South African contact centres are looking to new opportunities, including offshore markets, to keep their businesses healthy during the economic downturn.

For instance, Direct Channel Cape, a subsidiary of the 3 000-strong BPO Direct Channel Holdings group has been undergoing an aggressive diversification strategy over the last 12 months.
"The job market, particularly in the case of SMMEs is suffering. There are no real growth opportunities, which is why we have shifted our focus to sustainability and improving the current service offering, as opposed to actively seeking new clients," says Shafick Hamdulay, MD of Direct Channel Cape.
"Until recently, we have focussed almost exclusively on the domestic market, but we are now seeing real opportunities emerging from offshore markets as companies look to reduce costs without compromising on quality, in the wake of the global economic crisis.
"To ensure we stay ahead of our competitors, we offer end-to-end solutions that cover all aspects from new business acquisition and fulfilment services to after sales servicing. This is then the point where quality of service becomes the differentiating factor, allowing for a single seamless customer and end-user interaction experience," adds Hamdulay.
Direct Channel Cape currently operates out of Worcester and the Cape Town CBD, providing 200 jobs in the Western Cape. The group focuses on local call centre initiatives, combining employment opportunities with a strong emphasis on corporate social investment.
One of the group's most successful ventures to date, has been its 55-seater call centre in Worcester. The centre is operated by members of the local community and blind or partially sighted students from the Pioneer School for the Blind.
"The centre makes use of state of the art infrastructure and allows those with partial vision and in some instances complete blindness to work as fully operational call centre agents," says Hamdulay.
CallingtheCape, a government assisted organisation which is focused on promoting investment and improving networking in the contact centre industry, is currently working together with Direct Channel Cape to increase exposure and build upon its current base.
"It is imperative that projects like the one in Worcester get off the ground. There are so many great opportunities out there and if local government can buy into the call centre industry and work in partnership with local providers, they could create numerous jobs, not only in the major cities, but in towns throughout South Africa," says Sipho Zungu, CEO of CallingtheCape.