Leading BPO providers in Trinidad and Tobago overcome Covid-19 related challenges

Leading BPO providers in Trinidad and Tobago overcome Covid-19 related challenges

Despite the challenges faced, Digicel Business Trinidad and Tobago, DirecOne and Evolve Mortgage Services agree that remote working is here to stay.

Leaders in three top outsourcing companies in T&T converged in a Nearshore Americas webinar to have an open discussion about pandemic challenges, strategies for business continuity, the reliability of T&T’s infrastructure and the post-pandemic work environment.

The Challenge

“How do we operationalize our company to a remote working profile?” According to Liam Donnelly, General Manager, Digicel Business Trinidad and Tobago, this was the main challenge of his executive team within the first couple weeks of the lockdown. Despite concerns, the company successfully moved its Call Centre operations to the home of over 400 employees within a 48 – 72 hour period.

“We faced challenges, we faced them all, we really did,” recalled Peter Gillette, Chairman, Gillette Group – DirecOne. Gillette shared that the early days were surrounded with great fear since there were implications to the business itself as well as job security for agents. Additionally, connectivity issues with clients arose, in the initial stage, as firewalls connecting the company to its clients had to be set up. With regard to operationalizing its 350 Call Centre agents, gaining network access at their homes was a seamless transition which took less than one week, as nearly 80% of employees already had the required assets and minimum internet capacity needed to support the execution of their duties.


“COVID challenges were not as great for us as they were for others.”
Paul Anselmo, Founder, Evolve Mortgage Services

As an outsource provider to the mortgage industry, the company, which recently moved operations to T&T, has been operating virtually for more than a decade in the USA. However, with the spouses of employees now working from home also, home internet and bandwidth suffered greatly in its US operations. As a result, the major challenge the company had to overcome was the slowness of emails, video, and teleconferencing activities. In T&T, while no internet and bandwidth challenges were experienced, the company had to curtail a face-to-face onboarding training session which was on stream for its 80 Call Centre agents.

Business Continuity Strategies

Both Digicel Business and DirecOne commissioned an audit of the assets possessed by employees at their homes. This was undertaken to ensure that all staff had the right bandwidth and infrastructure in place to continue the provision of efficient and quality service to clients. Donnelly shared that Digicel Business also created internal and external customer-focused teams, implementing policies to ensure that both customer groups were optimally serviced and their challenges readily dealt with. A dedicated support hotline for staff to contact, should they feel overwhelmed or pressured during the current period, was also implemented by the telecom provider.


“Because we operate in a lot of countries that are within the hurricane belt, and thankfully Trinidad is not one of them, we do a lot of disaster management and forward-thinking planning on how we would work within a crisis.”
Liam Donnelly, General Manager, Digicel Business Trinidad and Tobago

For business continuity, frequent communication with employees is important. This is a common practice at Digicel Business. Continuous updates enable staff to be aware of the company’s activities and allow managers to be readily available to support their team if needed.

Gillette advised companies to create the processes and management tools that will enable employees to feel part of a team and thereby continue to have a sense of being collectively responsible. In doing this, DirecOne implemented new KPIs and when measured, found that productivity was higher among staff, more calls were being handled and service quality scores increased during the work-from-home period. Additionally, Gillette shared that a good practice is to keep premises-based Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) systems to backup cloud-based services, so in the event of a power outage, companies can switch over to the cloud-based system and continue to provide services to its clientele.

Evolve Mortgage Services is a family-oriented business, according to Paul Anselmo. Therefore, to ensure business continuity the company prioritized the well-being of employees who were exposed to COVID-19, along with those who had family members impacted by the virus, by lending support, as best as possible. The company also assisted clients who reached out for help in the transition to work-from-home operations.

Benefits of Business Process Operations in T&T

“Trinidad is very fortunate to have quite a large fibre presence from all the carriers. Wireless internet is good but the fibre is always going to give you that guaranteed support and bandwidth.  All our mobile sites are built out of fibre backbones”- Donnelly. When asked about how the local utilities managed the load shift from office to home, as work-from-home stipulations took effect, Donnelly responded by saying “We have not had any major challenges in that space. T&TEC (the local electricity provider) was very structured during that time.” Referencing the challenges currently faced in Bermuda, where power shortages for up to 24 hours generally occur, Donnelly highlighted Trinidad and Tobago’s ideal location below the hurricane belt which significantly reduces the risk of operational disruptions.

Gillette echoed the opinions of Donnelly as he stated that “Trinidad is blessed in that we’ve got three fibre operators on the island.” This, along with multiple wireless operators and fairly high-speed connections, allows for a lot of choices for bandwidth. He further went on to say that competitiveness has translated into very reliable connectivity to the home. According to Gillette, the company experienced 50% cost savings in Trinidad, compared to doing business in the US, and attributed underemployment issues as the reason why wage rates/salaries are competitive on the island.

Anselmo explained that Evolve Mortgages Services migrated operations from India to Trinidad because of nearshore advantages and T&T’s native English-speaking population. Trinidad was also an attractive location for its Call Centre operations, as the company benefited from reduced labour costs, a highly educated workforce, and the availability of human resources qualified in the areas of finance and technology.

Is Remote Work here to stay?

All three business leaders agreed that work-from-home operations are here to stay. What will the new normal look like? Donnelly - “remote working is going to be part of our daily lives…the idea that you need to see someone in office 9 – 5, I think we need to scrap that and we need to look more at the output, the data and the results that we’re getting versus physically having to see someone”.

For Digicel Business, this is envisioned to translate into an in-office staff capacity of only 50 -60% in the future. Agents will be geographically dispersed, costs will be reduced in the longer term and he predicts that the company will become even more competitive than it is currently.

For Evolve Mortgage Services, Anselmo is confident that the company will continue to successfully manage its virtual operations and states that the adoption of the work-from-home structure by other companies remains to be seen.


“We were looking at the ratios initially of possibly a 50:50 (in-office versus the new normal of remote work), but we’re pushing the envelope now…and we’re more comfortable with 75% being the new normal.”
Peter Gillette, Chairman, Gillette Group – DirecOne

Remote work has become critical for business continuity. How we define the ‘new normal’ is still up for debate as we await to see whether employers embrace the abrupt transition from office to remote work in the post-pandemic future.

For more info on BPO in Trinidad and Tobago contact quincy.flores@investt.co.tt