South Africa has been a major destination for global business services — often called business process outsourcing (BPO) — for a few years now.
In particular, the country has steadily climbed the ranks when it comes to contact centre operations. Among the factors in the country’s favour are a young, skilled, and English-speaking workforce, sophisticated infrastructure and an enabling environment, and strengthening ICT infrastructure.
The extent to which the industry has successfully cultivated these advantages was revealed recently when South Africa ranked first in the world as a destination for BPO in a survey of over 600 executives from eight key sourcing markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.
According to McKinsey, the overall South African BPO market is valued at $461-million and employs more than 270 000 people in six cities.
While we should celebrate that success, taking advantage of cloud-based, VoIP telephony could see South Africa grow its BPO sector even further, adding much-needed jobs and investment.
That’s according to Euphoria Telecom CEO John Woollam, who says: “The South African BPO sector has done an amazing job of selling the country’s unique capabilities to major corporate players around the globe. With the right application of technology, the sector could grow even further.”
According to Woollam, one of the best ways of doing so is to move away from traditional contact centre infrastructure.
“Many companies are locked into expensive, on-premise contact centre infrastructure that won’t scale,” he says. “Cloud-based computing removes the need for that infrastructure by moving the contact centre functionality over to a third-party provider, hosted on an external internet server. A cloud contact centre provides quick and easy access to the tools and services businesses need to communicate in today’s web-based world.”
As Woollam points out, that move to the cloud comes with several benefits, including reduced costs and increased flexibility.
“Because they’re hosted online, cloud contact centres make interactions accessible from virtually anywhere,” he says. “This effectively removes the need for physical premises. As long as agents have an internet connection, they can effectively work from anywhere.”
As a result, BPOs can hire the best possible talent from across the country, rather than being restricted to one location.
Another benefit of VoIP and cloud-based contact centres is that they can scale easily. Because cloud-based contact centres require minimal onsite infrastructure, your contact centre can expand and contract as needed.
“That means contact centres can easily handle short-term contracts and seasonal ebbs and flows (a client may, for instance, require additional contact centre support during major holidays),” says Woollam. “This in turn means that BPO operators can open themselves up to a wider pool of potential clients who have different needs at different times of the year.”
It’s also worth noting that the things that currently make South Africa a great BPO destination can only take it so far.
“Other countries are catching up to South Africa,” says Woollam. “In order for the country to remain a desirable BPO location, operators have to ensure that they’re providing the best possible customer experience.”
Here, taking a cloud-based approach can be advantageous too. To start with, it allows for a far simpler, and faster deployment of platform integration options. Integrating your on-premises contact centre software with other services is possible, but between licensing and installation, it can rapidly become a nightmare. By contrast, the service providers of cloud-based contact centre solutions have designed their products to integrate with other services to enhance your customer support. You can easily integrate your CRM system, call script generators, helpdesk tickets, survey templates, and much more with your phone software.
Agents can also access online databases that display customer interaction histories across channels which can help agents resolve calls and other customer queries faster. Because agents can access contextual information ahead of time, they don’t need customers to relay it every time they call. With this information at their fingertips, agents can reduce the average call handle time and increase first call resolution and customer satisfaction.
“Customer experience is the number one differentiator between companies today,” concludes Woollam. “Using VoIP, cloud-based contact centres, BPO operators can ensure that their customers’ clients get the best experience possible.”