Industry Commentary

Flight Cancellations Highlight Perception Problem for Egyptian BPO

By July 24, 2019January 10th, 2024No Comments

Sometimes perception is reality.  This pop culture cliché speaks volumes to the fact that for many people there is little willingness to pull back the curtain in order to examine a situation in-depth.  This is a challenge for many BPO players as they position their offshore offerings to prospective buyers, as highlighted over the past week when a number of airlines cancelled flight service into Egypt. Already the contact center community has taken note.  Managing subsequent perceptions by Egypt’s BPO stakeholders will be essential in this situation, and will serve as an example for other offshore locations that may face similar predicaments.

The recent decision to suspend flights into Cairo by two of the world’s leading airlines, British Airways and Lufthansa, citing concerns about public security, came as a shock to many outsourcing industry observers.  However, it is one of a number of recent headlines that has been a source of worry for both providers and buyers related to the country.  Attacks on tourists earlier this year, as well as ongoing extensions of a state of emergency following bombings in 2017  have been omnipresent in the news, doing little to promote Egypt in the minds of outsourcing buyers.  And despite the decision on the part of one of these above-mentioned airlines to resume service to Cairo, there remains considerable impact on how these choices affect the foreign investment climate in Egypt.  For BPO stakeholders, this is a clear and understandable point of frustration.

Looking at it pragmatically, over the past fifteen years Egypt has been at the forefront of offshore contact center delivery.  Its industry has grown, from a few local players that were audacious enough to win delivery contracts to support blue-chip firms in North America and Western Europe, into a global hub for multilingual service.  Today, alongside domestic leaders like Raya and Xceed, sit some of the world’s biggest front-office players, such as Concentrix, Sutherland, Sykes, Centro Global Solutions and Teleperformance.  This level of investment would not have occurred were Egypt not positioned to offer labor scalability, workforce quality, and value.  The fact is that the country has ticked all these boxes, and the potential of its outsourcing sector remains significant.

This sentiment is mirrored by enterprises as well.  In the 2019 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, across nearly 500 buyers in major demand markets, Egypt was ranked the fourth most favored offshore location.  This puts Egypt in league with legacy offshoring countries such as India, the Philippines, South Africa and Malaysia, while eclipsing its European nearshore competitors.  With providers and enterprise contact center strategists sold on Egypt from a substance standpoint, managing stability perception is crucial at this sensitive time.

But, the reality is that crisis management around perception is something that outsourcing stakeholders deal with regularly, regardless of region.  Over the past two years, flare-ups in Nicaragua and parts of the Caribbean have had the potential to limit those locations’ attractiveness to existing and prospective clients of contact center services.  What was crucial in those cases, much as it is with Egypt now, is to re-assure buyers with steady service delivery at the highest levels of quality, while focusing of the positive aspects of the location in question.  Equally important is not to gloss over challenging times, but rather adapt to them in order to facilitate this steady level of delivery.  Riding out storms is never easy, but the right strategy can help soothe the nerves.