In most industries, a recession means job losses, budget cuts and general financial doom and gloom. In the BPO industry, however, there are also opportunities.
This is the opinion of Sipho Zungu, CEO of CallingtheCape, who points out that South Africa has excellent infrastructure, we provide highly qualified labour, staff attrition rates are low, we have cultural affinity to both Europe and the US, and are well positioned to the European market in relation to time zones.
"Because of these factors increasing numbers of overseas investors have started looking to Africa as a call centre destination," he says. "This movement, combined with the impact of the recession opens up the South African market as a viable option particularly for first world countries looking for cheaper alternatives."
He cautions, however, that South African will never be able to operate in the same space as the likes of India and the Philippines.
"South Africa is a high quality destination and we should, therefore, market ourselves accordingly. BPO investors that come to our country aren’t coming here because we are the cheapest, but rather because we provide them with value. As a call centre if you hope to take advantage of the opportunities that the recession creates, it is important that you target the correct cliental."
A detailed understanding of the local call centre industry is equally important," Zungu says. "Certain industries will suffer more than others during the recession.
"Sales-based centres, for example, rely heavily on the financial strength of their cliental, when people have less disposable income, attracting new customers becomes increasingly difficult and as result business suffers. It is important to incorporate this thinking into your business strategy and look for future trends.
"Creating a flexible business offering will assist in reducing potential risk. When there is no new business coming in, a shift in planning is required whether it’s a move from customer acquisition to customer retention or inbound to outbound calls. By expanding your service offering you will be able to minimise your business threats," he says.
"With seemingly no immediate end to the financial crisis, it is important to shift focus from the negative aspects of the recession to the positives. South Africa is a great destination for both local and international investors and as long as we market ourselves correctly and are able to adapt, the industry will continue to grow and develop."