The Phone House, a UK-owned company which recently announced a R200-million investment into Cape Town, has filled 450 new job positions since April – six months ahead of schedule.
The Phone House is a subsidiary of UK telecommunications company Carphone Warehouse and provides telephone and E-mail support for voice and broadband customers of its sister company TalkTalk in the UK.
One of several offshore call centres around the world, the Cape Town operation proved so successful in its early months that Carphone Warehouse decided to accelerate the rollout plans.
The operation has not only completed the accelerated rollout early, but done so while achieving staff turnover of just 5,2% – a figure almost unheard-of in the call centre industry.
“Industry expectations are typically for attrition of around 30%-40% a year,” says The Phone House general manager Wynand Schutte> “And set-up operations tend to have far higher attrition rates, up to 100% in the first year in some cases.”
Jennifer Killops of recruitment specialists Emmanuels, credits this success to The Phone House’s corporate culture as well as careful expectation management.
“Carphone Warehouse is a young, innovative company and that really shows in the working environment,” says Killops.
“It’s professional without being overly corporate, and there’s a strong emphasis on customer service. It’s a dynamic and challenging environment that recognises and rewards people’s achievements, which makes for high levels of job satisfaction.”
In the six months between April and September, Killops and her team at Emmanuels screened about 3 700 applicants to find 400 customer service advisers, 40 team managers and five call centre managers, as well as support staff such as coaches and trainers, financial and facilities managers.
Of the successful applicants, 46% had no previous call centre experience and 38% were unemployed before finding work at the Phone House – 12 have already been promoted to more senior positions.
“We realised early on that customer service orientation was a more important qualification for the job than call centre experience,” comments Killops.
“One of our most successful applicants used to be a hairdresser, for example. If people have the right attitudes and customer skills, it’s possible to train them for call centre work relatively quickly – and the training investment is more likely to pay off.”
All employees received four and a half weeks of training at full pay.
“TalkTalk is very happy with our performance so far,” adds Schutte. “We’re leading the company in quality orientation and service, and there’s lots of innovation coming out of Cape Town.”