Business Process Outsourcing, often abbreviated as BPO, is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of a specific business process to a third-party service provider. It is simply the process by which an organization hires another organization to fulfil a specific process, task, or service. Call centers in Nigeria are quite few because of the obvious infrastructural challenges in the country, but this sector is expected to grow jobs in Nigeria within the next few years because of increasing local needs. Across the world, the term BPO is actually more commonly used to describe call center solutions, but the top BPO companies in Nigeria are more often referred to as call center solutions providers.
BPO has its root in manufacturing firms where these firms such as Coca-Cola outsource large segments of their supply chain. BPO can be typically divided into two functions – back-office functions and front-office functions. Back-office functions include services like external accounting and audit providers in Nigeria, recruitment service providers in Nigeria, quality assurance in the Nigerian software development industry, as well as payment processing companies in Lagos and top IT recruitment agencies in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, some of the new BPO providers offer software development outsourcing in Nigeria, virtual assistants, and front-office functions such as sales and marketing services, as well as customer and public relations services.
A call center is a concentrated department to which calls from both existing and potential clients are being directed and handled. They are mostly used by large organizations to provide customer service functions.
Despite the fact that English is technically our first Language in Nigeria and we have enormous talents, I have often wondered why Nigeria is not among the top five call center providers across the world. I chatted with a friend who works with the #1 call center provider in Nigeria – DelonApps, and she explained that the huge infrastructural challenges in Nigeria compared with Asia is the main reason why it has remained a tough business in Nigeria.
DelonApps provides top-tier 24/7 call center services to clients in Nigeria, United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, as well as English-speaking European and African countries.
Call centers handle a large volume of incoming (Inbound) and outgoing (outbound) calls. Inbound call centers receive calls from customers using an interactive voice response system and speech recognition technology. Many call centers use new technologies and automation to address customer inquiries and queries, and route calls to suitable call center agents. Like Business process outsourcing, call centers have two major functional areas – inbound calls and outbound call. The inbound call offers services in account management, scheduling, technical support, complaints, as well as products and service inquiries, while outbound call offers services in customer retention, lead generation, charity, fundraising, surveying, scheduling appointments, and Telemarketing.
A Brief History
Just like the story of the human evolution which began 20,0000-30,0000 years ago with the belief that man evolved from Apes – precisely the genus Homo – leading to the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species, part of the hominids group, which were the earliest human-like creatures of the great apes, Call center solutions also has its tale. From the time Alexander Graham Bell first tested his telephony in 1876 to the emergence of the automatic call distribution in the 1950s, evolved.
Although history records the first instance of using a telephone as a marketing tool in the early 1960s, when companies use phone directories to compile clients’ list and sell to customers. However, the first call center agents were housewives in the 1950s who engaged in “dialling friends and neighbours in an attempt to sell baked goods to bring extra money into the household” TCN, 2015. By the 1960s, there was the advent of a more sophisticated dialing technology and training with the UK-based Birmingham press and mail, which installed the Private Automated Business Exchanges (PABX) creating rows of agents handling customer contacts.
Migrating from PBX to a PABX system, and from Analog to Digital setups, the ’70s helped in bringing us the first multilingual system and the ACD Technology which allowed for large-scale call centers, marked the beginning of the telephony systems. The ’80s brought us good music, for example, the company – First Directpaved the way for the future of banking with its phone banking solution. By the 1990s, everyone became not just aware but involved in the process.
The dash2 system was replaced by ISDN, bringing about a revolution in the communication protocol. Contact centers linked ACDs systems with one another, enabling companies to route calls to the most appropriate channel which later supported IVR and speech recognition.
Moving into the 2000s, companies began to transfer their customer service department offshore. Around 2004, cloud centers began to emerge and successfully gained popularity over a decade and a half. However, by 2007, the trend was reversed as these companies began to move back home. Why? Probably due to Increased wages, fluctuating currency, labour productivity, and the energy cost in that country at that time. In recent years, increase in online jobs has helped to grow demands for BPO providers. Technology is further bridging distance and culture barriers. This has also created more opportunities for IT Jobs in Nigeria.
