There’s plenty of interest in finding the right arbitrage model when it comes to customer experience management. This is the case across major demand markets, where onshore delivery has become virtually untenable. In the context of European outsourcing, the scope in nearshore possibilities has never been more pronounced. But Europe’s nearshore is evolving. What were once good value delivery points are losing out to locations farther the east, among them Ukraine. What is clear is that old prejudices about such up-and-coming spots need to be put to the side, as new opportunities gain traction with Western buyers.
Nobody needs question the challenges with running contact centers in Western Europe. Unemployment rates in the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are all under 6%, which means tremendous pressure on recruiters filling customer experience roles. Equally, the legacy of higher government-mandated social costs is also an added burden to employers in European demand markets. However, what is also clear is that the traditional nearshore in Central Europe is also facing contact center difficulties. For example, joblessness in the outsourcing mainstays of Poland, Czechia, Hungary and Romania is estimated to be lower than many Western European economies, invariably having an inflationary push on pricing, thus eroding the BPO attractiveness of these countries. The result is the need to look for new nearshore delivery points, in order to garner lower costs and language skills.
There are other options for both providers and clients of front-line services in Western Europe. Certainly, North Africa has proven a strong location for French – Tunisia and Morocco especially – while Egypt has affirmed itself as a multilingual hub of choice. Admittedly, Turkey’s BPO offshore presence has been somewhat muted of late due to stability concerns, but it retains significant value especially for German. However, some of the more interesting moves are coming out of different parts of Eastern Europe, with Ukraine among the most intriguing. Local upstart contact center provider eCall is leading the charge.
Ukraine has been typically associated with domestic delivery, or for servicing for consumers in Russia and Belarus. Equally, naysayers will note that Ukraine is not an EU member. But this is not essential to do West European support, just consider Serbia’s success in attracting global BPO investment.
With a focus on western prospects, eCall is aiming to change these perceptions with an emphasis on the advantages that Ukraine offers enterprises in Western Europe, language skills being a primary one.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Ukrainian graduates migrating to Central Europe (notably Poland) are making a name for themselves in that region’s contact centers, especially supporting German, French, Italian and English. With nearly 1,000 agents, eCall aims to leverage these skills in 6 multichannel delivery sites located across Ukraine, in order to offer clients the same level of quality, albeit at a lower price point. With Ukrainian levels of unemployment estimated to be higher than in both Central and Western Europe, labor market flexibility is on eCall’s side.
However, any BPO aiming to win contracts from Ukraine must ensure that perception issues are managed properly. This has been a challenge for a few countries with a client footprint in Western Europe (notably Egypt and South Africa in recent weeks), and concerns about Ukraine’s relationship with Russia linger in the minds of many. While it is clear that tensions have calmed somewhat, helping prospective clients overcome any such worries is crucial. If this can be achieved, then a new nearshore option may be on the horizon in Eastern Europe, providing opportunities for homegrown Ukrainian outsourcers such as eCall to make their mark.