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May 22, 2020

BPOs stand strong during COVID-19 economic impacts

Today, five of the BPOs in Belize shared their experience on how; they have been able to navigate the turbulent COVID-19 business climate. A few of the call centre lost minimal business as a result of the impact in other parts of the world – but at home they have been able to retain most of the staff. But they have had to modify how they work, and now many of their employees are working from home. But how has this turned out for them so far? They too were surprised at the productivity rate and despite the difficult times, the sector is holding on strong and expects to create hundreds of jobs.  Andrea Polanco has the following story:


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Business Process Outsourcing sector has boomed in recent years. Today there are as many as twenty-one call centres operating in Belize. All together they employ around four thousand Belizeans. And the sector has been able withstand the COVID-19 economic impacts. For the most part, there have been minimal employee lay-offs:


Sab Badee, CEO, Global Com

Sab Badee

“A lot of industries have taken a big hit. One thing I can positively say so far is that, I say this for all our colleagues in the BPO industry, is that we have managed to maintain very well.”


Kevin Herrera

Kevin Herrera, CEO, Protel

“We are working among ourselves, individually as companies and as a group in terms of keeping as many people employed. That is one of our priorities as well in this process. We know that it is a tough time and we really don’t want to have any type of lay-off if we don’t need to, so that that is really our efforts.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, so far there hasn’t been any cut?”


Kevin Herrera

“There has been very little relatively speaking. There were some areas that were difficult, not cut so much but in terms of a pause with respect to some persons in the admin sector for example. But, again, I think most of us are bringing those people back in and trying to engage them as quickly as possible, so even in those cases it would have only been a couple weeks.”

But the BPO sector had to pivot and adapt to a COVID-19 climate. Because of the nature of their operations and the number of staff – majority of the employees now work from home. It’s a way of business that they didn’t know they were ready for – but it has worked out well so far:


Kevin Herrera

“Our office is empty – and has been since the end of March. We have probably about twenty persons in right now for most of us. But surprisingly and I think the others can speak for themselves but we were pleasantly surprised how well the work from home went for most of us.”


Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson, Senior VP, TRANSPARENT BPO

“If you had asked probably most of us three months ago would work from home be successful in Belize, we would probably say no. We wouldn’t consider it. We didn’t think that the technology existed and we thought that perhaps it would be hard to manage people and the reality is that many of the people who we work with don’t necessarily have a house where they have a room where they could segregate just to perform their work. But we were forced to do it. When we did it, we were very pleasantly surprised at how successful it was. We actually find that where the work being performed we are seeing higher quality and it is really across all of our companies. We are seeing higher levels of quality; absenteeism is virtually zero because you know people are at home and they are already at work. We polled our employees, I guess it is similar across, we asked them if you had the choice would you rather work from the facility or work from home? And eighty-three percent of our employees say they would rather work from home.”



While business has declined for many industries in Belize, there’s still a demand for the BPO sector. It is expected that a thousand jobs will be created going forward:


Rob Johnson

“Part of it is the response because we have been successful in Belize at sending our agents home and the work from home has been largely successful. There are other countries that have taken a pretty hard hit because they were not as prepared and they were not as successful in getting their agents to work from home. So, we are seeing some of our client partners that used to have support in Jamaica or Guatemala, and companies there were not as successful at getting people deployed successfully at home and so they are looking for other places to place their business and to grow their staff.”



“So, you are getting additional work in essence, in Belize, as a result?”


Rob Johnson

“We are. We are. It has really been a testament to the success that we have had in getting people deployed to work from home”


Katherine Meighan

Katherine Meighan, VP, Caye Talkers Belize

“Our Company, for instance is hiring. There was a period of time of uncertainty for all us. In March and April we didn’t open up for hiring but we kept those that we had on. We had very minimal losses in the single digits and then moving forward we are looking to ramp up because of these new opportunities that have come to us now that everybody is finding their way in terms of business and moving forward within this new normal. So, our intention is to continue to recruit, hire and train.”


The experience, according to these call centres, has not only helped employees to grow in different ways and but created new opportunities in the BPO sector:


Keith Alarcon

Keith Alarcon, Recruitment Manager, Ready Call Center

“I think that what this really did for us is that it also brought a sense of mature to our workers and our employees. I think this is one of the most serious ever recorded situations where it has affected the whole world. I think it brought a sense of maturity to them. They see the need to change behavioral issues; the need to take full advantage of the opportunity that is given to them to be able to earn some money during this time. Some people are supportive of their entire family because other family members can’t work and some people had to change what they used to do to come to something that gives them more money and I think the call center industry has proven to be very much wanted because of the issues opportunities they have.”


Sab Badee

“It is a real win. We were very scared when COVID was on its way we didn’t know what we were gonna do. We thought we would lose majority of our business. We thought it was only going to be possible to keep thirty percent of our employees and there are specific aspects of the business force you to work from the office because of PCI compliances. But at the end of the day we prevailed. We adapted and we are able to grow. That is a blessing.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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