South Africa Spotlight: How we create expert customer service advisors at Sigma Connected – a Q&A with Sharna Stemmet and Shannon Rietmuller
At Sigma Connected, we always put people first whether that’s our own teams, our clients, our clients’ customers or the community in which we operate. This policy is most clearly seen in our human approach to customer service, but it’s also an important factor in how we treat our employees. From advisors and team leaders to company directors (and everyone in between), our staff are a crucial part of our brand.
However, everyone has to start somewhere. At our South African call centres, we invest a lot of time and effort into recruitment and training, empowering all our customer service advisors to perform to the best of their ability.
Interested in finding out more? Read on to hear from the experts. We spoke to Talent Acquisition Specialist, Sharna Stemmet, and Human Resource Generalist, Shannon Rietmuller, to understand how our South African call centres deliver seamless customer service.
What traits do you look for when recruiting for Sigma Connected?
Sharna: “It’s definitely a mix of a few things. We need people who are empathetic, who can create and maintain good customer relationships, who know when they’re speaking to a vulnerable customer, and who can work well under pressure. We also do a language skills assessment within the recruitment process because we need people who are articulate, with a good command of English.”
What’s the recruitment landscape like in Cape Town?
Sharna: “When it comes to call centres and BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing), Cape Town is honestly one of the best places for recruitment. Since I started working here, we’ve never struggled to recruit. I really do think it’s down to the amazing pool of people and talent we have here.”
What makes Sigma Connected’s recruitment strategy different?
Sharna: “Impact Sourcing is a one pillar of our recruitment strategy, which means we try to specifically hire people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our Cape Town centres are within a 30km radius of several disadvantaged areas, so it’s important to Sigma that we can hire local people and give them a chance of earning more than a liveable wage and to be the breadwinners of their households.
“Also, our youth unemployment rate is very high in South Africa (63.9% in Q1 of 2022), so we do like to give an opportunity to individuals coming out of their last year of high school, with no experience or clear path but are expected to contribute to the family income. A lot of the time they end up doing really, really well! They’re exceptionally loyal to the company and campaign they are assigned to, sometimes more so than experienced customer service advisors who come from another BPO.”
How does Sigma Connected ensure new recruits are fully prepared to start their customer service job?
Shannon: “An important part of our onboarding process is the whole day that we dedicate to an induction and Q&A. We invite all new recruits in for a day and explain the business and our expectations, so they understand what Sigma is all about.
“Afterwards, we’ll have a Q&A. Since we do a three month probation period, one of the questions we get asked frequently is if we are offering a permanent contract. It’s definitely permanent, but that three month probation is vital so we can assess recruits’ progress, and provide them with appropriate coaching to enable them to do their job effectively and reach any targets they have.”
After the initial onboarding, are there further opportunities for training?
Sharna: “Onboarding takes place over a single day, then training follows immediately after. The length of training varies depending on the campaign — some might be three weeks, some are shorter. There are training sessions on the systems they’ll use, as well as mock calls to practise their communications skills.
“They also have the opportunity to deconstruct well-executed calls to see why they’re good. Finally, we have specific training on the countries most customers are from, building cultural awareness.
“Then, they’ll go into grad bay. This is an environment that offers a higher ratio of team leaders to advisors, so there’s always someone to answer questions. It helps give the new recruits the confidence to perform to their best ability.”
Are there career progression opportunities for customer advisors within Sigma?
Shannon: “Yes, definitely — Sigma is always growing. A lot of people come with the misconception that they can only be a customer advisor, but there’s a lot of opportunity if you want to be in operations, or any of our back office functions . I actually started as a customer service advisor, moved to be a HR administrator, and was only recently promoted to my current role as a HR Generalist.”
Sharna: “We have a programme called the Siggy School, which gives customer advisors the opportunity to learn team leadership skills (you can read more about it here). That makes our recruitment process so much easier and more streamlined because we’ll have fifty or so people internally who are ready to take on a team leader role. Because of these initiatives, the vast majority of our promotions are from existing employees moving up the ladder.”
Customer service you can rely on with Sigma Connected
At Sigma Connected, we invest a lot of time into our recruitment and staff training so that they can act as ambassadors for our clients’ brands. Our South African call centres offer organisations an excellent opportunity to access an offshore customer service team. If you’re interested in building a team with Sigma Connected, get in touch. You can click here to contact us and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.