Call Center Solutions in Nigeria
Despite the invention of call centers since the 1960s, call centers only got adopted in Nigeria between 2009-2010. Call centers have slowly increased in Nigeria, creating more jobs in Nigeria and more opportunities to ease companies of the stress of having to manage an in-house call center considering the cost, technology, and security involved. According to a leading recruitment company in Nigeria – DelonJobs, just as IT career in Nigeria has grown a lot in recent years, the aftermath of COVID-19 will create many new types of jobs across the country, including hundreds of call center jobs in Lagos by 2022.
The biggest challenge for Nigerian call centers has been the huge infrastructure deficit, as compared with other countries in Asia. Today, India and Philippines are the two foremost countries producing the largest amount of business process outsourcing around the world. India had been the leading call center in the world until the Philippines came on board. Besides these two countries, BPO is also very common in Mexico, Central America, and Eastern Europe.
The unstoppable growth in technology and the swelling competitions existing among organizations has ensured “security, market, and compliance issues”. Therefore, a need for the adoption of a pragmatic approach needs to be enabled to ensure customers loyalty. This has led to the active employment of call centers in organizations, whether in-house, virtual or outsourced.
Therefore, before choosing if services rendered by outsourced call center providers should be adopted for your business, you need to take a close look at how call centers, especially in Nigeria work.
While this is a brief explanation of how BPOcall centers work, I am also using this medium to explain to Nigerian students or job seekers who might be interested in customer service jobs in Nigeria to learn about this industry that may be hiring thousands of Nigerians in the next few years. You can also learn more about this and many other career topics by watching free career webinars and reading free job articles on jobs.delon.ng.
Why Outsourcing a Call Center is often better than providing the service by yourself?
Cost reduction – equipment, facility and training cost can be spread by outsourced call centers to make their clients have a beautiful return on investment since the client pays only for services needed. Call centers can also “share agents with multiple clients if desired by each client, reducing idle time, and delivering a lower-cost-per-call-rate.”
A company’s best “brand ambassadors” – outsourced call center staff are trained to manage large customers’ list making them “trained” brand ambassadors of your brand. These agents can easily adapt to the perfect “brand ambassadors” of your brand in different scenarios. Outsourcing a call center could also give your customers opportunities to access different but effective multi-channel and multicultural experiences due to the presence of bilingual agents at call centers.
Expert management and support staff – specialists in call centers tend to be very good at what they do than generalists. Because call center agents specialize and are trained in customer service relations, they tend to easily attract a customer’s loyalty.
Effective management tools – because they are an outsourcing firm, call centers tend to invest in costly tools to measure per-call cost-effectively to help assure profitability. Cost details are also automatically shared with clients “which helps them evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns”.
Data -outsourcing centers are skilled in analyzing and managing large data sets. Agents have experience with various customers and data generated by many campaigns. “Technologies that outsourcing providers invest in, for which the cost is spread across multiple clients, include analysis platforms that unlock useful insights from large amounts of raw data” sets.
24-hour service – it is the joy of customers when they pick up the phone, put a call through to the customer service department or sends a mail or web chat and there are agents on standby to attend to them, answering all their questions. This 24-hour service is rarely offered by in house call agents in most organizations, thereby, not giving the customer an excellent experience. This could in turn lead to loss of customers. “Outsourcing providers with call centers worldwide can deliver service that ‘follows the sun’ and at a much lower cost than in-house”.
The benefits organizations get from outsourcing a call center, most especially in Nigeria is not limited to the above. The list goes on.
Choosing the Right Call Center Outsourcing Service
Choosing the right call center outsourcing service for your company is as good as hiring the right talents for your company. In Nigeria, DelonApps is a leading call center service company that provides excellent call center services to clients across the world. They also provide agile transformation services in Nigeria and own the top classified ads website in Nigeria, as well as a leading job portal in Nigeria – jobs.delon.ng.
