One of the complaints by local call centre companies is that Telkom's costs are obstructing competition, but the trend for the future – and not such a distant future – will see call centres running increasingly via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, as well as web technologies.
This is going to cut the cost of communication operations markedly, said Glen Mollink, COO of technology-enabled outsourcing company,Innovation Group.
Mollink points out that there are major opportunities in the call centre industry.
"Sure, our costs are high, in terms of communication, when compared to many other countries, but VOIP is starting to gather momentum. I think a lot of companies, such as ISPs, have invested heavily in VOIP since the telecommunications deregulation, thinking it would take off like an aeroplane. It did not. But it is certainly gathering steam and within five years I believe the great majority of call centres will be utilising VOIP technology – which will translate to a significant cut in operation costs. This will place local companies on the international radar screen in terms of affordability.
"Sure, there are some issues with cost right now. There is a lot of finger-pointing at Telkom, but I believe we have the potential, as a country, to compete effectively on the international map, not only in terms of call centres, but in terms of business process outsourcing as well. South Africans – and South African companies – I believe, should be more positive.
"We have a lot going for us. And, if we play it right, purely in the call centre industry, we have the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in the next five years. We also just need to ensure that we stay abreast of changing trends. More and more consumers, who interact with call centres, want to – and need to – interact off mobile devices.
"Our systems need to cater for this – and cater efficiently. Call centres need to stay with the times and allow customers to interact how they choose to interact – so besides the move to VOIP, there are going to have to be other technological platforms put in place to allow for the increasingly digital world," says Mollink.