In its 2013 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, UK-based contact centre outsourcing specialist, Merchants, arguably said it all: “South Africa has the most inconsistent customer experience of all countries tested. In extreme cases customer experience ranks as either on par with the best, or amongst the worst, in the world.”
But, reports the ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’ in its latest February-March 2016 issue, the findings seem to have had little impact. “Nothing has changed since 2013,” says Lisa Roos, Business Development GM of Merchants South Africa, one of the local call centre/contact centre industry’s biggest players.
Inconsistency in the domestic market stands in sharp contrast to the notable success SA is enjoying in the offshore market. The country has a huge number of facilities and staff that are dedicated solely to serving offshore customers on behalf of major international companies. The latter employed almost 27 000 local agents in mid-2015, 15 000 more than just three years ago. Call centre/contact centre agents serving the domestic SA market number an estimated 200 000-plus.
The reason for the vast gulf in quality between most domestic offerings and their international counterparts is simple. “The international market demands a high standard of service and gets it,” states Roos.
By global standards, SA contact centre agents are ranked highly on their ability to communicate with empathy, says Lynnette Morris, founder of the Johannesburg-based Contact Centre Coach and Academy, which works across Africa as well as in Europe and the Middle East. This begs the question: Why, then, is service in the domestic contact centre sector so inconsistent?
“The inconsistency problem in the domestic market lies in the captive contact centre sector,” says consultant Rod Jones, a veteran of four decades in the industry. ‘Captive contact centres’ are owned by the company that requires the service and are not contracted out to third-party specialist companies. Jones points to the cause of the problem: “It is at the top; in boardrooms. They lack understanding of the importance of service in customer retention and view contact centres as a reluctantly funded cost.”
The ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’ explores this and other marketing-related topics in the latest February-March 2016 issue. The magazine is published five times a year by the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM). Available in print and digital format, it is read and referred to by professional marketers and those working in related fields, business executives, IMM alumni and IMM Graduate School students.
The print edition is on sale at selected CNA and Exclusive Books outlets countrywide, or available via subscription. Copies are also distributed via a targeted professional mailing list and through selected airline lounges and the IMM Graduate School’s student centres.