Contact Centers (Dec 2009)


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Contact Centers (Dec 2009)

  1. 1. Investment Opportunities in UruguayContactCenters URUGUAY XXI December 2009
  2. 2. Contact centers Why invest in the contact center industry in Uruguay? 1. Uruguay offers a series of features that are very attractive for contact centers: • Suitable natural geographic, economic, political and business environment characteristics. Uruguay is noted among Latin American countries for its economic liberalization and security. • Attractive cultural and educational foundations, including a multilingual population. • Suitable time zone between the United States and Europe. • Advanced communications and connectivity infrastructure. • Reasonable wage costs. • Facilitation for foreign worker immigration. 2. Uruguay treats foreign and national investments equally and has signed investment security, protection and promotion agreements with 26 countries, including Spain, the U.S., Finland, France and the U.K. There are no restrictions on the repatriation of capital, profits, dividends or interest. 3. The country already has vast experience in the industry, including notable foreign and domestic investments that have been increasing over time. Among the first companies to invest in the industry were Tata Consultancy Services, Sabre Holdings, Atento and Avanza. Two undertakings (Aguada Park and WTC Free Zone) will join the country’s main technology park, Zonamérica, as Free Zones to increase capacity. 4. Special systems, such as the Free Zones and the Investment Promotion Law, favor investment by reducing or eliminating income tax. In the case of contact centers, a recent decree provides income tax exemptions under certain circumstances. In addition, the 2008 Information Protection Law puts national demands in line withContact Centers those of the European Union.1
  3. 3. Contact centers Characteristics that make Uruguay a very attractive location for contact centers Uruguay offers economic, cultural, educational and industry-specific advantages that make it a very attractive location from which to operate contact centers. 1 Suitable geographic, economic, political and business environment characteristics Uruguay has a natural environment that is free of natural disasters and is politically stable with a representative democracy and a rotation of the three main political parties. Uruguay’s per capita GDP was approximately USD 10,000 in 2008, which is third in South America just behind Chile and Argentina. The country’s GDP has grown at a rapid pace since 2004 and even in 2009 (although at a lower rate due to the international crisis). Growth is expected to continue in the coming years. Since 2004, macroeconomic indicators have remained stable and inflation has been under control (in the single digits). Uruguay offers the most open business environment in the region (Tholons, Report on Outsourcing in Uruguay, June 2009): * There are no restrictions on the repatriation of capital, profits, dividends or interest. * No permits or prior authorization are required to make foreign investments. Local companies may be 100% foreign owned. * The currency exchange market is open and there are no limits on foreign currency trading. Investments can be made in any currency. * There are no restrictions on hiring foreign staff (except for companies located in Free Zones where 75% of employees must be domestic). A residency permit and proof of good health are the only requirements.Contact Centers * Residency permits can be obtained in three months and anyone who has entered the country legally can obtain one and start working even during the request process. * Citizens from most western nations do not require visas to enter the country.2
  4. 4. Contact centers Uruguay offers the safest destination for outsourcing in Latin America (Tholons, Report on Outsourcing in Uruguay, June 2009): * Low impact of crime on business. The World Economic Forum’s 2009/2010 Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) compared Uruguay with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico using three variables: organized crime, costs to companies regarding crime and violence and costs for companies regarding terrorism. Uruguay earned the best scores in all three areas. * Uruguay leads Latin America with respect to regulatory framework and property rights. The 2009/2010 GCR evaluated four variables and in Latin America, only Chile and Costa Rica were comparable (legal system efficiency, judicial independence, intellectual property protection and property rights). * International Research on Peace and Corruption places Uruguay among the best countries in the region. Transparency International ranks Uruguay as the country with the lowest corruption in Latin America (2009) along with Chile, as does the Institute for Economics and Peace (2008 Global Peace Index). * Uruguay also offers insurance against political risk to American investors through an agreement between the Uruguayan government and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The insurance covers all risks except credit risk with claims subject to international arbitration. 2 Attractive cultural and educational characteristics Most Uruguayans are direct descendents of European (mainly Spanish and Italian) immigrants. There are no conflicts among minority groups. The country’s literacy rate is very high (98% in 2008). The country ranked 23rd in the world (130 countries) in 2007 in tertiary education enrollment and was second behind Argentina in Latin America (World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2009/10).Contact Centers3
