Latin America: More Than Just Call Centers
In the last 10 years, Latin America has been known to be an established call center market. Mexico, Argentina and Central America have been great markets for outsourcing operations, and in the recent years countries like Peru, Colombia and Dominican Republic have seen an interesting growth, not only providing call center services to United States, but to Europe and other countries in the region as well. The Latin American market competes very well with the Indian call center industry – the time difference, bilingual reps and assimilation to the U.S. culture makes having call center operations in the region very attractive. However, this growth has spilled over other areas of the CRM industry such as social networking, eCommerce, Six Sigma, COPC, collections and marketing automation as well.
There are over 13 major CRM and Call Center related events in the region. Last week, Oracle had its OpenWorld Latin America conference in Brazil with 9,000 attendees. Many of the events in Mexico and Argentina carry a crowd of more than 900 attendees each year, with sponsors like SAS, Cisco, Microsoft, Genesys, Altitude and Avaya.
Key regional events:
- ContactForum México
- Congreso Andino de Call Center y CRM – Colombia
- Congreso Regional de Call Centers – Argentina
- Mundo-Contact CRM – México
- Mundo-Contact Call Center – México
- CRM & Marketing Relational – Argentina
- Congreso de Call Center – Argentina
- Congreso de Contact Center y CRM en Perú
In the United States, Europe and the Asia Pacific there are many CRM related sites such as destinationCRM; in Latin America we have 3 main industry portals: 1) Mundo-Contact, 2) ContactCenterNews, and 3) CCSur. All portals provide excellent coverage of the Latin American industry, not only with their respective portals, but with print publications, emails, events, blogs and wikis.
What is causing this demand for events and CRM content in the region? The market is evolving. I attribute this growth to two main trends: the constant financial instability that the region has, which as a result demands companies to constantly innovate in the way customers are managed and how funds are collected. On the other hand, not all the CRM known best practices provided by vendors and the industry in general apply to the Latin American region. There are 12 different countries, each country with each own flavor. If you are a CRM vendor doing business in Latin America, you need to understand the need to be responsive to the diversity and complexity of the region.
As a result of these two main trends, there is a great market in Latin America for CRM products that target collection and billing processes. It is well known in the Latin America region to say that the sales process is not finished until the money is collected. Many CRM implementations were not successful when using solutions such as Siebel, SAP, Vantive and Peoplesoft, because they used the standard approach of implementing out-of-the-box functionality and best practices.
In the early 2000s, Argentinean entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and took advantage of the following gaps: lack of collections functionality and lack of CRM practices for the region. Companies such as Approach Technologies, Soluciona, Telesoft, Pro-Contact, Tactica and CRMademanda are providing key CRM solutions in the region and compete very well with Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP.
Most of these Argentinean companies provide solutions for the three main markets in the regions: PYMEs (small and medium businesses), medium and large enterprises, and group of enterprises. Traditionally, many CRM vendors go after enterprises and group of enterprises, but forget to address the needs to PYMEs. Oracle and SAP have been going after the PYMEs, but in my opinion have not been very successful. But Argentina is not the only country providing Latin American solutions; entrepreneurs from Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain and Brazil are also developing CRM solutions. Many of these Latin America providers are now well established companies. Check this list of CRM vendors in the region (note that some of them also provide SaaS solutions.
If we look at large enterprises or group of enterprises, many of them are implementing Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP CRM, and most of these companies have Genesys or Avaya for call center software, among other solutions. However, the analytical CRM is growing in the region; solutions like SPSS, SAS and Epiphany are in high demand in the region. Many banks, telecommunications and retailers are implementing analytical and marketing automation solutions.
It is no all about the technologies. There is a trend in many companies to implement change management first. Many budgets are owned by the marketing department and not surprisingly you can find a Director of CRM in the company organizational chart. Managing customer relationships is becoming a very strategic part of many Latin America companies. I have seen CRM Directors in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Argentina, in all types of industries. Take a look at these presentations in slideshare for some real case studies.
Digital and search marketing is another popular service in the region. There are more than 2,000 members in the social network about digital marketing in Latin America. The explosive growth of the Internet is demanding a lot of these services and Argentina has been and still is a major source of Internet talent for digital and search marketing services. The main reason for this trend has been the fusion of business and technology talent in Palermo Valley. Think of Palermo Valley as the Silicon Valley of Latin America. Tequila Valley in Mexico is the Argentinean version of Palermo Valley. Like Argentina, Uruguay is a source a software development talent, not just call center or Internet marketing. Social Media is having a strong growth. Facebook has seen an exponential growth in Colombia (3,107,520 member as of February 2009). In Brazil, Orkurt and Sonico are the main social networks. Twitter is growing as well as a social channel. Just take a look at www.apestan.com. Customers in Latin American use this site to openly complain about companies with bad customer service. Latin America is also part of the CRM 2.0 impact that brings the Internet. Check out these social media examples.
There is momentum in acquiring Open Source software in the region; some companies are using SugarCRM, vTiger and Asterisk, for example. SugarCRM is an active keyword in Google México. This is an obvious option for the region; the investment is low and provides enough functionality to be competitive in the market. Talking to my contacts in México, ZohoCRM has also seeing an increase in the number of subscriptions — many small companies with up to 20 users.
In summary, the CRM market in the region is still evolving to be unique and complex. You need to establish local presence to truly understand the local CRM practices and the need for collections requirements. CRM vendors need to understand that doing business in Mexico is not the same as doing business in Argentina, or for that matter doing business in Monterrey vs. Mexico City. CRM providers need to provide solutions not just for enterprises, but also for small businesses.
CRM in Latin America is exciting and it is challenging; there are still many opportunities for traditional CRM implementations and an ocean of opportunities for Social CRM and Marketing Automation.
By Jesus Hoyos
CRM Blogger, Analyst and Independent Analyst for Latin America