Although India and the Philippines have the highest offshore call center operations in the world, many developing nations are making investments in this industry to provide its citizens with respectable jobs. One of the countries gaining recognition is South Africa, a nation of millions of people who use the English language as their primary form of communication. English is spoken at all schools and is the predominate language of business. This fact clearly has many advantages for English speaking countries that have issues with the way call centers employed by non-native English speakers communicate.
The recognition for the South African call centers comes from the U.K. National Outsourcing Association and the European Outsourcing Association by naming the country as their destination of the year for 2012.
While many opportunities are being made available, the country faces the problem of enough skilled labor force to meet the growing demand. This is the exact same scenario India faced during the early ‘90s when its call center industry was booming.
Even though there is a skills shortage companies such as the U.K. online retailer Shop Direct Group are signing multiyear contracts worth more than $650 million. The push by British organizations to establish call centers in South Africa is driven by the ease in which agents in this country can adapt much quicker than those in India regarding the cultural alignment training. Customers in the United Kingdom prefer the experience of call center interaction with agents in South Africa.
"The awards provide us with a massive branding and marketing opportunity. Success is reflected in offshore agent numbers, which in the Western Cape alone now stand at 10,000 - three times the number in 2008. Data from other regions is less precise but a figure of at least 5,000 agents, primarily in Durban and Gauteng, is generally cited," said Gareth Pritchard, CEO of Business Processing Enabling SA.
Support for the industry is also coming from the government by establishing training centers with funding from the Development Bank of South Africa with a three-year initiative of R165m to increase the number of trained representatives for the call centers.
"We train 3,000 entry-level agents a year under the Monyetla program. A second project has just been launched to provide supervisory skills to 3,000 people a year," said Francois Truter, a department of trade & industry director.
In Cape Town alone there are currently 105 call center companies, and the country is capable of providing multi-language support in German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian as well as Russian and Hebrew.
Edited by Alisen Downey