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SA contact centres poised for growth

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South Africa’s contact centre industry is poised for growth, thanks to increasingly demanding customers and new opportunities for Business Process Outsourcing providers, say local contact centre experts.
Speaking at the recent Interactive Intelligence Customer Experience Executive Forum in Johannesburg and Durban, key players in the African contact centre space said the industry was facing disruptive change, but that the new environment presented significant opportunities to those who could adapt and innovate.
Among the keys to surviving and thriving in a changing environment, they said, were innovation, proactive engagement, true omnichannel functionality and a cross-enterprise focus on customer experience management.
Gareth Mellon, programme manager: ICT for Frost & Sullivan South Africa, said there was a wealth of opportunities for contact centre growth due to the new focus on effective customer experience management.
He also cited Frost & Sullivan’s recently-released Analysis of the South African Contact Centre Market research, which said there were growing BPO opportunities in South Africa, but they were not without their challenges. Among these, the report found, was a recent change in the requirements to receive an incentive through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which could stunt the progress South Africa has made in the BPO sector over the last 10 years. The report said companies may have to go through fundamental changes and restructuring. “However, overall, South Africa has reasons to be positive in the long term,” said Mellon.
Johan Moolman, CIO of Pivotal Data, echoed this sentiment. “The future is bright. Global organisations will increasingly outsource to South Africa. As the industry changes, the job of a contact centre agent will also become more specialised and it will become sought-after employment,” he said.
The rise of the ‘super agent’ would be an important trend in future, the experts agreed. In a multi-channel environment fast moving to a true omnichannel model, the customer would increasingly depend on self service and turn to the contact centre as the last point of contact, rather than the first. This meant that contact centre agents would increasingly be skilled specialists and they would have to be provided with seamless and complete data about the customer and all the customer’s previous interactions with the company, across all touch points.
Gavin Atkinson, CEO: Call Centre Division at BankServAfrica, said customers were known to spend up to 30% more when speaking to a skilled agent who had access to the customer’s full history than when using self-service. Deon Scheepers, Manager of Sales Operations at Interactive Intelligence Africa, said empowering agents in this way depended on contact centres becoming tightly integrated into the entire organisation, leveraging advanced technologies and the cloud to deliver sterling customer experience, agility and operational efficiency.
Contact centres that were cognizant of trends such as these stood to improve their companies’ revenues going forward, said the speakers.