Thursday, June 25, 2009

New offshore developments in the European Market

The blog is back from a week's sailing and is much refreshed. (Apologies to readers, but this is the European Contact Centre Blog, so please understand that the blog takes a European approach to getting enough vacation!).

I was very interested to see two new developments in contact centre offshoring while I was away. South Africa and Egypt may not be countries that instantly say "Europe", but both are making big plays for a share of the European outsourcing market.

The first was that South Africa did extremely well at the Contact Centre World EMEA awards on the 17th June. There were South African gold medals wins in the categories of Best Community Service Award for Kelly, Best OutSource Partner for The Institute of Performance Technology and in the the Best Supervisor for Zainool Abedeen Bux from Rewardsco Contact Centres. there were also a number of good silver medals and other runners up awards. There's a good report here at the Contact Centre World EMEA site or in the news section of the BpeSA Gauteng site. I've long thought that South Africa was potentially the next big thing for offshoring (see past posts like "Offshore - why I would go for South Africa over India") and the evidence seems to support this. I like the focus and the marketing on "business process offshoring". This is is a good differentiator over the "your mess, for less" approach of some of the Indian firms that have competed simply on the lower cost of Indian agents. Instead, a focus on process allows the South Africans to stress the value add potential of their work that comes with the cost advantages of their local labour market. I've always thought that with the widespread use of English and Dutch in South Africa (I know it's Afrikaans, but it will work for the Dutch/Belgian Flemish markets), that the South Africans have a potential advantage in any offshored work that required good language skills.

Meanwhile, on June 11th, Cisco announced that it was setting up a significant contct centre operation in Egypt that would to provide service for Europe and the Middle East. This is a 300 person centre which will provide customer service for Cisco's emerging markets customers in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. This is a very interesting example of the power that government intervention and support can have, as the Egyptian Ministry of Telecommunications has been building up the country's contact centre and IT capabilities. The Egyptians were quite prominent at the UK's Contact Centre Expo last year (see my post "UK Contact Centre Expo Day 2") as the South Africans were the year before, which was what prompted me to write the "Offshore - why I would go for South Africa over India" post.

My suspicion is that there is enough market in Europe for both South Africa and Egypt to win share. I also suspect that this won't hurt the competent and forward thinking European call centres who understand the need to add value and be efficient. I suspect the casualties will be those older contact centres in Europe that weren't adding much value and are no longer meeting customer needs. Of course, one other important point is that both Egypt and South Africa have the opportunity to become regional hubs for Africa and they will both I suspect have opportunities to grow beyond the outsourcing market.

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