South Africa’s call centre industry should prepare for more offshore interest, with a boom in outsourcing demand on the horizon.
This is according to Dave Paulding, Interactive Intelligence’s sales director for UK, Middle East and Africa, who says South Africa has always been an appealing option for international companies looking to outsource their contact centre operations – but the much-anticipated explosion has never actually happened.
"The reason is obvious: the country’s legacy of bandwidth availability and costs," he says. "But this is set to change when new undersea cables come online later this year."
Paulding explains that people thought Seacom would be the answer for South Africa's business processing outsource (BPO) operations, but it failed to deliver the boom.
"This is mostly due to the fact that most Internet service providers (ISPs) have not adopted Seacom as their primary bandwidth supplier because of redundancy issues," he says. "As a result, cost benefits have not yet been realised, meaning that South Africa has remained an expensive destination for international companies in search of outsource partners.
"In spite of the country’s work ethic, labour costs and the fact that it sits in a parallel time zone to Europe, many offshore organisations have selected other markets such as India to host their call centres."
However, with three broadband wholesalers in the South African market expected by the end of 2010, companies and ISPs can tailor their connectivity solutions to maximise redundancy and minimise cost, Paulding says. This will have a marked impact on the country’s historic bandwidth costs issues, and the spin-off for contact centre BPOs will be significant.
"By the end of the year, we should see offshore interest in South Africa's call centres soar."
Another key development both locally and abroad is the move to cloud-based communication solutions, but both small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large multinational corporations.
"These hosted offerings deliver the full functionality of traditional in-house platforms, but at the fraction of the cost, all of which can be carried within a company’s operating expenses," says Paulding.
He adds that consolidation is also driving the trend to BPO, with the acquisition of Nortel by Avaya possibly the first in a series of similar announcements.