Industry Commentary

UPDATED – Tijuana Makes a Strong Nearshore Contact Center Case

By September 21, 2017October 18th, 2021No Comments

The move to nearshoring among US contact center providers has become fact of life.  After all, the nearshore’s advantages are significant in the form of proximity, agent affinity with American consumers, and (depending on the location) the provision of services in Spanish and English.  One location that has gone under the radar in recent years is right across the California border, in the form of Tijuana. Of late, this destination has been making a comeback of sorts, with more prospective BPO investors giving it a second look.  What will be telling is the extent to which this nearest of nearshore locations can build on current interest, if it is to become a cross-border contact center hub.

There are obvious benefits that Tijuana offers US outsourcers.  The scale of its metropolitan population of just under two million residents is on par with nearshore hot-spots San Salvador and San Pedro Sula.  But, Tijuana’s proximity to the US has afforded its citizens strong English language skills that few competing locations can offer.  Consider that roughly 75,000 Tijuana residents cross into San Diego each day for work, providing these individuals with significant exposure to English.   Strategically, English is now being mandated as a compulsory subject from junior high onward by the local public education authority, a development that is complemented by a growing number of private bilingual schools found within Tijuana.  Combined with its omnipresent exposure to US media, and Tijuana is a potential source of scalable, culturally-aware, linguistically-diverse talent from which contact centers players can draw.

But, it is not only linguistic and cultural awareness that positions Tijuana well from a nearshore perspective.  Its ease of access for US executives via San Diego International Airport is among the most straightforward in Latin America, and the city’s cost base for contact center operations is competitive with other BPO hubs in Mexico. The local economic development authority has been actively promoting Tijuana’s outsourcing credentials, and it is noted that the state government provides incentives that alleviate training costs for up to four months.

And to date, Tijuana has had some success in drawing contact center providers to deliver nearshore services. One of the more active players is Call Center Services International, which has two of its three Mexican sites in the Tijuana area, from which it provides voice and non-voice bilingual services into the US for a variety of clients.  This firm continues to expand in the region, and places a great deal of its success to the attributes discussed above related to labor availability, lower costs and linguistic / cultural overlaps.

In addition, some encouraging news was announced in mid-December, when US BPO vendor FCR indicated that in early 2018 it would be opening a delivery facility in the Tijuana International Business Park.  Citing the proximity and language skills found in the Baja region as among the most important drivers for investing in Tijuana, FCR plans a ramp-up to three hundred full-time employees in this facility.

However, there remain understandable worries about Tijuana’s safety.  To date, violent crime remains a problem in the city, and will certainly give outsourcers pause for thought before making contact center investments.  To be fair, outsourcing stakeholders in Tijuana rightly point out that there have been few criminal incidents implicating foreign business people within their city.  And, while similar phenomenons have not prevented new contact center deployments in other nearshore locations prone to public security issues, that Tijuana’s problems are right next door to the US makes them that much more visible.  Considering the attributes that this city brings to the contact center table, those vendors that are willing to give Tijuana an objective assessment may find an ideal nearshore delivery point literally just over the border.