Despite the economic hardships seen this year, key industries like call centres are still seeing growth – although it is more subdued than in the past.

The BPeSA Western Cape/Deloitte Key Indicator Report is set for release in November and will provide insight into the growth and development of the call centre industry in the Western Cape over the past 12 months.
The first report launched in 2005 was used to highlight the importance of the industry to the province. Since 2003/04 the number of jobs created by call centres has risen from 6 500 to 27 819 in 2007/08.
The key indicator report provides a comprehensive overview of the call centre space in the Western Cape, focusing on key industry trends such as, diversity, salary bands, attrition rates, employee /company growth, the impact of the recession as well as various opportunities and threats.
Following major growth in the industry over the last four years, 2009 is expected to see a certain degree of consolidation, as the job market begins to stagnate.
“Maintaining the same level of growth we have seen over the past few years during a recession was always going to be difficult, although we are not experiencing the same rate of development, the industry is still growing, albeit at a reduced rate,” says Sipho Zungu, CEO of BPeSA Western Cape.
“As was expected this year, a number of call centres have come under increased financial pressure, but with the negative impact of this, certain positives have also arisen. The BPO industry is focused on cost efficiency and as a result, during a recession, global BPO providers will increasingly look abroad for alternate destinations that can guarantee quality without having to pay a premium, this puts South Africa in a good position," Zungu adds.
Deloitte Consultant on the Key Indicator Report, Christian De Klerk believes that despite the expected consolidation of the market, certain key industries can still expect to see substantial growth. With the World Cup coming to South Africa in 2010 and the influx of an estimated 400 000 tourists to South Africa, a huge demand for inbound call centres will be created.
“The top three industry agent providers from 2007/08 report; telecommunications (4 117), retail (3 184), and financial (2 054) are also expected to develop and could soon be joined by government contact centres which have shown a marked increase during 2009,” says Zungu.
“Other interesting trends that are set to emerge from this year’s report include an increase in ethnic diversity at all levels of employment, from agents through to top management. This change has been brought on by more black employees coming through the system. This is a definite change to previous years where many of the management positions have been filled from outside the company,” says De Klerk.
De Klerk adds that the report will also shed light on the role and impact of HIV/AIDS and drug abuse on both employees and their respective companies. “These issues are highly prevalent to the call centre sector due to the demographics of call centre staff.
“As the importance of dealing with HIV/AIDS has been well documented, most call centres have developed structured plans to assist their employees, ranging from treatment, counselling and of course preventative measures. The call centres we spoke to admit that it is still a very serious issue, but one that is being managed far more effectively than in the past,” says De Klerk.
“One issue that was a source of concern during the interview process was drug abuse. Research points to the fact that it is becoming increasingly problematic for employees both at work and outside of the workplace. There was a general consensus that action needs to be taken to deal with the issue immediately.
“Despite being impacted by the recession, the Western Cape call centre industry is still expected to grow during 2009,” says Zungu “Based on the figures from previous years it will not be at the same rate as before, but considering that we are still in the middle of a recession the call centre industry is performing remarkably well, which is a good sign for the future," De Klerk adds.