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SA call centres support vaccine registration programme

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South African call centres have received a boost from the country’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccine programme.

This, as government’s registration process for the COVID-19 vaccine this month shifted to the 50 years and above population group.

As the vaccination programme continues in SA, the health department has rolled out four mechanisms to register for vaccinations, namely the electronic vaccination data system, popular messaging service WhatsApp, USSD and a toll-free hotline.

Now, a broad group of organisations, including Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), CCI South Africa and CareerBox have partnered to provide call centre support for the National Department of Health’s vaccine registration programme across SA.

CareerBox, for its part, is responsible for using impact sourcing to identify and train agents to assist the public to register for the vaccine and to deal with queries around the vaccine registration process.

The national government is rolling out the vaccination programme in a phased approach, with the aim of vaccinating 67% of the population.

Part of efforts to support the rollout programme included the set-up of a COVID-19 public hotline (0800 029 999) to assist South African citizens that are 60 years and older to register for the vaccination.

The contact centre was opened on 17 May with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with representatives from BPESA, CCI and CareerBox.

Ensuring employee safety

In a statement, the organisations say this contact centre for the vaccination registration campaign is backed by local business process outsourcing industry body BPESA, while the 100 agents were sourced from within CCI South Africa, which is also providing team leaders, operations managers, reporting, and safety, health, environment and quality representatives.

They note that given the current environment, strict measures have been put in place at the contact centre to ensure employee safety and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“With the recent announcement of South Africa's unemployment rate rising to 32.6% between January and March 2021 and more than 7.2 million officially unemployed, it is imperative, now more than ever, that businesses adopt initiatives such as impact sourcing to contribute and kick-start the economy,” the organisations say.

“The impact has been especially hard felt among youth, as well as women, with black African women remaining the most vulnerable group, with an unemployment rate of 38.3%.”

CareerBox says it was brought on board to drive impact sourcing, which sees skills development and training being provided to youth and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to place them in entry-level jobs that offer an opportunity at a career and sustainable future income.

It points out that this not only benefits the individual, but has a positive impact on their families and communities as a whole.

“CareerBox worked with CCI to identify suitable candidates from within that organisation’s existing pool of contact centre agents, before putting them through a rigorous training programme to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to efficiently assist the public to register for the vaccine rollout programme and deal with queries,” says Lizelle Strydom, MD of CareerBox.

“This included an eight-hour train-the-trainer session, as well as a longer two-day training programme for all the selected candidates. In total, 100 contact centre agents, 14 team leaders, four quality assessors and two operations managers were trained.”

She adds that with a majority of the identified candidates having already undergone workplace readiness training as part of CareerBox’s impact sourcing programme, the training sessions focused more around product training, familiarising agents with the system, and educating them around the compliance requirements.

Inbound call success

According to Strydom, the campaign had answered over 30 000 inbound calls with a successful answer rate of 98.5% about vaccine registrations, as well as queries from the public in the first 14 days.

This includes confirming if people are already registered, registering persons over the age of 60 or those over 18 with co-morbidities, healthcare workers and to assist people in changing the dates of their vaccination, she adds.

“This partnership shows what is possible when business, government and civil society come together and look at how each of them can play a role in driving positive change in South Africa,” Strydom says.

“We have been able to take a challenging situation and turn it into a positive one that can be used to support high-growth industries while providing career opportunities for disadvantaged youth and women, who are particularly affected by the high unemployment rate in our country.”

“We as a business are honoured and of course prepared to work with all stakeholders to ensure this programme runs as smoothly as possible,” says Peter Andrew, MD of CCI South Africa.

“To play such an important role in protecting and saving the lives of South Africans means we must work tirelessly to provide the best service and ensure our staff are well-versed to handle a project of this magnitude.”

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