Zimbabwe: A call centre destination?

You may have seen men and women at work digging trenches and laying cables parallel to major highways across the country – these are the fibre optic cables that will make high-speed internet access a reality.

The Philippines is one of the leading call centre destinations in the world.
The Philippines is one of the leading call centre destinations in the world.

Fibre optic technology has made it possible to connect land locked Zimbabwe to Asia, Europe and America via undersea cables. Within urban centres this technology has enabled various telecom companies to connect their base stations to their switches using fibre optics, heralding the arrival of true 3G technology.

Dial up internet access is a thing of the past thanks to the high speed broadband access provided by this cable system. Broadband comes in different forms: wired or wireless. The terms leased line: 3G, WiMax, ADSL and FTTP are different ways of delivering fast internet from either a satellite hub or fibre to the under sea cable. You can have internet access right in the middle of Chimanimani mountains via a satellite dish using VSAT as long as you have electricity and a healthy bank balance.

The geographical irrelevance that the internet has brought about means that telephone calls can be made at lower costs across continents. Internet telephony means that you can talk to your cousin in Gauteng from Bulawayo on as good a line as phoning your aunt in the next suburb. Skype is one service that enables this.

Reshaping business

As a result, telephone companies are routing some of their voice traffic via the internet instead of expensive satellite connections. The use of the internet to carry voice is technically referred to as voice over internet telephony (VoIP) and is forcing traditional telephony companies all over the world to remodel and reshape their business strategies. While this kind of technology will not eliminate mobile wireless

(GSM & CDMA) revenues, it is a fact that it is already “eating” into them.

A Call Centre is a system that handles incoming calls as efficiently and economically as possible. Call Centres answer calls, then route them to agents in a skill set that most closely matches the needs of the caller. Here is an example:

A bank customer living in New York calls the customer service department of his bank to make an enquiry about a pending wire transfer from London. After being greeted by an auto attendant, his call is answered in the Philippines.

The number is dialled in American but the receiver is located thousands of miles away in Asia. Why and how? Many huge companies abroad prefer to “outsource” their non-core functions like customer service support to companies offshore. India, Singapore and the Philippines are leading call centre providers. South Africa and Kenya are also getting into the game.

Call centres need not be restricted to taking calls from outside the country. You can set up your own call centre for your business at a reasonable cost as long as you have reliable, fast internet and electricity.

The advantage to setting up a call centre somewhere like Plumtree, Masvingo or Mutare is that rent, rates and wages will be lower but internet provision from the fibre optic cables will still provide high-speed access.

Call centre set up

First and foremost you must have a client who is willing to outsource their customer service chores to you. This will involve a lot of research and business analysis to come up with a working, fundable, manageable and profitable business case. It might mean involving an expert to scout for potential corporations who might want to outsource their customer care services or telemarketing services.

I must make it clear that this kind of business requires high levels of professionalism, security, reliability and confidentiality because you will be accessing customer databases. You can not afford to setup a call centre business of this nature if your management and planning skills are not up to scratch.

For a 10 seat call centre you will need internet connectivity, computers, earpieces with microphones, desks and chairs, computer cabling, reliable power supply, relevant software, partitioned cubicles for sound proofing, a monitoring station and a coffee maker.

Once your setup is complete and you are able to make and receive calls, you have to go into a testing phase where you determine your quality of service under different load conditions like time of the day, call volume, call destination, call origination etc. This is crucial as you have to gauge and ascertain your strong combinations and weak links.

Optimal efficiency

Naturally you want your call centre to operate during optimal efficiency periods. It can be a 24hr call centre or a graveyard shift call centre depending on the time zone of your client.

A number of metrics in the form of graphs and logs are used to measure the efficiency and success of a call centre. Call quality is very important for any intelligent conversation to take place. This depends on your internet connectivity (bandwidth). If you decide to have 10 agents on a 3G wireless modem you will have an unpleasant suprise. Voice transmission is very time sensitive. So you don’t want to have a very slow connection that will compromise call quality.

You get paid more by serving more clients with satisfactory outcomes. But there is a danger of compromising customer care in a bid to meet your targets. Needless to say your agents must be well trained, patient, decisive, clear speakers and be able to handle difficult customers from a different culture.

Are you interested in setting up a call centre? Contact me at [email protected] or by phone (077) 600 2605

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