There is much speculation about the next “in” location for call centre outsourcing. India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Chile and The Dominican Republic are well known for their outsourced call centres. We now look at whether Egypt could become the next potential outsourcing location.
Written by Jonty Pearce, Editor, Call Centre Helper.
We were rather intrigued this week when a press release crossed our desks, claiming to be from the “Largest Call Center facility in Southern Mediterranean region”. We thought that it was a good time to investigate.
Located on the edge of Cairo in the rather posh-sounding location of “Smart Village”, Xceed (the IT arm of Telecom Egypt) has set up a large outsourced call centre. 1,200 agents can be housed in the facility.
Most likely as a base to serve the Arabic speaking world, the centre can also support calls in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Portuguese.
Xceed seems to be targeting calls from both Europe and the Middle East, but Ahmed Refky, Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at Xceed says, “we own the basic foundations of this industry starting with Human Resources; more than 200,000 university graduates, are multi-lingual and have high communication skills. In addition, the infrastructure in Egypt is as good as that in European countries and far exceeding those in the Middle East. The geographic location of Egypt and our time zone is also a factor that facilitates providing customer service around the clock.”
Perhaps not surprisingly the centre’s biggest customer is Telecom Egypt, but the centre has also won a contract for providing customer support for Microsoft Clients in Europe and the Middle East. The contract was won after competing with international specialised companies in IT-enabled services after a lengthy bid process. Bill Gates visited the centre
earlier in the year. Xceed also take calls for Microsoft, Oracle, Neuf Telecom (France) and General Motors.
While Morocco and Tunisia have targeted themselves at service for the French market, Egypt seems to have been a late entrant into the outsourced call centre market. Datamonitor put the size of the Egyptian call centre market in 2005 at only 655 agent positions. This is about the same size as a single large western call centre.
Datamonitor have compared Egypt with other call centre locations. While Egypt is much cheaper than other outsourced locations such as Canada, Mexico and Poland, it is marginally more expensive than India. Typical costs of $14.50 for an hour of inbound customer service compare with $13.30 for an hour in India. However, India has recently been plagued by spiralling attrition rates, whereas Egypt would likely still be in the “honeymoon phase of call centres”.
Establishing a Mediterranean hub, as Egypt has done, has not all been plain sailing. A stir was created last year when French-owned network operator Equant took a decision to offshore jobs from its Sydney call centre to Egypt. The move was to deploy a mere 13 staff, who provide helpdesk support for airline IT systems. Who knows what will happen if bigger call centres move across?
The Egyptian government has made a great effort to improve the information and communication technology. A new Ministry for Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) has been tasked with providing a state-of-the-art national telecommunication system to enhance Egypt’s global competitiveness.
Still Xceed will not have everything all its own way. It will face stiff competition from Raya Call Centres, part of Egyptian technology company Raya Holdings, which provides outsourced contact centre services to clients in Egypt and the region.
Since launching its services five years ago, Raya has provided outsourcing services for clients from all sectors, including Allianz, Unilever, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Novartis and Aventis.
So will Egypt become the new India? Well, if it does, you saw it here first.