Industry Commentary

BPO Hidden Offshore Gems Part 4 – St. John’s

By February 17, 2021February 14th, 2024No Comments

Sometimes value can emerge in the most unexpected of places.  Over the years, this has been a strong dynamic of the BPO sector, with cities in different parts of the world establishing their service credentials in ways that would have otherwise been unforeseen.  In this 4th installment of offshore hidden outsourcing gems, the city of St. John’s, in Newfoundland & Labrador, takes center stage.  To be clear, St. John’s is not in the same size category as the mega-cities in EMEA or APAC where outsourcers have established CX hubs.  Rather, this is a niche play based on quality.  It is also one that is relevant to an increasing number of overseas demand markets, not simply those in North America.

When thinking about St. John’s, contact centers are probably not the first thing that comes to mind.  The city is a Canadian icon that over the years has spawned a vibrant cultural scene, which has long made it a favorite for visitors from far and wide.  However, from a BPO angle, this city with a modern connectivity infrastructure offers significant value for CX providers and their clients.  Consider that as a metropolitan area of over 200,000 people, St. John’s is the second-largest city in the Maritime provinces. Within this community is housed a student population of roughly 20,000.  Coupled with an unemployment rate of 13.1%, according to recent estimates, there is a significant fluidity with which to recruit strong, educated and technically-adept candidates that are inherent problem solvers.  This should be music to the ears of CX professionals.

And it should not be assumed that St. John’s is simply a Canadian contact center play.  Operators have for years used the city as a logical delivery point for servicing US consumers. The logic for doing so remains compelling – St. John’s residents use many of the same products or services as their American neighbors, while also consuming common media outlets.  This continues to drive strong affinities between agents and US end-users. Meanwhile, the ongoing weakness of the CAD ensures that this occurs cost-effectively.  But, it is not only US outsourcers that should have their eyes on St. John’s, as opportunities burgeon just a few hours flight to the east.

St. John’s has the potential to be a complelling offshore delivery option for consumers in the UK and Ireland.  Until recently, regular direct flights between St. John’s with both Heathrow and Dublin have been available (and may well be so again in a post-vaccine environment). Given St. John’s location, flight times to the UK and Ireland are considered medium-haul at worse.  Equally,  the city’s cultural and native English language ties with the British and Irish should not be underestimated.  And, the cost savings identified above for US clients would be even more pronounced for British and Irish enterprises choosing to work with BPOs based in St. John’s.

Further, in the face of disruption caused by Brexit, the recent push for UK companies to explore the Caribbean as a delivery alternative is very real, and is centered around lower costs, time-zone favourability, and a quality workforce. These are equally relevant reasons when they are applied to St. John’s as a prospective CX delivery point for British businesses.

Already St. John’s has proven a popular delivery point for several CX providers, but the city is clearly not top-heavy with BPO activity.  It has also been a hot-spot of late for work-from-home delivery, which will be even more of a consideration moving forward.  Its potential is not centered around being a Canada-only solution and extends beyond North America.  Forward-looking providers should see this hidden gem as an alternative destination for high-value, geographically-diverse campaigns.