Safaricom signs up firms for call centre services


A customer care executive serves clients at the Safaricom call centre on Mombasa Road in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE

Safaricom is using its extra capacity at its customer care centre in Nairobi to handle client queries for other companies at a fee, making an entry into the business process outsourcing (BPO) market.

The telecoms company said Thursday it had signed contracts with firms in the aviation and fast moving consumer goods sectors whose identities, however, it declined to disclose citing client confidentiality.

The Jambo Call Centre on Mombasa Road was initially set up to handle queries of pre-pay and post-pay customers, data and M-Pesa users, sort out issues for its dealers and offer directory services.

But Safaricom has decided to sign on third-party clients to maximise on the extra capacity and human resources.

“Our investment in a state-of-the-art call centre equipment and the fact that we have gained significant experience in creating specialised customer care systems have made us an attractive option for a number of companies who would like to outsource their customer care functions to us,” said corporate affairs director Nzioka Waita.

The announcement comes on the backdrop of news that the Kenya’s pioneer BPO firm, KenCall, is facing liquidation for failing to pay creditors Sh6 million. The company had more than 600 customer care attendants at its peak.

READ: Jobs on the line as creditor makes last call for KenCall

Safaricom said it is offering short codes, social media engagement and other related call-centre services to the third-party firms. Some of the lucrative areas in the BPO are in skilled services such as software development and consumer research.

The Safaricom call centre is manned by 1,500 employees who on a daily basis manage an average of 75,000 calls and respond to 2,500 queries via social media to its 21 million mobile subscribers. The centre, however, has capacity to handle more than 100,000 queries.

In addition, the facility also includes a dedicated social media response team.

Stiff competition

“Over time, we have noted that our subscribers are becoming more sophisticated, so we have additionally invested in self-care options such as our online portal and have dedicated short codes to facilitate communication with subscribers,” Mr Waita said.

Kenya had nearly 40 BPO firms seven years ago, but this number has shrank to about five weighed down by rising operating costs and shrinking opportunities for new contracts.

The bulk of outsourcing work has been digitisation and call centre facilities, which is the domain of Indian and Philippine firms that have offered stiff competition for local companies.

The BPO firms had also anticipated contracts from telcos and banks. However, companies such as Safaricom and KCB Group decided to have their own in-house call centres.

Other than looking to the international market for work, the local BPO operators have been concentrating on voice segment for services like customer care and telemarketing.

These are less lucrative and have seen Kenya lose many BPO opportunities despite having a bubbly techie community that has won major awards in software innovations.