  5. 5. Contact centers Tertiary enrollment Argentina 20 Uruguay 23 Chile 38 Colombia 68 Brazil 73 Mexico 75 Costa Rica 78 Source: World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2009/2010. Managerial talent is high; there are many examples of Uruguayans who begin their careers in Uruguay and triumph at the international level. In 2009, the first stage of a government plan to give all public school children laptop computers with internet connectivity was completed (Plan Ceibal, One Laptop per Child). In 2010, the second stage of the plan will be implemented to supply computers to all first and second year high school students. Uruguay, and in particular Montevideo, are noted for a high standard of living at a low cost: * Quality of life (Montevideo): First in South America (Mercer, 2009) * Cost of living (Montevideo): Fourth lowest in South America (Mercer, 2009) 3 Use of several languages * English English is widely spoken by young people 1. Some estimates show that approximately 25% of the population knows English 2. The state-run University of the Republic, the largest university in the country, reported in its 2007 student census that 70.5% of students can comprehend written English and 50.7% can speak the language (out of a total of 81,774 students).Contact Centers 1 The National Statistics Institute (INE) has announced that it will soon begin to collect information on English language knowledge starting in the next national census (2010). 2 The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimated that 40% of the Uruguayan population used internet at the end of 2008. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Institute (INE) estimated that 58.3% of those who use internet know English (household survey, late 2006). Combining these two figures, we can estimate that 23.3% of the population (58.3% * 40%) know English.4
  6. 6. Contact centers * Portuguese Portuguese is spoken by many Uruguayans who live or were raised in cities that border Brazil. Two departmental capitals (River and Artigas, as well as other smaller cities), are located on the border and have sister cities on the Brazilian side. As a result, residents are bilingual in Spanish and Portuguese. The University of the Republic’s 2007 student survey shows that 28.5% can read Portuguese and 17.6% can speak the language. * Other languages Several other languages are spoken by minor segments of the population. For example, Sabre Holdings, an American company located in Zonamérica (a technology park in Montevideo), maintains contacts with clients in 15 languages, including Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Swedish and Turkish. In these cases, human resources may include not only residents who are descendents from immigrants who speak these languages, but also alumni of bilingual schools and Uruguayan emigrants (or their children) who reside abroad and want to return. 4 Neutral accent An executive from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Uruguay whom we interviewed for this report spoke about this quality as a particularity of the staff hired in the country, noting their ability to speak Spanish with a neutral accent and adapting themselves easily to clients of other Spanish speaking countries. 5 Time zone between the United States and Europe Uruguay is geographically located between the U.S. and European time zones. The time difference between Uruguay and India is between 7.5 and 8.5 hours. This location enables complementary tasks to be performed during the normal workday from an office in Montevideo with those in other regions. For example, TCS Uruguay combines its clientContact Centers service center in Montevideo with another located in India, enabling around the clock worldwide services. 6 Uruguay is now seen in outsourcing reports by international consulting firms * A.T. Kearney, Offshore Location Attractiveness Index5
