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SA’s contact centres rival India’s market dominance

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South Africa is looking to dislodge India as a top offshore location for contact centre delivery globally.

This is according to non-profit organisation Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), after SA was recently named the second most favoured offshore location for call centres worldwide.

The annual 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey conducted by global firm Ryan Strategic Advisory was conducted with 540 senior decision-makers responding on behalf of 240 businesses representing 42 countries spread across multiple sectors.

This is the third year in a row that SA has consistently taken second place, straddled in 2020 by two mature sector giants – India in first place and the Philippines in third.

BPESA says factors that contributed to placing SA include: cost, an attractive price point including cost of labour, real estate, taxes and sector-specific government incentives; labour availability and linguistic skills; business climate; as well as health and safety.

Other stand-out efforts that impacted SA’s ranking include the ongoing push to promote the country as a customer experience delivery destination of choice to the international market by the industry body BPESA in collaboration with social partners and national government.

“The energy and effort on the ground in South Africa from different constituencies to ensure the country can service foreign markets makes it an incredibly relevant choice for foreign service providers,” comments US-based industry analyst Stephen Loynd of TrendzOwl.

According to BPESA, an interesting development increasingly influencing buyers’ choice of location is the growing adoption of impact sourcing, where recruitment intentionally takes place in marginalised communities.

It notes this practice of sourcing talent is gaining traction as a sound commercial recruitment policy as opposed to simply a social investment.

“In South Africa, the sector employs an astonishing 260 000 young people, of which 65 000 service international clients and provide services into Europe, the United Kingdom, USA, Asia, Africa and Australia,” says BPESA CEO Andy Searle.

“Last year, we recorded 34% employment growth, generating 15 086 new jobs, 13 102 of which went to youth aged 18 to 35 and 1 353 of which were inclusively hired through the impact sourcing approach. Notwithstanding current market conditions, we can add as many as 500 000 digitally traded service jobs over the next 10 years depending on market conditions.”

BPESA says the question for the local business service sector looking forward is: “What needs to be done to secure the coveted first place in next year’s survey?”

It notes that with unarguable global competition, SA, as an offshore location offering deep domain skills and a mature voice-based talent pool, is fast catching up in non-voice and digitised services.

“We have already proven ourselves as a quality skills destination. In addition, and perhaps crucially in these times of crisis, South Africa has proven it is agile and can adapt and innovate to ensure continued service to its clients and customers,” says Searle, referring to the fact that many local contact centres and BPOs providing services to both domestic and foreign markets ensured safe, workable solutions during the COVID-19 hard lockdown period.

He says the sector-wide collaboration placed South Africa in a position to not only continue servicing global clients and customers with essential services but also saw additional volumes of work shifting to the country as it picked up the slack of operations in other jurisdictions.

Intelligent Sourcing reports that outsourcers in SA, along with the industry representative body BPESA, have been possibly the most aggressive stakeholders of any country in the offshoring game in regards to investment promotion over the past 12 to 18 months.

It notes these efforts have included multiple delegations to Australia, the UK and North America (long a coveted demand region for South Africa’s outsourcing community).

These initiatives are bearing fruit, as witnessed in this year’s ranking, it says.

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