India to Durbs for UK call centre

21 November 2005

Brightview, a UK internet service provider with
250 000 customers, has moved its call centre from India to the KwaZulu-Natal coastal city of Durban in a £2-million (R23.5-million) deal with South African contact centre Bizworks.

David Laurie, CEO of Brightview chief executive, said the main reason for the move was high turnover levels among call centre agents in India. South Africa has a turnover rate of 5% to 15% a year, the second lowest in the world, while India’s rate stands at 35%.

“India proved to be cost effective, but ultimately failed to meet our customer’s expectations,” said Laurie.

Another reason for the switch is culture and language. South Africa is an English-language environment in the same time zone as most of Europe, giving it an edge over competitors such as India, the Philippines, Hungary and China.

“Durban offers a highly skilled and culturally aligned workforce,” said Laurie. “Although the switch is recent, I am confident not only that we will be able to maintain a similar cost base to India, but that the service level will dramatically improve.

“Call centre agents need to think outside the box, show empathy towards clients and troubleshoot. South Africa’s population is culturally diverse and good for call centre work.”

SA’s call centre potential
Earlier this year the South African government and business leaders committed to developing the country’s potential for hosting call centres by facilitating permission for firms, boosting infrastructure and creating enticements.

South Africa’s call centre industry employs some
65 000 people, with about 70% of clients coming from the UK.

Last year UK insurance company Budget Group announced a R100-million investment to set up a call centre in Cape Town.

Laurie said the cost of setting up the call centre in Durban was 60% cheaper than in the UK in terms of rental, staff and other operating costs. Tony Archer, responsible for Brightview’s move from India to Durban, found the process painless.

“I arrived in Durban in August and over the last 12 weeks we have employed 43 agents and trained them to deal with all aspects of an inbound technical support and customer services process,” he said.

“I have been impressed with the standards the agents have reached within such a short timescale. The task of opening our call centre in Durban has been made easier as a result of the fantastic work ethic and enthusiasm of our team here, as well as the support from Bizworks.”

Developing Durban
Durban is being actively promoted as a contact centre and business process outsourcing destination with the eThekwini Municipality establishing the Durban Investment Promotion Agency to facilitate and encourage new and existing business investment into the region.

The process has been accelerated by the formation of KZN On Source, KwaZulu-Natal’s dedicated call centre forum. KZN On Source aims to train 1 000 call centre agents next year.

SmartXchange is another initiative of eThekwini Municipality, aimed at promoting the city’s ICT development. The company helps develop IT entrepreneurs in partnership with the more established IT players. Bizworks is based at the SmartXchange facility.

“No other South African city has as much local government support for the call centre industry,” said Willy Govender, CEO of Bizworks. “The eThekwini Municipality is taking up the challenge to provide jobs and skills for the region and is succeeding in growing the local economy.”

Bizworks has employed 43 full-time call centre agents to field an expected 25 000 calls a month from Brightview’s 250 000 customers.

It is estimated that the call centre industry will create 3-million additional jobs worldwide by 2008. reporter