Dialling up S.Africa’s contact centre industry - CNBC Africa

Dialling up S.Africa’s contact centre industry

Southern Africa

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South Africa's contact centre industry employs roughly 200,000 people. PHOTO: Getty Images

“Our job mainly is to work with our target markets, which is in 90 per cent the UK, a little bit of North America and a little bit of Australia, to target those markets and encourage them to come and invest and set up centres here,” Gareth Pritchard, CEO of BPeSA, told CNBC Africa.

“It’s not only call centres, it’s also shared services centres and other outsourcing environments. The majority of the work is done and created in the call centre environment.”

BPeSA is an investment promotion company for domestic and international contact centres. According to company’s estimates, the industry currently employs roughly 200,000 people, and contributes more than 46 billion rand annually to the country’s GDP.

One of the key drivers in the industry has been foreign investment and the lower rand rate.

Fagri Semaar, partnership director at Serco SA, expects the industry to grow even further as the quality and amount of work done in the country’s major cities starts to gain even more traction.

“I think the biggest differentiator between ourselves and some of the bigger, more established geographies such as the Philippines and India is that we offer a premium customer experience from South Africa, [with] Cape Town, Joburg and Durban all showing really good progress in terms of articulating,” Semaar explained.

“It means that our people have a natural ability to engage with customers, to have conversational interaction. That is a really tangible outcome.”

(WATCH VIDEO: Why big businesses want their call centres in S.Africa)

Evan Jones, COO of Webhelp South Africa, an international contact centre operator, however added that the level of sophistication between South Africa’s contact centres within the private and public sectors significantly differ.

The public sector in the coutnry would therefore need to upgrade to a higher standard soon for the industry as a whole to become more globally competitive.

“How the private sector hires the technology that they deploy, how they measure is far more superior and sophisticated than that of the public sector,” Jones explained.

Building a stronger skills base, according to Pritchard, could also be the answer to bolstering the quality and volume of contact centres in the country.

(READ MORE: Entrepreneurship essential to S.Africa's corporate space)

 “If we were to have a stronger skills base, then the opportunities would be less and we wouldn’t get that attrition that we have,” said Pritchard.

“Attrition is deadly for our environment, because you invest a lot of time and money in getting somebody to understand the product and the company, and if they leave after a few months then all that investment is really almost wasted.”

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