Kathy Gibson reports – The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in South Africa is booming, with significantly more growth ahead.
Thanks to years of investment by government and the private sector, the BPO sector already accounts for around 100 000 jobs and has made important inroads into international markets.
Government has set a target for the sector to provide up to half a million jobs by the end of the decade as South Africa grows its share of the global $261,9-billion market from 1% to 4%.
But the only way to do this, says CCI group CEO Peter Andrew, is to change the way people think about the BPO sector, and the way we recruit and train people entering the industry.
“We think this industry is what will carry South Africa forward,” he says. “BPO providers like CCI tailor-make solutions for businesses helping them to focus on their core strengths while we take over their process work.”CCI is one of the suppliers that has partnered with government on the BPO masterplan to create jobs for South Africans.
“This year we have created more than 2 500 new jobs at CCI alone and are hoping to double that by the end of the year,” Andrew says.
“Government support is a big thing, and has been one of the country’s big success stories in terms of public-private partnerships.”
Because the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) offers a grant for international jobs created, South African companies are able to pitch their pricing at a level equivalent to competing countries while offering agents decent salaries.
With its main South African operation in Umhlanga, CCI has branches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and has recently opened offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ghana. The company employs 12 000 people, most of these within its BPO contact centres.
“Last year South Africa was voted as the top offshoring destination,” Andrew points out. “We believe this is because of the quality and strengths of South Africans – their empathy, education, resilience, and problem-solving abilities. This combines with our cost-competitiveness, good infrastructure, and technology foundation.”
All of these factors give South African BPO providers an edge when it comes to competing with the traditionally-strong BPO destinations of India and the Philippines. Indeed, 70% of CCI’s customers are in the US and Andrews is confident the company will continue to grow its international customer base.
“We can count some of the biggest brands in the world among our customers,” he says. “And being able to attract those brands speaks for itself.”
CCI has enjoyed 25% growth in the last year thanks to new international business. “Every new client we land means we can create that many more jobs for people,” Andrew says.
The company is not just creating jobs, but also helping to dispel a popular view that BPO or contact centre agent is a low-level or unappealing job.
Andrews explains that, as an inbound contact centre for major international brands, the agents are expected to be highly-skilled and certified – and there is plenty of scope for career growth.
“Our agents have to understand the clients, and their processes, products, and services. There are a lot of certifications necessary, especially for our US clients.
“We are the custodians of a lot of data, much of it sensitive, so there are processes and systems that need to be followed. Quality assurance and compliance are key.”