  7. 7. Contact centers Since 2006, Uruguay has been among the 50 most attractive countries for services outsourcing. * Tholons, Top 50 Emerging Global Outsourcing Cities Montevideo appeared in a 2009 report in the top 50 emerging cities. Uruguay appeared as one of the top 20 emerging countries for global service offshoring. 7 Concentration in Montevideo Today, nearly all contact centers are located in the department of Montevideo, both in the downtown area as well as in the Zonamérica technology park, where tax exemptions under the Free Zone system are granted. According to the Telecommunications Chamber of Uruguay, an estimated 20 contact center companies were in operation as of May 2008, employing nearly 4,000 people in downtown Montevideo and 2,000 in Zonamérica. 8 Advanced communications in a stage of rapid growth In Latin America, Uruguay currently ranks the highest in terms of the use of modern communication devices. The following data supports this claim. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2009/2010 Global Competitiveness Report, Uruguay holds the following positions: • Broadband subscribers: 1st in Latin America per capita, 2008. • Mobile telephone subscribers: 2nd in Latin America per capita, 2008. • Fixed telephony: 2nd in Latin America per capita, 2008. • Internet users: 1st in Latin America per capita, 2008. • School internet access: 2nd in Latin America per capita (2008/09 average).Contact Centers6
  8. 8. Contact centers Broadband Mobile telephone Telephone lines Internet users Internet access in internet subscribers schools subscribers Uruguay 46 Argentina 31 Costa Rica 37 Uruguay 44 Chile 38 Chile 47 Uruguay 48 Uruguay 47 Colombia 46 Uruguay 43 Argentina 48 Colombia 66 Argentina 52 Brazil 47 Costa Rica 62 Mexico 50 Chile 67 Brazil 61 Costa Rica 48 Brazil 64 Brazil 54 Brazil 81 Chile 62 Chile 53 Mexico 77 Colombia 61 Mexico 89 Mexico 65 Argentina 60 Colombia 81 Costa Rica 63 Costa Rica 107 Colombia 76 Mexico 73 Argentina 89 Source: World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2009/2010. 9 Reasonable wage costs Annual salary costs in U.S. dollars for 6 hours of work per day at Montevideo contact centers (2009) (1) Concept USD % Total cost for the company 5,828 111.6% Company social security contributions (2) (606) (11.6%) Annual nominal wages (includes mandatory bonus and 5,222 100% vacation wages) - Social security contributions and taxes paid by (955) (18.3%) employee (3) Worker take-home pay 4,267 81.7% (1) Estimated monthly wages in Uruguayan pesos: 8,000. Exchange rate: UYP 21 to the dollar (November 2009). (2) Employer contributions on wages and mandatory bonuses: 7.5% pension, 5% health insurance, 0.0125% labor conversion fund. (3) Employee contributions on wages and mandatory bonuses: 15% pension, 4.5% health insurance, 0.0125% labor conversion fund. In this case, the IRPF personal income tax is not included because the minimum taxable amount is not exceeded. Percentages applicable to employees vary depending on several factors. 10 Foreign worker immigration facilitationContact Centers The procedure to request legal residence in Uruguay is quick and easy; national identification cards can be obtained when the process is started. Applicants must present a request to the National Migration Bureau stating the reasons for residing in the country. Upon approval, the legal residency process is started.7
  9. 9. Contact centers To start the legal residency process, applicants must present proof of means (work contract or job offer signed by the company), a health card issued by the Public Health Ministry or by private medical institutions, a certificate of good conduct (legalized and translated) from countries that maintain an agreement with Interpol and the document that was used to enter the country. Once the legal residency process is started, a provisional Uruguayan identification card may be obtained. Services offered by contact centers in Uruguay a) In house services Several transnational companies have offshored part of their activities to Uruguay under the Free Zone system. 1) Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), headquartered in India, set up in Montevideo in 2002 and has grown since then. As of November 2009, the company had nearly 800 employees locally, most of whom are university graduates. TCS chose Uruguay to establish its offshore global development center for clients in Spain and Spanish speaking countries in Latin America. Uruguay is an important platform for TCS Latin America, not only in its development area, but also in its finance, legal and training areas. In particular, TCS has centralized remote services in Uruguay for its specialized software clients to compliment India with the time difference to offer 24/7 service. The Uruguay Global Development Center (UGDC) focuses on providing nearshore clients with information technology services and solutions including Microsoft, SAP, Business Intelligence and Quality Consulting. In addition to Spanish, the company provides services in Portuguese, English, French, Italian, German and other European languages. The company plans to increase staff to up to 1,200 in the short term and up to 2,400 over the next two or three years. TCS’s regional training center is located in Montevideo where more than 500 technology and communications professionals have been trained. Some 3,000 more are expected to receive trainingContact Centers over the coming two years. TCS has two locations, one in the Zonamérica technology park and another in downtown Montevideo.8
