The South African call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) market has emerged as a leading global destination for English-speaking and bilingual call center services. For more than a decade, South Africa’s outsourcing sector has earned prestigious awards and recognition year after year for high-quality human talent with exceptional language skills and emotional intelligence — prized capabilities for handling today’s increasingly complex customer service and support transactions.
In addition to its youthful, educated and tech-savvy workforce, South Africa’s top-performing BPOs have adopted leading-edge call center platforms to ensure business continuity to their outsourcing clients. This blend of skilled staff and high-tech innovation translates into increased agility, which allows South African call centers to quickly and smoothly pivot their operations and workforce to handle any crisis — even a global pandemic.
According to the September 2020 McKinsey Report (“Driving Economic Recovery in South Africa’s BPO Industry”): “While lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus compromised business continuity across the world, South African contact centers were quick to migrate to remote-working models and were able to remain operational with minimal disruption for clients.” In addition, the South African government’s vigorous support of the industry has been evident throughout the global lockdown by granting local BPOs essential service status to ensure that the service provided to clients has never wavered.
Seven Reasons to Consider South Africa as an Outsourcing Destination
Admittedly, adaptability to fast-changing market conditions is a remarkable asset in our current unpredictable business landscape, but what is the longer-term appeal of South Africa as an outsourcing destination? While there are myriad reasons why some South African call center outsourcing providers are deemed world-leaders in BPO, the following are just a few key considerations for putting South Africa on your outsourcing destination shortlist.
A BPO Market Poised for Growth
South Africa’s BPO market currently employs some 240,000 call center agents, which is projected to increase to 300,000 agents by 2023. The BPO market, valued at $3.1 billion, has grown by 21%-23% annually, according to the BPESA (Business Process Enabling South Africa), the national trade association and specialist investment promotion agency for the South African BPO and contact center industry.
In addition to strong backing by an actively involved national industry body, a supportive government invests heavily in the South African BPO industry, committing funds and resources to develop the skills of the workforce and help improve call center operations.
South Africa’s cultural affinity, similar time zones and superior English language skills attract a significant portion of U.K. firms looking to save costs. In fact, more than half of the work performed by South Africa’s call center outsourcing providers currently comes from Great Britain. This workload is expected to expand as the impact of Brexit uncertainty prompts more U.K. companies to consider outsourcing their services.
Likewise, more US brands have recognized the destination’s high-quality English-speaking service delivery and are tapping into this skilled workforce. The South African BPO market is home to captive/in-house call center operations for companies like Amazon, which recently added a work-from-home model to its workforce in South Africa. The online retail giant announced in June 2020 that it was hiring an additional 3,000 work-from-home customer service and technical support associates to provide 24/7 support to customers in North America and Europe.
Large, Educated Talent Pool
Companies like Amazon have discovered that ramping up a call center operation in South Africa — whether on-premise or work-from-home — can be accomplished quickly and efficiently. South African call center outsourcers draw top talent from a large population of young, well-educated, tech-savvy individuals currently estimated at 16.5 million, with 410,000 English-speaking individuals added to the national workforce each year, according to the BPESA. These outsourced call centers are staffed by English-speaking call center agents with high levels of empathy and superior problem-solving skills who are empowered to resolve complex customer issues.
Besides customer service delivery, the BPESA reports that South African BPOs also have been expanding service and support solutions to the IT, banking and legal sectors, which have shown considerable growth. South African BPOs have access to an ever-expanding talent pool of entry-level candidates who are recent graduates with IT and engineering degrees (over 60,000 graduates each year), and an ample base of job candidates with financial services degrees. Analytics also has been a fast-emerging specialty in recent years.
Continuous Skills Training & Development
The South African government is keenly focused on the continuous skills development of its BPO labor force to ensure continued growth and expansion of the BPO sector.
Building on the quality of the workforce’s English-language capabilities, the BPESA is actively identifying demand for new skills among the BPO and call center workforce, and aligning training and talent resources (delivered by government and private businesses) to ensure the continued growth of the industry and that current and future needs for skills are met.
Cost Savings & Incentives
South African call centers offer a 50%-60% cost savings for English language outsourcing compared to US call centers. The South African rand continues to weaken, which will translate into further cost savings. A recent analysis reported by Bloomberg noted that the rand hit record-weak levels in April 2020, and it may take a while for it to rebound against the dollar. This will undoubtedly help South African BPOs and call center providers to compete more effectively with lower cost outsourcing destinations.
In addition to cost savings, South Africa offers many cash and tax incentives for job creation, upskilling the workforce, hiring impact workers and call center “learnership” programs.
Experienced in Customer Service and Support for Leading Brands
While cost savings can be significant for large global brands like Amazon, consistently high quality and performance of South African call centers have attracted many leading US, UK, Canadian, European, Australian/New Zealand and African corporations, including BMW, Samsung, Barclays, GE and more. While South Africa operates in the same time zone as many European countries, quite a few US brands are prioritizing the quality of the customer experience over time zone convenience when selecting an outsourcing destination.
Unsaturated Call Center Labor Market
Despite significant market growth, the call center labor market remains unsaturated. Call centers and BPOs are located in South African cities near local universities with access to a plentiful source of educated job candidates. Cape Town, the most mature call center location is home to the largest and most skilled call center talent pool, along with exceptional infrastructure and quality of life. The BPO sector in cities like Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth is also expanding at a fast pace.
Government Commitment to Infrastructure Improvements
To prepare for hosting the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, South Africa underwent major infrastructure improvements. Ten years later, South Africa’s government is once again investing in new infrastructure. Over the next decade, the government plans to invest $133 billion in new infrastructure, including seven digital infrastructure projects to meet the new and growing demand for virtual services.
Today, access to best-in-class global carriers allows for secure and reliable international connectivity, and urban hubs are currently expanding fast internet networks.
Finding the Right South African Call Center Outsourcing Partner
If you have never considered South Africa as a call center outsourcing destination, it may be time to take a closer look. Powered by a young, educated and tech-savvy workforce, and a business climate conducive for high-quality customer engagement call centers, the South African BPO sector has a lot to offer.
CustomerServ’s South Africa call centers — hand-picked and vetted by us following intensive and on-site vetting — are staffed by highly empathetic and empowered complex problem-solvers who are recognized for delivering world-class customer experiences. Our due diligence ensures that your South African call center outsourcing vendor(s), agents and operations teams are an extension of your brand and values. Our knowledge base and expert matchmaking process will mitigate your risk and increase your chances of success with a South African call center partner.