As Canadian contact center outsourcing delivery evolves into a new decade, there is chatter around where best to house domestic customer experience operations. While a number of traditional regions within Canada continue to make strong cases for further captive and outsourced investment, the desire on the part of decision-makers to source scalable, cost-effective spots brings Winnipeg, Manitoba to the forefront of such discussions.
A central hub within Canada’s commercial infrastructure, the city offers a number of important advantages, which include workforce volumes, BPO industry references and linguistic talent. With so many contact center operators aiming to expand their presence within Canada’s customer experience fabric, Winnipeg stands out as a very viable option.
Admittedly, for those unfamiliar with Canada, Winnipeg may not be among the most well-known of the country’s cities. From a popular culture standpoint, it stands out for its revitalized NHL hockey team, and the fact that it has spawned legendary musical acts like The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and The Crash Test Dummies. However, from a business perspective, there are many reasons why Winnipeg presents opportunity in the domain of customer experience management.
One principal appeal relates to the city’s size. At nearly one million residents, Winnipeg provides contact center operators with a very scalable labor force from which to draw agents for operations of all magnitudes (as well as good public transport and solid air accessibility for North American travel). This is amplified by its multiple university campuses and colleges that can provide both part-time and full-time representatives, the sort of individuals who come to the table with a level of sophistication and domain-expertise that can only be gained via post secondary education. The city’s sizable proportion of bilingual citizens (estimated at almost 10%) due to its legacy francophone population (proportionately the highest in Western Canada), is a definite advantage in terms of linguistic positioning for servicing both French and English. And Winnipeg has a favorable cost base, which only adds to its attractiveness.
In fact, most recently the province of Manitoba was ranked as having among the lowest levels of inflation in Canada. This is good news for contact center investors, as it has a direct correlation on commercial real estate prices. In this respect, Winnipeg compares very favorably to Canadian contact center hubs like greater Toronto or Montreal, both of which are significantly more expensive for facilities. Labor is generally at less of a premium in Winnipeg, as well. The minimum wage is a good reflection of this fact; Manitoba’s, at $11.65 (CAD), is on par with established contact center hubs Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and notably less pricey than Ontario and Quebec.
However, what is very telling validation for Winnipeg are the number of existing customer experience deployments that operate in the city. These include some of the most important names in Canadian customer experience, such as 24-7 Intouch (which recently make a very strategic acquisition of Knoah Solutions), and Skybridge Americas on the BPO side. There are multiple in-house operations servicing Canadian from Winnipeg, as well.
This is not to say that Winnipeg does not face challenges. Worries about crime rates are omnipresent, and its winters are not for the faint of heart. But, what strikes market observers as an important facet of Winnipeg’s customer experience sector is that the city has room to grow. It does not face many of the same challenges in terms of labor market tightness and limited commercial real estate availability as has been recently the case in Canada’s traditional contact center heartlands. This will be very attractive for operators looking to expand their domestic footprints in a site that has long-term viability and a very strong pool of labor from which to draw.