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Call centers in underdeveloped countries

How soon do you foresee the movement of call centers from the developed countries to the underdeveloped countries for wage reasons? Labor intensive industries have always ended up leaving the developed countries and with 250,000 call centers in the world, I foresee a good deal of them moving south.
Labor-intensive industries do indeed regularly take advantage of inexpensive labor in less developed countries such as Central and South America. But the contact center industry is different than labor-intensive manufacturing industries, for example, in that labor costs are only one factor in a successful contact center environment. There are four key ingredients that are essential to a successful environment for contact center growth. These are (in no specific order):

- Infrastructure
- Labor Availability
- Labor Education
- Labor Cost

These four factors must all exist to have a market that will support significant call center growth. Let's look at some the world's major labor markets and see where call center activity is occurring.

North America: Clearly the U.S. and Canada still hold the most number of seats because they have a strong mix of all four of the ingredients for success -- particularly infrastructure and labor education, the most difficult of the four to develop.

Europe: Western Europe has seen significant growth in call centers is the last few years. The top five countries for call centers in Europe are UK, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands and France.

Asia: Many of the Asian countries have made significant infrastructure investments in recent years and actively pursued development of contact center capabilities. The most recognized of these is India. China is expected to follow. Some smaller countries like Malaysia and the Philippines are developing strategies to guarantee they receive a share of this market.

Central and South America: Unfortunately, these areas have not acted as quickly as other world regions to ensure they have all four factors. While Central and South America certainly have abundant labor availability and low labor cost, infrastructure and labor education are still weak. Until this is resolved, call center growth here will be far slower than in other areas.

This was last published in January 2002

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