Industry Commentary

Is Saskatchewan a Hidden North American BPO Alternative?

By September 5, 2019January 10th, 2024No Comments

A trend among contact center outsourcers in North America is to find alternative delivery options.  It is in this vein that new jurisdictions have presented to themselves in the US and Canada, many of which have not been part of the traditional BPO ecosystem.  One such spot is the province of Saskatchewan, which seems to have fallen through the cracks in terms of outsourcing activity.  Notwithstanding its relatively limited amount of existing third-party contact center deployments, Saskatchewan seems a logical expansion choice as the BPO fundamentals are right in many ways.

When thinking of Saskatchewan, a number of images come to mind.  Wide-open prairies. Homegrown celebrities like Joni Mitchell or actor Kim Coates.  The birthplace of single-payer Medicare in Canada.  Even BPO analysts! But the province has not gained notoriety for a strong contact center services sector.  This is curious, as it has a number of elements working in its favor.  Consider that it provides prospective BPO investors with multiple urban centers in which the top four (Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert) comprise roughly half the province’s population of 1.1 million. So, the labor force is neatly spread out.  The minimum wage in Saskatchewan is competitive with that of other Canadian provinces, and is in fact the lowest in Canada. For US support, this is even more compelling when factoring the current exchange rate.

Equally important for Saskatchewan is the quality of its labor force.  Education is readily accessible, with accredited universities in Saskatoon and Regina, coupled with a network of skilled technical colleges throughout the province.  This provides both front-line and management resources for a potentially large BPO industry, as well as opportunities for graduates that have historically had a propensity to move to other provinces in search of work.

But, what is possibly the biggest competitive driver for Saskatchewan is in fact its current lack of BPO activity. Any outsourcer looking to get in on the ground-floor of a market that has not developed a large third-party services space will likely find significant opportunities to grow with first-mover advantages.  That said, there are potential challenges that also need to be considered in a Saskatchewan outsourcing strategy.

One concern is inter-vertical competition.  Due to growth over the past two decades, the economy of Saskatchewan has diversified significantly. This has pulled a large number of the workforce toward other sectors (including tourism, energy and financial services), which would otherwise be targets for contact center roles.  Equally, In the capital of Regina and Prince Albert, contact centers could also have to bid against a sizable government presence when recruiting talent.  Further, sourcing agents skilled in French for pan-Canadian campaigns will be difficult, as the bilingual demographic is both  limited and in-demand from both the public sector and education.  Finally, accessibility is something to be considered.  Saskatchewan’s major cities both have airports, with connections to a number of metropolises within Canada, but direct air links to the US are minimal.

Still, the raw potential of Saskatchewan for outsourcing services cannot be ignored.  Especially among providers looking for new locations in North America, it should at least be explored.  The ability to source quality labor across multiple cities is a clear advantage, as is the pro-business culture of the province.  Neighboring province Manitoba has been able to do much to develop a BPO space with roughly the same demographic and population size.  With fewer options available for delivery in Canada, Saskatchewan can no longer be ignored.