By Prof. Monish Gunawardana INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT – As globalization and contracting out increase, developing countries like Namibia have new opportunities to export services to businesses, public sector institutions and non-governmental organizations in developed countries. Readers of my previous article on the “BPO Industry” were very eager to know more about Call-Centers’ and this article provides vital information on this promising field for our country. What is a Call-Center? A call-center is a place that manages the businesses’ relationships with their customers through the telephone. You may have obtained the service of a call-center when you have made an airline reservation or called for technical support on a recently purchased washing machine. The person who responded to your telephone call is known as the ‘Agent’ or ‘Customer Service Representative.’ When you dial for an emergency, an agent at a call-center will respond to your call. In a call-center, you will see many agents in their cubicles, wearing headsets and using computers contacting their customers. After assisting one customer, the agent moves to the next one, who was waiting in the line. The electronic board displays how many calls are waiting on hold. If all agents are busy on the line, an automated system plays a greeting, a pleasant message until an agent becomes free. Types of Services Agents of well-established call-centers are able to resolve 95% of inquiries on the first call. The next generation of advanced call-centers will be fully automated and staffed by around 20 agents. Many call-centers receive calls from customers as well as give calls to customers. Modern high-tech call-centers automatically blend inbound and outbound calls at the same time. The inbound and outbound tele-services of call-centers are as follows: Inbound Tele-Services:- They offer customer-centric services focusing on receiving calls from customers. On a busy day, a call-center agent may attend to around 100 calls. Order taking, airline/hotel reservations, recruitment responses, membership registration and data-capturing/proces- sing are some of the inbound services. Outbound Tele-services:- Not all call-centers receive telephone calls, but many of them make calls. They are known as outbound call-call-centers and their range of services include tele-marketing, customer relation management, debt collection, fund raising, appointment handling, database development, customer-behaviour surveys and market research. The size of a call-center depends on the number of calls and transactions it handle. The small call-centers with around 20 seats are becoming popular. Indian BPO giants such as ‘I-Call’ which caters for American businesses maintain 1,000 seats of high-tech call centers in Ahamedabad. Generating Jobs During the past years, India and China, two developing nations, miraculously generated and retained the GDP growth rate of 8 and 9.5 respectively, by utilizing knowledge-based service sectors, including the call-center operations. Datamo-nitor, a consultation firm, estimated that call-centers have generated 54,000 jobs for some African countries and 6 million jobs worldwide. The IT-based services industry, including the call-center industry, could transform Mauritius into a rich country in Africa. Tunisia could provide 5,000 jobs through newly established call-centers. South Africa boasts of 500 call-centers which generate 31,000 jobs. Kenya’s Nairobi-based ‘KenCall’ call-center employs 200 graduates. Above-cited success stories suggest us to follow the outsourcing footsteps to generate jobs for our youth and keep good food on the tables of all Namibians. Competitive Traits Developing nations such as India, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Mexico have vast pools of English-speaking youths backed with university degrees. And they are prepared to work for a lower salary than their western counterparts do. This permits developed nations to get the best service at a lower price. Foreign companies contract some tasks to free up corporate resources to focus on their core businesses and sustain their competitiveness. These factors generate outsourcing jobs for developing nations. Besides that, strong quality assurance systems (e.g, ISO 9000 registration) competitive telecommunication infrastructure with 100 percent reliability, reputations backed by the credibility, accessibility by air and socio-political stability are factors which foreign companies look for, prior to offerering outsourcing contracts for a call-center. Infrastructural Needs This industry demands rapid and steadfast telecommunication facilities with adequate bandwidths dedicated and leased lines, and reputable Internet Service providers (ISPs). In addition they expect flat rate pricing, tax-free services, global toll-free numbers and an efficient maintenance service. The computer systems of call-centers should support Internet, Intranet, Firewalls, and data-warehousing. In addition, they require large floor areas and parking facilities. A pleasant and safe environment is vital to enhance the efficiency of the workforce. Let me give a good example: ‘Dhirubai Ambani Knowledge City’ is the campus of the ‘Reliance Infocomm BPO,’ just outside Mumbai. Public taxies are not allowed beyond its security gate and eco-friendly golf-buggies transport workers and visitors through grass-bordered alleyways adorned with glass sculptures and flowerbeds. These types of aesthetic and peaceful infrastructure stimulate the productivity of all stakeholders of this knowledge industry. Information Sources Readers can browse the following websites for infor-mation on call centers: www.centerindia.com www.intracent.org www.call-center.net www.truedataonline.com UNCATD/WTO International Trade Center, Palais des Nation, 1202, Geneva, Switzerland (email: itceg@ intracen.org) is the address where you can obtain more information on the BPO industry. Piece of the Cake Our colleagues in South Africa and Kenya have already tasted small pieces of the outsourcing cake. Namibia should quickly grab a big piece of that cake too. We have excellent infrastructure. Let us mainstream the information technology in all development plat-forms.HERO Company, India’s largest motorcycles manufacturer, started a massive call-center – HERO-ITES, that provides thousands of employment and billions of dollars to India. This is how the corporate sector should diversify their investment productively to develop a nation. Hence, I invite big firms like Namdeb, MTC, O&L and Trustco Group to establish call-centers in Windhoek. Let us develop Windhoek as the digital-capital of Africa. As I believe, the service sector and outsourcing industry can transform Namibia into an affluent nation.
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