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South Africa Now Most Favoured Global Offshore Customer Experience Delivery Location

  • 6 min read

Following three consecutive years at second place, South Africa has been named the number one globally preferred front office Customer Experience (CX) offshore location. The award was announced on 8 April by Ryan Strategic Advisory’s Annual Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey. Placed second is India with a three-way placement for third place between Malaysia, Philippines, and Poland.

This coveted global award has been gratefully received by the country’s Global Business Services (GBS) sector. CEO of the GBS industry body BPESA, Andy Searle, remarked: ‘’Competing alongside established global giants such as the Philippines and India and with many emerging and strengthening offshore locations included in the running has left us honoured as 2021 first place recipients and we are exceptionally appreciative of this acknowledgement.’’

The South African GBS sector consists of a mature and sizeable domestic market and a vibrant and growing international market, delivering a range of services for both local and global clients including traditional BPO, CX and contact centre services, shared services across the finance and accounting, legal, IT, Education, HR and knowledge sectors, and increasingly a growing digital and ITO service and solutions offering.

Following intensive efforts by BPESA and the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (the dtic) to promote the South African value proposition to targeted sourcing markets, the country’s export market has witnessed high growth over the past years, with 24% increase in CAGR between 2014 and 2018 and then a jump to 34% in 2019 – twice the global growth rate of the sector, and three times faster than key competitors.

“It is our absolute pleasure to receive this award,” says Malebo Mabitje-Thompson, Deputy Director General for Industrial Financing in the dtic. “It confirms that South Africa is a notch above the rest as an investment destination with talent, technology, and know-how. Work done over many years through partnership between industry, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, and BPESA has now catapulted South Africa to the frontier of service excellence. No serious multinational company looking to enhance its back and front office work can overlook the quality and value South Africa offers. We look forward to welcoming many new investors to our shores where they will realise real value and make a real impact in our country,”.

The sector’s plans and growth could have been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and related 2020 lockdown, but due to strong and well-established public-private partnership ties, the sector along with its strategic partners in the dtic and Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and in collaboration with the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) and regional governments, reacted in a responsible, speedy, and innovative manner to ensure business continuity. The sector was deemed an Essential Service, allowing for services to continue for domestic and international global essential service-related clients and their customers. The sector’s ability to continue providing services resulted in thousands of new seats, and consequently jobs, to support new and growth client needs.

‘’It was fantastic to bear witness to how the South African GBS sector bandied together and supported one another to ensure business continuity. This engrained collaborative and community focused approach to business has benefited global clients and customers as well as the operators themselves, many of whom have since grown considerable new jobs,’’ says Searle.

With demand increasing in global sourcing markets, and work shifting from higher risk to lower risk geographies, South Africa is poised to experience even higher growth rates and has set its sights on supporting employment and investment by growing the sector’s export segment to employ an additional 500,000 people – many of whom are youth – by 2030. This award will go a long way in supporting this goal by reminding the world that our CX BPO sector remains open and ready to serve.

The South African talent pool is deep and wide which many global firms have embraced as part of their diversity and inclusion mandate. Inclusive hiring of marginalised individuals is achieved in the local BPO and CX sector through the embedded practice of Impact Sourcing – intentional hiring of marginalised individuals and communities.

South Africa, the proud birthplace of the internationally recognised Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), an initiative launched by the Rockefeller Foundation, has scaled through broad global adoption by many leading international brands and BPO operators.

The opportunity for the GBS sector to grow and scale through the methodology of Inclusive Hiring and Impact Sourcing is supporting many clients to deliver a quality service whilst also delivering on sustainable impact imperatives. This focus is strongly coupled with business transformation through diversity and inclusion, an area South Africa is a centre of excellence, where decades of experience in supporting employment equity is embraced and entrenched.

Evan Jones, Chairperson of BPESA remarked that ‘’The past year has reminded us of the need for true human connection and South African talent brings not only a high-quality interaction, but also with an added layer of empathy when engaging customers. We are thrilled that our operators and their amazing staff have been recognised by global brands as the Most Favoured Offshore Delivery Location through the annual Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey.’’

Peter Ryan, Principal Analyst at Ryan Strategic Advisory had the following to say about the results of the 2021 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey’s Top 5 Most Favoured Offshore CX Destinations: ‘’After three straight years in second place, South Africa’s ascension to the top spot in 2021 comes with little surprise. It is hard to imagine that the first time I visited South Africa to speak at an industry event in 2004, the sector was heavily focused on domestic consumer delivery, and was badly fragmented along provincial lines. What a difference 17 years makes! Aggressive promotion in target demand markets by South Africa’s contact centre community alongside a very strong value proposition for high-quality, value-add CX services propelled South Africa into first place. This is testament to the vibrancy and determination of the industry, and I express my sincere congratulations to all those that have contributed to this success. The key to remain in this coveted position for South Africa will be to maintain its focus on visibility to buyers around the world and to continually evolve the country’s BPO value proposition in a way that reflects consumer preferences.’’