  10. 10. Contact centers The company chose Uruguay as an offshoring service center for the country’s safety, weather, social economic and political stability as well as the advanced education of human resources and the complementary time zone with India (to offer 24/7 service). 2) Sabre Holdings (headquartered in U.S.A.) has operated in technology park / free zone Zonamérica, in Montevideo, since 2005 and provides global services for airlines, travel agents and hotels. The company has grown steadily since its arrival and as of November 2009 had 880 employees in 400 positions, accounting for 10% of the company’s overall workforce. Uruguay is Sabre’s second largest site. The Montevideo operation attends to 95% of support calls, serving 45 countries with an average of 6,500 daily contacts in 15 languages (Spanish, English, Swedish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese and others) from the company’s call centers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania. Reasons for the company’s selection of Uruguay include: • Political and economic freedom • Suitable infrastructure • Dynamic human capital • Culture and education 3) RCI Global Vacation Network (headquartered in U.S.A.) also operates a regional contact center in Montevideo to offer timeshare locations to its clients. The company started operations in 2005, employing more than 400 staff in 2008. b) Outsourcing There are two groups of companies that render services to end users of other companies: subsidiaries of transnational companies and domestic companies. 1) Subsidiaries of transnationals: * Avanza (headquartered in Spain) started operations in 2006 with 190Contact Centers employees. It was the company’s first contact center outside Europe. Due to the positive results, the company has continued to expand and today has 510 employees in 250 positions. The average employee age is 24. The company believes its greatest potential lies in its people. According to the general manager, the company has “human capital with a very high potential, capable of assuming risks, with a high degree9
  11. 11. Contact centers of professionalism, proactive, with drive, creativity, initiative and growth. Our team... assumes commitments continually, creating new challenges.” 3 Avanza is planning to continue its Uruguayan expansion policy by adding new foreign clients and new business units to its Montevideo business platform, and continuing to increase telemarketing positions. Approximately 90% of sales come from foreign markets. Its clients are mainly located in Spain and Latin America. * Atento (headquartered in Spain) began operations in Uruguay in May 2006 with 50 people. As of November 2009, the company had 750 employees in 350 positions. The average age of employees is 23 and most have completed high school. Atento has been adapting traditional contact center services, offering business process outsourcing (BPO), fulfillment, database management, collections, help desk and in-person sales services. Service exports (mainly to Spanish clients) constitute approximately 90% of sales. The company expects to increase its staff to 2,000 in three years. 2) Domestic companies: Accesa, Ingenia, Casa3, Synapsis, Multiline, Teleservi, Ibirá, and more Accesa renders services to Uruguayan state-owned telecommunications companies ANTEL and ANCEL. It has approximately 500 workers in 250 positions. Accesa services end clients of the two companies, providing sales information, claims management, complaints and suggestion reception, technical assistance, pre and post sales assistance, and more. Other domestic companies are usually smaller than their transnational counterparts (with 140 employees in 70 positions on average) and mainly serve the local market (only 10% of sales are exported). Services rendered by both groups of companies (subsidiaries of transnationals and domestic companies) are varied and include: typical call and contact center services (telephone sales, surveys, collections, database creation and management, automated communication services with end clients, client service); consulting and training to create an in house contact center; and business process outsourcing (BPO) adapted to the demands of each client. Offshoring and outsourcing are on the rise throughout the world and this trend can be seen in Uruguay as well.Contact Centers 3 Interview on 17 May 2008, El Observador, Montevideo.10
