For the past couple of decades, offshore services have solidified the place of South-East Asia (SEA) on the global scene. With Pakistan so far away, India supplied about 50% of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and call-center services to US companies. However, this has changed tremendously in recent times. More and more businesses are re-routing their outsourcing destinations to Southeast Europe (SEE) for obvious and business-related reasons. Reasons include cheaper on-demand skills, dissimilar cultural affiliations, multilingual trade-offs, less travel time, and lower costs, etc. Kosovo stands out in this region as a leading outsourcing market.
World leading brands like HP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Siemens, etc. entered the outsourcing markets first, hinting at an All-IT affair. Currently, outsourcing cuts across the travel & leisure, financial, ecommerce & retail, consulting, real estate, and automotive sectors of businesses.
BPO services widely outsourced fall into two categories, namely: Business processes and IT-services. Business processes include Call center and Customer support, Design and engineering, Facilities Management, Logistics, HR services, Finance and Accounting, Marketing, Payroll services, Procurement, etc. Examples of IT-services are Application development, Application Management, IT Helpdesk and support, Testing, Infrastructure, and data center service, etc.
The changing face of outsourcing also comes into perspective here: in the past, outsourced contact center vendors were only evaluated based on their affordable basic customer service, but today, they are evaluated based on their strategic abilities to deliver on the client's journey and add value to the overall customer experience. In other words, getting the job done is not enough; Providing outstanding customer service and innovative solutions at a competitive rate is what is becoming a standard in this industry.
The Kosovo advantage
When we look at Southeast Europe, we can't ignore Kosovo. According to figures recently released by the Government, Kosovo has the youngest population (53% of Kosovo are aged under 25) in Europe, Kosovo recorded a 20 – 30% growth rate and it’s leading the way in the BPO/ITO sector. This remarkable growth came despite a widespread financial crisis in Europe and is attributed, in part, to the country's economically active population (a large, educated and highly skilled group of people), as well as the high rate of internet penetration and information technology acceptability. These allow Kosovo to offer all remote services. In this most important trend, Kosovo has emerged as one of Europe's top locations for global sourcing of IT services. According to the Outsourcing Journal, Kosovo has become an attractive location for ICT outsourcing, due to low costs and a large population of highly educated and multilingual IT staff.
Breaking the Language barrier
In the past 30 years, American multinationals have rarely outsourced to SEA because they were primarily focused on providing English-speaking services. But nowadays, English alone is not enough. Kosovars speak English with a proper American accent that you can't tell them from native speakers. US companies in the IT, travel, financial, and e-commerce industries are now willing to serve their customers in additional languages beyond English, such as German, Spanish, and French. Call centers and BPO in Southeast Europe can serve German, Spanish, and French speakers on a large scale. But not only these two languages; the region is also home to many native speakers of German, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and other European languages. This is the main strength of the SEE - being able to provide real multilingual operations, rather than monolingual, as SEA offers.
Highly skilled workforce
BPO/ITO companies always look for highly qualified employees proficient in specific languages – a category of the workforce with a ready and steady supply in the SEE. Kosovo produces a high number of graduates in Europe, with a majority of them holding a bachelor’s degree, thereby providing a big pool of human capital to power the BPO/ITO industry. The educational system also focuses on core engineering and mathematical sciences, churning talents into IT and financial services market.
There is a huge range of advantages when outsourcing IT services to Southeast Europe. The most obvious is the cutting of costs. Outsourcing companies in this region pay their employees’ lower wages, and they can pass some of that savings onto their clients. Since these resources are not on your business's payroll, outsourcing also brings significant reductions in capital investments – you only pay for the work that you needed to be done, and don't have to worry about any additional overheads.
Cultural and Geographical proximity
While Southeast European countries can't offer the same kind of savings that other countries might offer, it has a lot of advantages over other regions. From an ease of management to an easily accessible location and an operational culture closely matched to that of the UK, there are many reasons why Southeast Europe is becoming a hotspot for outsourcing. In particular, Southeast Europe is an increasingly popular choice for UK businesses, since it is relatively close, yet allows companies to access highly skilled labour at a much lower price. The region is producing some of the top tech minds in the world too, so businesses are guaranteed a service far superior to what they could expect elsewhere. However, not only businesses in the UK look Southeast Europe, either; top American companies such as AT&T, IBM, Dell, and Morgan Stanley have all outsourced key services to South-East Europe, showing that the level of service obtained here is impeccable.
Presently, Southeast Europe only represents a small fraction of the international outsourcing market. However, this is rapidly changing, and the region's growth is almost double that of the global market – a sign that Southeast Europe is an increasingly attractive choice for outsourcing. The most advanced cities in the region provide a unique blend of attributes which can't be found anywhere else in the world. Quality over quantity, and a highly skilled and educated pool of talent at extremely cost-effective prices right on the doorstep of their major clients.
Source of the cover photo: eurovoix.com