Nearshore Americas

Age of Disruption: Will AI Crush the Nearshore Advantage?

AI-powered voice solutions are amongst the most promising and threatening tools in the CX market at the moment. There are plenty of businesses out there piloting such solutions, raising questions about the viability of the current paths for delivery.

Perhaps one of the most interesting tools in the AI kit is speech-to-voice (or voice-to-speech). In an industry where the qualities of voice (fluency, accent, clarity, etc.) determine the success of outsourced operations, AI speech/voice tools threaten to disrupt the logic of site location in major ways.

“Those two [AI voice-to-speech and speech-to-voice] I think present a bit of a threat to nearshore, because for the first time the affinity advantage that you would have in LATAM for North America would start to go away,” commented David Wilson, CEO at  Impactify.cx and former CX Lead at Doordash, during a panel of CX disruption at Nexus 2024.

“If I’m able to have good speech to text and text to speech options, I might not have to pay above a certain level, and that’s probably going to drive a lot of the decisions that I take,” David added.

From left to right: Peter Ryan (President & Principal Analyst, Ryan Strategic Advisory); David Wilson (CEO, impactify.cx); Ninela Sánchez (Sr Enterprise Sales Executive, AmplifAI); Colin Crowley (VP of Customer Support, Maven Clinic)

At NSAM, we’ve reported extensively on AI solutions which promise to revolutionize voice delivery. From “accent neutralizers” to real-time voice and/or speech translators, there are plenty of examples out there of how AI might change the game in ways that will for sure throw vendors out for a loop. 

AI can give newer, relatively unexplored locations the capabilities to compete directly with move mature destinations. I can also give emerging players the boost needed to position themselves among the top players in the world and give buyside customers more confidence in venturing offshore. 

“If we were to implement these AI tools and actually see improvement in the skills of the workers, it will tremendously change the culture, the vibe, the skill set”—Ninela Sánchez, Sr Enterprise Sales Executive, AmplifAI.

“AI also puts you in a more competitive position with BPOs,” stated Colin Crowley, VP of Customer Support at Maven Clinic, during Nexis. “Right now, you go to a BPO and you pay a premium to get someone who’s phone ready, whereas an AI tool can make an agent phone-ready without that premium.”

“In Jamaica we see the absence rate being very high. If we were to implement these AI tools and actually see improvement in the skills of the workers, it will tremendously change the culture, the vibe, the skill set,” added Ninela Sánchez, Sr Enterprise Sales Executive at AmplifAI.

 

Data, data, data

Another way in which AI is disrupting the CX business is the use and manageability of data.

Data gathering, classification and analysis remains one of the go-to uses of AI in business. The technology has proven its worth as an “automated analyst” of sorts; sifting through monumental amounts of information, zeroing -in on the most relevant data points and cross-referencing to uncover new insights.

CX providers have been taking advantage of these capabilities for long. However, the latest AI explosion opened yet another use for data in CX: accurately measuring quality.

“There is so much more data on quality now and better ways to get the ROI behind that data. That’s  going to translate into the BPO world,” stated Colin Croweley. 

Colin Crowley (right) shares his viewpoint on disruptive technologies and their impact on CX

Being able to accurately portray performance is among the more important tools in the CX sales pitch. Vendors have to be able to measure agent performance, including the “softer” side of the operation; aspects which usually fall under the “quality” umbrella.

AI has the potential to accurately measure indicators beyond call arrival rates, AWTs, time to abandon, etc; and deal with KPIs that are more difficult to measure, such as agent compliance or actual customer/agent satisfaction.

“BPOs will get more opportunities to get more business if they can prove the quality being provided through these AI-driven solutions by using metrics,” Collin added.

 

Opening up the world

Technology is not the only disruptive force reshaping the paths of global CX, though it is fueling change in one of the industry’s base factors: the capabilities of each location.

Gone are the days of India and the Philippines being the tried and true destinations of CX outsourcing. Even in the American nearshore, go-to players like Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia are facing competition from territories in their own region and beyond.

Panel moderator Peter Ryan (left) prompting his fellow Nexus speakers

“COVID taught us all a good lesson: if you don’t have a really strong global footprint, you are subject to outages,” commented David Wilson. “If you don’t have Africa as part of your global footprint, it isn’t as optimized as it can be.”

Africa is rapidly cultivating CX bona fides that keep attracting the attention of global players and their clients. Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa are well positioned now in the eyes of investors. In the Americas, Peru, El Salvador and Guatemala are gaining momentum too.

“Even the Philippines and India have competition in Africa. I think there are lots of other places which could benefit from this technology,” David added. “Buts-in-seats providers in the nearshore actually have a quandary if they aren’t playing a more important role as services providers.”

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These are exceptionally disruptive times for CX. It is easy to get distracted by the doomsayers, but one must not lose sight of the changes taking place in the industry.

In a couple years, the landscape will look and feel very different from what is today.

Cesar Cantu

Cesar is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. He's a journalist based in Mexico City, with experience covering foreign trade policy, agribusiness and the food industry in Mexico and Latin America.

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