  12. 12. Contact centers Recent investments in the industry Since their founding, nearly all transnational companies have continued to expand activities in Uruguay. Most began at the beginning of the decade with less than half of the employees they currently have. • TCS not only expanded its site at Zonamérica, but established another in downtown Montevideo. • Atento also expanded to another downtown site in addition to its first location. • Uruguayan companies have been expanding their business areas. Two significant construction initiatives are underway: Aguada Park and WTC Free Zone, both under the Free Zone system. 1) The Aguada Park technology and service park is located near downtown Montevideo and the Port of Montevideo and includes two 19-story towers and a total investment of USD 42 million (building and equipment). The undertaking seeks to house companies involved in software development, call centers, BPO, shared services, design and other professional services. The first tower will open in January 2010 with 22,000 m2 of total available space (1,500 m2 per floor). With the second tower, space may be expanded to 3,000 m2. Rental costs will range from USD 14 to 20 per m2. 2) WTC Free Zone is building an office tower next to World Trade Center Montevideo and the Montevideo Shopping Center in an area complete with banks, hotels and restaurants. Flexible office spaces may be rented ranging from entire floors to 40 m2 offices, with the latest telecommunications technology. The opening is scheduled for 2011. Prospects for sector investment In the framework of the global offshoring trend, Uruguay is in an unmatched position to receive contact center investments. The country’s geographic, political, economic and cultural characteristics and its suitable communications infrastructure and quality workforce ensure solid financial and low risk perspectives for companies considering investments. The nearly continual expansion of foreign companies backs this perspective and new buildingContact Centers projects are on the horizon that will offer new spaces for those who decide to build on these opportunities.11
  13. 13. Contact centers APPENDICES Domestic and foreign investment promotion Foreign investors in Uruguay enjoy the same benefits as domestic investors and do not need prior authorization to set up in the country. Law 16,906 (dated 7 January 1998) declares the promotion and protection of domestic and foreign investment of national interest. Decree 455/007 updated the regulations of this law. Investment projects in any industry that are submitted and promoted by the Executive Branch may use between 50% and 100% the amount invested as partial payment of IRAE income tax, according to project classification. The normal IRAE tax rate is 25%. In addition, moveable fixed assets and civil works are exempt from IP equity tax and VAT can be recovered for purchases of materials and services for the latter. Trade agreements and investment protection 1 Gener al trade agreements Uruguay has been part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its creation in 1995 and is part of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI, 1980) along with ten South American countries plus Cuba and Mexico. In the framework of ALADI, the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) was formed in 1991 with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Mercosur became a customs union in 1995, with the free movement of goods, the elimination of customs duties and non-tariff barriers between countries, and a common external tariff for countries outside the bloc. Venezuela is currently in the process of joining Mercosur. Within the framework of ALADI, Mercosur has signed free trade agreements with other countries in South America: Chile (1996), Bolivia (1996), Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela (2004) and Peru (2005), and has an agreement with Israel (2007), all of which form respective Free Trade Zones, with tariff reduction schedules that should be completed no later than 2014/2019, according to the country. Uruguay also signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Mexico (2003), which allows for the free movement of goods and services between both countries (zero tariffs) since June 2004, with certainContact Centers exceptions that end in 2014.12
  14. 14. Contact centers 2 Investment protection agreements Uruguay has signed investment security, protection and promotion agreements with 26 countries, including Spain, the U.S., Finland, France and the U.K., among others. General government export incentives 1 Refund of VAT paid on supply purchases Refunds of VAT on purchases are made generally by discounting VAT charged on sales and paying the difference to the State. Since this tax is not charged on exports, VAT included in purchases of inputs is refunded at the request of the company. The DGI tax bureau extends credit certificates that can be used in paying other taxes. 2 Free Zones There are the 10 Free Zones or customs enclaves for manufacturing activities or services to third countries where customs duties and taxes are not paid on entry and exit of goods and services and where VAT is not paid in advance. Furthermore, broad exemptions from national taxes include the IRAE income tax, but not social security payments for domestic personnel. A minimum of 75% of Uruguayan citizens among total staff is the only requirement, although this percentage may be reduced with prior approval by the Executive Branch. Specific government incentives for the contact center sector 1 Income Tax Exemption (decree 207/2008 dated 14 Aug ust 2008) This decree incorporates contact centers in the Investment Promotion Law (Law 16,906 dated 7 January 1998) as long as the company has a minimum of 150 direct employees and the services are consumed abroad by non-residents. Those requesting promotional declarations are exempt from the Economic Activities Income Tax (IRAE) for 10 years. 2 Personal Informati on Pr otecti on and Habeas Data Action (Law 18,331 dated 11 August 2008 and reg ulatory decree 414/09 dated 31 Aug ust 2009)Contact Centers According to this regulation, all physical and legal persons have the right to have their personal information protected. This covers collection, recording and treatment under any method in the public and private spheres. The database manager must obtain and safeguard proof of consent of13
