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Better equipped agents mean better customer service

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Merchants, South Africa’s longest standing and largest contact centre partner, has installed a 39-seat contact centre simulation centre at the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator premises. The objective of the centre is to simulate real-life contact centre scenarios to better equip the trainees for a work environment.
“We have been working with Harambee for almost five years now,” says Jennifer Algie, people director at Merchants. Harambee, an organisation which sources, trains and places unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into first-time jobs, gives Merchants access to the 80% of potential candidates that the company would not otherwise have been able to reach.
“Harambee had identified various needs, they needed the simulation centre to assist with their work readiness efforts, but they also needed additional furniture to host the large numbers of trainees they have onsite.”
Merchants partnered with DHK and Plessey to design and install the simulation centre and purchased 100 headsets for the trainees to use. Merchants also provided them with an additional 198 chairs for their chill area to better accommodate the trainees,” she says. “Harambee had a small existing contact centre used to recruit trainees and we provided those agents with chairs specifically designed for contact centre operations to replace the uncomfortable chairs they had been using,” Algie adds.
Merchants has set up a similar simulation centre at one of their client contact centres, which has been extremely successful. “The trainees feel like they are in a formal contact centre environment and, by the time they join a live contact centre, it is not completely foreign to them, which means they are better equipped to handle most customer service situations. We have seen the results in our own simulation centre and believe this is going to add enormous value to Harambee,” she says.
According to Dianne Woodward, Key Accounts Executive at Harambee, the simulation centre has been met with great excitement. “Merchants was the first employer outside of our five founding Yellowwoods employers to partner with Harambee. They have walked a long journey with Harambee and have played an instrumental role in assisting us with the knowledge and insights gained in the contact centre environment and the business process outsourcing or BPO sector.
“This very generous donation of furniture, contact centre equipment, and installation and design support will enable us to equip our trainees even better, getting them ready for a formal work environment,” she says.
“This initiative also supports our corporate shared value goals. To date, Merchants has recruited around 326 Harambee graduates for our Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban operations. By enhancing the training these graduates receive upfront, we benefit from better equipped and more confident agents joining the overall talent pool and our teams,” Algie concludes.