This report is on the South African contact centre industry and describes the state of the industry, employment numbers and trends and sector-specific developments. There are comprehensive profiles of 42 companies. These include Merchants which, with holding company Dimension Data, bought Canadian Millennium 1 Solutions; Business Connexion, which said it would retrench about 700 employees following a weak financial performance; and Webhelp, which is involved in an initiative to boost BPO skills in South Africa.
Contact Centre Operations
The South African contact centre industry, which is a subsector of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, contributes approximately R53bn annually to South Africa’s GDP. Through various government incentives and industry initiatives, South Africa is attempting to grow its share of the BPO market to 4% of global revenues by 2030, from around 1% some years ago. The industry employs more than 228,000 consultants or agents, of which 38,600 are focused solely on international business. Contact centres are an important sector for job creation as they are labour-intensive.
Challenges of Automation
South Africa has a booming local contact centre economy and has been able to attract foreign investment due to incentives offered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). In addition to the cost savings, South Africa is attractive as an offshore destination as it has good quality English-speaking talent and government support in areas of skills development and infrastructure incentives. While it is a job creator, automation and artificial intelligence will affect job creation opportunities as some contact centre functions become automated. Chatbot technology is being deployed for relatively simple, mundane tasks, leading to concerns that agents will become obsolete. However, artificial intelligence will increasingly be used to automate routine tasks so that human agents can focus on escalated issues.