A bad hire can either slow down work productivity or make a wreck of your business. Call centers help clients build customer loyalty and stronger relationships to improve business performance over time. They are like your best friends actively involved in ensuring the success of your business by consistently generating lead and customer loyalty. So, you don’t want to make the wrong choice.
Pricing is one of the first things to look out for when selecting among good outsourcing companies. Truth be told, the best outsourcing firms aren’t always the ones with lowest pricing but you could find a few good BPO companies that have mastered the effective use of technology to reduce cost of operation. These ones are usually able to provide premium services at affordable rates.
Service is the next thing to consider when partnering with an outsourcing company. A conscious consideration needs to be made regarding the type of service(s) the outsourcing company employs. Do they specialize in inbound or outbound service? Or are they great with both inbound and outbound? Do they offer the omnichannel service? Or is their core competency non-voice service?
For instance, when considering the right outsourcing firm to partner with, you would also want to consider if an around-the-clock service will be the best fit for your business or a few hours of service per day. The type of service being employed by the outsourcing firm is worth considering because as your firm grows, you need to be sure the outsourced company would be able to scale up alongside your company’s growing requirements.
Culture and accent are also very important when trying to select a BPO provider. If a European client hires an Asian BPO company whose call agents have very thick local accent, the client’s customers will not be happy, and this relationship will not go well. Besides accent, it is also better for the call agents to understand certain culture of the client’s retail customers. Most inbound callers are happy with their client when the call center agents are able to communicate nicely with them.
How the outsourcing company trains their staffs is also an important factor that needs to be considered before signing those papers. “Does it provide extensive training and hire experienced call center agents? What kinds of techniques are taught to those who will answer your customers’ questions?”
One of the ways to check is to try calling them occasionally at different times to check how long it takes them to answer a call and how trained they are in answering calls in terms of manner, tone and choice of words. Some companies offer trial versions, and they can be tested during this trial version.
Another factor to look out for when outsourcing a call center is the outsourcing firm’s technology. It is important while one is outsourcing a call center solution, one should look out for AI trends. Understanding that a poor technology can slow down progress in customers’ interaction, it is very important you, as the client company is aware of the technology employed by the outsourcing company.
Upgrading one’s existing infrastructure can be quite expensive, as a result, small companies choose to outsource companies who already employ these technologies. Due to how important a customers’ experience with your product and/or company is, when outsourcing, you need to look out for what technology they use and how it conforms with your company’s specific business needs. We understand how expensive the right technologies can be, but that is one of the reasons why they are being outsourced anyway.
Make sure to look out for the security measures being used by the outsourcing company. Whether a call center agent processes their services on-site or otherwise, it is important for the client to discuss this ahead with the BPO provider in order to agree on appropriate cybersecurity architecture and strategies before the commencement of service. This has become especially critical at this time, where security and data privacy are essential requirements for top businesses.
I wish to encourage Nigerian students seeking jobsto work hard to develop their skills in customer service, digital marketing, software development, quality assurance, UI/UX, and devops. The Nigerian economy is likely to produce thousands of jobs in these categories over the next five years. I will write more about software development in my next article, but I wish to highlight here to my readers that the software developer jobs in Nigeria is experience the highest growth rate in Nigeria as at today 12 March 2021. So if you have a relative with sound background in Mathematics and Science that is still confused about a career of interest, you should encourage that person to think about an IT career in Nigeria.
Finally, Nigerian universities and polytechnics in collaboration with the government should regularly work with the private sector to learn about evolving requirements and develop appropriate curricula to fill the gaps. The private sector should also provide internship and training opportunities to students to prepare them ahead for the employment market before they graduate from school. This will really help the Nigerian economy to grow and a good incentive from the government will certainly encourage the private sector in this regard.
Gbemi Olupona writes from Lagos, Nigeria.