accounting, billing generation, order processing and others, explained Eduardo Palacios, general manager of the company.

He said that software development had also been worked on in Guatemala and the project management service was provided. Originally, the company had its call-care center in Guatemala, but today it is dedicated to providing services with greater added value, as in the country there are very well-trained and very creative people.

Expectations are to continue growing not only locally, as you always seek to be at the forefront by offering services with the highest technology and above all, giving the added value of artificial intelligence that allows you to make forecasts and make decisions automatically. So it’s something that will allow our customers to have a more efficient process and that in the end, they can also give a better service to their customers, Palacios said.

Of the services provided by the BPO sector, 70% are by telephone or through direct interaction with the client (front office) and 30% by back-off that involves attention to internal business processes, according to managers of this industry. (Photo, Free Press: courtesy Agexpor). 

This article has been translated from the original which first appeered in  Pensa Libre