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Guyana Emerges as Leader In Global Call Center Industry

T

he next time you call your phone company with a question about cellular service, or need to dispute a charge that appeared on your latest credit card statement, don’t be surprised if the voice on the other end of the line belongs to a customer service representative in Guyana.

Qualfon, a leader in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry, has quickly become one of Guyana’s biggest private employers. Qualfon has a strong track record of sales, customer service and back-office processing growth in the BPO industry. As part of its mission of “making people’s lives better,” Qualfon invests in the well being of its people — a philosophy that’s been key to high employee morale and tenure. It has launched support programs such as providing milk subsidies for its employees and in the community to take care of its people — which in turn provides a high-level platform for Qualfon to better care for its customers, clients and communities. It now has 1,700 workers in Georgetown, the capital. A second site just a few kilometers away will have an additional 800 employees within the next 12 to 18 months, and a large multi-building campus planned at a third site near Guyana’s new national sports stadium will eventually house up to 5,000 workers. Qualfon, established in 1996, is a debt-free company with just over $100 million in annual revenues; its chief executive officer, Michael P. Marrow, is based in Boca Raton, Fla. “In the early years, India was the country of choice for BPO firms because of its large labor pool, low wages and prevalence of English speakers. “The challenge India has had is a very recognizable Indian accent that Americans tend to have a difficult time with,” Marrow told us. “The Guyanese have a pleasant accent, and we’ve never had any problems with that. Several large mobile phone operators and banks visited our Guyana operations and were very pleased.” He added: “Companies like ours are constantly looking for other locations and have been opening up call centers in Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras. One advantage is that we’re in similar time zones and close by, so if one of our Fortune 100 customers

Above, Qualfon Call Center in Georgetown at left, QUALFON GUYANA SITE DIRECTOR MARK BOYER, QUALFON CEO MICHAEL MARROW, CALL CENTER MANAGER LUANNA PERSUAD, AND SR. VICE PRESIDENT PETE LUTZ RESPECTIVELY IN GEORGETOWN.

uses our services, they can frequently go and visit the sites. Marrow said Qualfon’s clientele consists of wireless operators, banks, credit-card companies and major retailers. “Guyana has the benefit of proximity. You can get there in five hours from JFK [John F. Kennedy Airport] or four hours from Miami,” he said. “Their native language is English, not Spanish, and like the Filipinos, the Guyanese have a very strong affinity to the United States. There’s also a strong affinity to the U.K., so it’s a terrific location. The government is very supportive, and the technology infrastructure has really progressed since we first opened there

seven years ago. “When we started, we were communicating with our domestic centers via satellite. Now it’s via fiberoptic cable linked to Trinidad,” he added. “There’s also a new fiber-optic route coming in from Brazil, which we expected to go online momentarily. By May, we will have a state-of-the-art, fully redundant network in place for our clients.” So far, Qualfon has spent about $4 million in infrastructure in Guyana and plans to spend another $3 million in the next few years. In that regard, Guyana’s GO-Invest promotion agency has proven extremely useful. “Virtually everything in Guyana is imported, so part of the incentives GO-Invest provided was for us to have these import duties waived,” Marrow explained. “In order to build our sites, we had to bring in all the computers, cubicles, servers, routers, office equipment and telephony infrastructure.” While Qualfon is the largest call center company in Guyana, it is not the only one.

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Guyana has the benefit of proximity. You can get there in five hours from JFK or four hours from Miami. Their native language is English, not Spanish, and like the Filipinos, the Guyanese have a very strong affinity to the United States. There’s also a strong affinity to the U.K., so it’s a terrific location. — Michael P. Marrow, chief executive officer of Qualfon

April • May 2013

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