  15. 15. Contact centers the owner of the information and must inform the owner of the use of said information, as well as use techniques to ensure its integrity, confidentiality and availability. The decree establishes operations of the Personal Information Control Regulatory Unit. This law adapts current regulations to those of the European Union, thus enabling European clients to contact companies located in Uruguay. Institutions The Telecommunications Chamber of Uruguay includes many industry companies and has formed commissions according to areas of activity. One of these is for call centers, where the largest companies of the industry participate.Contact Centers14
  16. 16. Contact centers Uruguay in Sy nthesis (2008) 4 Official name República Oriental del Uruguay (Oriental Republic of Uruguay) Location South America, bordering Argentina and Brazil Capital Montevideo 2 Surface area 173,215 km . 95% of the territory has soil suitable for agriculture and livestock activities. Population 3.3 million Population growth 0.3% (annual) GDP per capita USD 10,082 GDP per capita (PPP) USD 13,295 Currency Uruguayan peso ($) Literacy rate 98% Life expectancy at birth 76 years Form of government Democratic republic with presidential system Political divisions 19 departments Time zone GMT - 03:00 Official language: Spanish Main Economic Indicators 2004-2008 4 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Annual GDP growth rate 5.0% 7.5% 4.6% 7.6% 8.9% GDP (PPP), USD millions 28,930 32,048 34,602 38,235 42,543 GDP, USD millions (current) 13,740 17,478 20,001 24,432 32,262 Exports (USD millions), goods and services 4,257 5,085 5,787 6,936 9,334 Imports (USD millions), goods and services 3,778 4,693 5,877 6,770 10,083 Trade Surplus / Deficit (USD millions) 478 393 (90) 166 (749) Trade Surplus / Deficit (% of GDP) 3.5% 2.3% (0.5)% 0.7% (2.3)% Current Account Surplus / Deficit (USD millions) 3 42 (392) (212) (1,225) Current Account Surplus / Deficit (% of GDP) 0.0% 0.2% (2.0)% (0.9)% (3.8)% Overall fiscal balance (% of GDP) (1.8)% (0.4)% (0.5)% 0.0% (1.4)% Gross capital formation (% of GDP at current prices) 17.5% 17.7% 20.3% 21.0% 23.0% Gross national savings (% of GDP) 16.7% 17.6% 16.9% 19.0% 17.9% Foreign direct investment (USD millions) 332 847 1,493 1,329 2,205 Foreign direct investment (% of GDP) 2.4% 4.8% 7.5% 5.4% 6.8% Exchange rate Peso / USD 28.7 24.5 24.1 23.5 20.9 Reserve assets (USD millions) 2,512 3,071 3,097 4,121 6,360 Unemployment rate (% of EAP) 13.1% 12.2% 11.4% 9.1% 7.6% Annual inflation rate 7.6% 4.9% 6.4% 8.5% 9.2%Contact Centers Net Foreign Debt (USD millions) 8,624 7,531 6,959 6,448 4,537 4 GDP data was taken from the IMF; data on foreign trade, FDI, exchange rate, international reserves and foreign debt was provided by the Central Bank of Uruguay (BCU); population growth, literacy, unemployment and inflation data comes from the National Statistics Institute (INE).15
  17. 17. Contact centers Investor Services About Us Uruguay XXI is the country’s investment and export promotion agency. Among other functions, Uruguay XXI provides no cost support to foreign investors, both those who are evaluating where to make investments as well as those currently operating in Uruguay. Our Investor Services Uruguay XXI is the first point of contact for foreign investors. Services we provide include: • Macroeconomic and industry information. Uruguay XXI regularly prepares reports on Uruguay and on various sectors of the economy. • Tailored information. We prepare customized information to answer specific questions, such as macroeconomic data, labor market information, tax and legal aspects, incentive programs for investments, location and costs. • Contact with key players. We provide contacts with government agencies, industry players, financial institutions, R&D centers and potential partners, among others. • Promotion. We promote investment opportunities at strategic events, business missions and round tables. • Facilitation of foreign investor visits, including meeting organization with public authorities, suppliers, potential partners and business chambers. • Publication of investment opportunities. On our website, we periodically publish information on investment projects by public entities and private companies.Contact Centers16