I was down in Cape Town, South Africa, last week. This is a market that was very strong about five years ago – they really were the place that everyone was exploring for European call centres, but then for some reason they went off the radar.
That was partly through a combination of the government reviewing how much money they spend on promoting the region, and a dearth of really good local players that could promote their offering without government money. But regardless of what happened then, it seems they are back with a bang.
South Africa is positioning itself, once again, as a key player in the BPO market with a focus on customer service, but this time exploring new areas that are different to more traditional outsourcing – social media support and agents that are working entirely off-script, with autonomy to just do what is needed to keep the customer happy.
You might ask what this has to do with Central and Eastern Europe, the general focus of this blog?
The key target for the South Africans is directly to their north, Europe. They are on the same time zone as continental Europe, and have a strong cultural and business affinity with several western European countries. They also use English as standard for education, so kids grow up using English, but other European languages are not hard to find.
So if they re-emerge from the shadows and start winning a number of BPO and IT deals that support business processes in Western Europe, it will remind many that they are still around. Some big names, such as Amazon, have shifted German and British customer support down to South Africa only recently when this might have been expected to stay in the CEE region.
It looks like the football world cup in 2010 has woken the business community to the opportunities in South Africa and the CEE customer service players are going to have to fight a little bit harder to compete.