As it’s been 4+ months since I started my new life in Portugal, I thought it would be fun to write a short series of posts to share how, as a foreigner, it feels to experience Portuguese service and culture. In the first of this series,“Process before customer”, I focused on some of the actual barriers a customer faces. This will be followed by a post on “Take a ticket – the customer nemesis.” Finally, in this week’s post “Which businesses are driving CX success in Portugal?”, I want to explore why so many business are heading to Portugal to create better UX (user experience) and customer experience, and who are the star performers locally. As always, this is my personal perspective, and would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
In my short time in Portugal, I’ve identified four main factors that have made Portugal so attractive for CX & UX focused businesses, and with that, four businesses that are leading the way in championing Portugal as a world leader in this space. Despite a slow start, economic and political upheaval, these four factors have allowed Portugal to not only catch up to most of Europe, but to by-pass many countries with a greater competitive edge.
Fresh ideas from creative millennials – Portugal’s younger generation have faced genuine hardship as they have grown up. It’s hard to find someone untouched by the global economic downturn, but leaving college or university to a rapidly contracting job market took its toll. Many young Portuguese moved abroad to find work and escape the worst of the economic hardship. Now that the economic situation is improving (and Brexit is encouraging many to exit the UK), a rich pool of culturally aware, multi-lingual, globally experienced people are returning. Their enriched skillset (with the associated increase in salary expectation) is bring much needed energy and complete new skillsets to the Portuguese job market, giving local industries across the country a rapid leg up in terms of their UX & CX capabilities.
Portugal’s earliest “unicorn” business, Farfetch is probably the best example of nailing this, resulting in huge revenues and a very bright future for the luxury fashion industry by connecting buyers with their favourite brands in creative and seamless ways.
Technical skills complimenting data – Whilst Portugal has historical focused on tourism, viticulture and agriculture, the shift to create a broad and highly skilled developer workforce has been impressive to say the least. This shift required commitment and investment, but by also using the newly emerging data competencies, Portuguese businesses have been able to demonstrate quality and value as they deliver technical solutions. The ability to programme code quickly, and ship it to a live environment is critical, but where other countries missed the mark is in tying the code to data to allow tracking of success and rapid ability to change or enhance the code. As more and more knowledge and skills consolidate in Portugal, the benefit across all Portuguese businesses with become exponential.
One particular business has been at the forefront of these achievements, Outsystems. They stand out in this category because by leveraging what most businesses need at a basic level (a platform to trade), and filling in the blanks of technical competency, Outsystems has allowed SMEs to focus on their core competency and grow faster without the distraction of becoming developers.
Operational focus on process efficiency – With lower than average salaries compared to some parts of Europe, bureaucracy and complacency has made some industries pretty bloated and people-heavy. Tough times of late have not always driven sufficient change to simplify and automate. However in newer industry sectors, leaner, more technology-centric behaviours have emerged. Combining Portugal’s obsession for process with a greater focus on the outcomes (rather than process itself), a number of Portuguese businesses are now leading the way in delivering greater UX & CX at cost and scale.
Fellow Portuguese unicorn Talkdesk has emerged as a global champion of easy-access cloud-based contact centres, using the process-centric approach to create instant efficiency. Whilst many others have operated in the space for decades, this Portuguese unicorn has turned a niche offering into a global solution.
Empathetic culture and a widely spoken language – One of the most obvious factor for why Portugal is attractive for business, especially for Europe, has to be the physical proximity and cultural empathy with their many European neighbours. But there’s more to it than that. As a small country, Portugal has long punched above its weight. Portuguese is spoken by 260 million people around the world. Being able to empathise with neighbours near and far, and speak their language goes a long way to creating common CX & UX of high quality. Portuguese media preference to subtitle rather than dub television programmes has created a whole generation of confident English speakers, further expanding the language and cultural reach.
One business that is having positive global impact on breaking down the language and cultural barriers is Portuguese future unicorn, Unbabel. It allows businesses to recruit people with the right skills, rather than sacrificing customer-facing ability or technical skills for the sake of multiple languages. By allowing clients to connect and communicate with their customers in the customer’s own language, Unbabel is drive better business outcomes and greater customer engagement at the same time.
Whilst in my first two articles in this mini series, I highlighted some of the frustration faced by Portuguese customers , clients and consumers in general, I hope that this week I have shown that there is huge change for the better and inspiration for other growing local businesses (and beyond!) After 4+ months in Portugal, I’m so excited about the future of CX, and with so many local businesses making it their focus, I’m confident this will be a place people look for future trends and innovation around CX.