Cape Town as an offshoring destination bowled me over. Here’s why…

As the new Director of Business Development with Sigma Connected, I’m responsible for the strategic relationship with our current Australian clients, and for growing our portfolio. 2 weeks into my new role I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Town to experience the city, meet our teams there and visit Sigma Connected’s well established contact centre operations. 

Despite ~12 years in BPO spent working with contact centre operations in other offshore destinations, such as India and The Philippines, this was my first foray into South Africa. Here are the impressions I came away with.  

Like most people, the first thing that hit me about Cape Town, our contact centres, and just South Africa in general, was the warm welcome. It seems like an inherent thing there, to look out for people, make sure they’re comfortable and to just be friendly. 

It’s a beautiful city and a great place to do business. You’ve got the sea, bustling city life and Table Mountain is right there. And everything’s just easy. Twenty minutes after stepping out of the airport I was at my hotel – all the infrastructure, the quality of the roads etc, is great.  

When I arrived at Diep River, the location of one of our 5 contact centres, I loved that the building is a converted warehouse, so it was really big, open and airy with lots of natural light. No rows and rows of tightly packed workstations, the space per agent is fantastic. That and the mezzanine levels, with a rooftop view of Table Mountain, just makes it a really pleasant place to work. 

But it was listening to calls that really bowled me over.  South Africa really does shine when it comes to voice, especially complex conversations and queries. The chat between agents and customers was natural and free flowing and, thanks to a close cultural match, I heard calls where they literally could’ve been talking to each other within the same country. It was really impressive.    

Attrition is low too, lower than not only other offshore destinations, but our contact centres have lower attrition than any other Cape Town provider. I was walking around chatting to people and realised that the tenure of our agents is incredible, which is a real proof point of an engaged workforce. Unlike other BPOs our contact centres are in the suburbs, with one in a township, which means it’s less of a commute time for our people, we also provide transportation to all employees. To me these things are huge plus points.  

We pride ourselves on being different at Sigma Connected and I’m seeing evidence of that everywhere. From bringing jobs to the people, to Impact Sourcing (which I’ll get onto in a minute), to powerful case studies that validate why Cape Town is such an attractive BPO destination (and one that’s currently under-represented in the Australian market). 
 
Seeing Impact Sourcing (hiring and providing career development opportunities to individuals from marginalised communities) in action was really special. We’re lucky enough to work with some amazing Impact Sourcing partners, but our buildings are literally connected to Shadow Careers so I met with Franco Cotumaccio, its co- founder, and dropped into a class. I could hear firsthand the difference it’s making to people’s lives and how it’s delivering back to us as an employer too.  

Many people ask about the cost of offshoring to South Africa. In previous roles, when I presented other offshoring destinations, I always said that when it comes to voice, there will inevitably be a gap when compared to onshore. The savings are significant, and we will minimise the quality gap as much as possible, but there will always be that gap. But that’s often OK for simple voice transactions.  With South Africa there’s no gap – and I would go as far as to say it can be a little better thanks to the large talent pool there and high empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ) levels. And, you can absolutely still save significantly compared to onshore costs.  

There’s definitely a place for all offshore destinations but, without a doubt, if you have complex voice requirements, need interaction and empathy, the value that SA delivers in terms of customer satisfaction is huge. We’re already servicing Australian customers from Cape Town, so if you’re not already onboard, we’d love to talk about how it could work for your business.  

About the author

With over 20 years in telecommunications and 8 in energy retailing, Tim has extensive experience in field services, customer service, sales, credit and back office. As director of outsourced operations at Optus Tim led a large, complex BPO operation spanning multiple geographies and companies. At Energy Australia Tim was responsible for the establishment and ongoing management of a customer-focused, accountable and highly effective BPO enterprise, delivering significant cost reductions and highly engaged customers. Since joining Sigma in 2023 Tim has been working with Australian companies to provide outsource services across sales to service to collections – and everything in between. You can connect with Tim on LinkedIn.

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