Offshoring to South Africa: a Q&A with Bevin Sandras

Great and consistent customer service is the bedrock of any successful business, whatever the industry.

Ensuring customers’ needs and demands are met in a timely, professional and friendly manner is crucial for companies to survive and thrive.

Offshoring these services – particularly to South Africa – is just one-way a business can achieve the high standards of personal and knowledgeable customer service that grow and maintain loyalty and deliver exceptional value for money.

Here in the latest of our Q&A series, we sat down with Cape Town-based Director of International Operations Bevin Sandras, to discuss the benefits of offshoring and why Sigma Connected is best-placed to support.

It’s great to chat to you Bevin. Perhaps we can start with asking the main reasons why companies should consider offshoring to South Africa?

Bevin: Thanks, it’s great to be here, and to be taking part in my first question and answer session.

First and foremost, I think there is an inherent culture of warmth in Cape Town that lends itself so perfectly to customer service. That shines through, certainly with our advisors, who have a natural empathy and engage with customers in a professional and friendly manner.

People want real interaction when they contact call centres, knowing they are talking to a human being who has the skills to solve their problems – not an automated service which offers no real interaction, understanding or empathy.

Known for being incredibly warm people, it’s proven that South Africans build rapport and engagement with customers that foster relations and truly connect with people.

Strong and personal customer relations are at the core of the Sigma Connected offshoring ethos. We deliver on quality and remain committed to finding solutions to our customers’ queries and building brand advocacy. In doing so, our customers walk away satisfied that their issues have been resolved or their questions have been fully understood and answered.

It’s also important to say that as we are providing careers for people and not just jobs, it means our teams are passionate about hitting their targets so they can grow the careers and reputations internally and externally.

This is a question which will be near the top of most people’s lists. Is there a cost saving when offshoring to South Africa?

Bevin: In short, yes.

Offshoring customer services to Sigma Connected here in South Africa enables us to provide at minimum like-for-like quality of service to our counterparts in the UK, but with the benefit of lower costs.

In addition, we have access to a large resource pool of quality advisors, providing a high level of service at great value. Access to such a large labour pool enables flexible and agile customer service operations – giving us the ability to scale up or down very quickly, and respond to system, process, environmental or seasonal changes at a rapid rate.

We have a passion to provide a world class service in a warm and friendly way, giving our clients a real value proposition that maintains customer loyalty and their brand reputation.

We currently provide offshoring services to companies in the UK, which has a very strong cultural alignment with South Africa, but we also have plans well underway to expand this offering to businesses in the USA and Australia soon.

 Why should companies offshore customer services to South Africa when other countries may be perceived as cheaper?

Bevin: We have found that levels of customer engagement and customer satisfaction is much higher in South Africa – partly because of the inherent culture of the people and also the brand loyalty we have been able to achieve by providing longstanding and meaningful employment to people from local disadvantaged communities through our Impact Sourcing initiative.

Statistics show that the levels of first call resolution is higher in South Africa than other countries whilst any customer metric – whether that be NPS or CSATS – also rank much higher when business is carried out in South Africa, especially in Cape Town. It is no accident that South Africa has been voted the best global offshore location for the past two years – underlining the quality of the people working in the industry here.

What is the transition process when moving contact centre work over to Sigma Connected in South Africa?

Bevin: One of the many things we pride ourselves on is ensuring a smooth transition of operations when clients move over to us in South Africa, whether that be from onshore to offshore or from another offshore provider to ourselves.

We have an entire team solely to oversee the transition of every client and all work associated with that process.

We have years of experience and expertise in dealing with some of the biggest brands in the UK, meaning the scaling up of operations from an IT and facilities perspective are all catered for, resulting in a seamless transition.

We can increase – or decrease – the number of advisors needed on a campaign within weeks whilst also running large scale campaigns where there is a requirement to create as little customer facing disruption as possible through the transition of the business offshore.

With the BPO industry being identified as a key growth area to support the South African economy, what does that mean for Sigma Connected?

Bevin: We work directly with the government Trade & Industry body, which supports the BPO industry and has teams dedicated to support its growth. This government support enables the industry to help create jobs and career opportunities across South Africa.

As a result of this hugely supportive government influence and input, South Africa has been voted the most desirable offshoring destination for two years in a row, which provides a huge boost to Sigma’s work and our dedication to providing such services to UK clients in the industry.

Recently, we also received a personal endorsement from South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Youth Day conference for our work in supporting youth employment within the industry. That was a huge milestone for us.

Moving on to the people side of things, Sigma Connected has become renowned for recruiting through Impact Sourcing. Why is that important?

Bevin: Being a socially responsible employer is crucial to us, which is why the use of Impact Sourcing has been fully embraced.

We remain committed to ‘giving back’ – and are proud to see the difference we are making in communities by providing jobs to people from disadvantaged backgrounds who would not have otherwise been given such opportunities. Our high-profile jobs boost to the Mitchells Plain township in Western Cape is just one example where we have taken jobs, careers and opportunities directly to the people.

We provide our workers with the skills and training they need to thrive in their roles and progress in the organisation, creating an immediate positive impact on the communities with which they and many of our employees live.

The importance of the loyalty they then show towards us – and in turn the clients we represent – cannot be overestimated. This loyalty is reflected in such low attrition rates, which every business knows is the key to maintaining exceptional levels of service.

What do our clients think of the work Sigma Connected do through Impact Sourcing?

Bevin: Being a socially responsible employer is crucial to us, which is why the use of Impact Sourcing has been fully embraced as one of our recruitment strategies..

They can see first-hand the difference we are making to individuals’ lives who have been given career opportunities their circumstances may not have previously afforded them.

Our clients regularly comment on the efficiency, professionalism and capability of our customer services teams, and the support they provide.

Trained in-house to our exceptionally high standards, clients are thrilled with the level of engagement, warmth and openness of our advisors. We are receptive to new ideas which allows us to be creative and agile in the way we deliver operations. A lot of this comes down to the strength in relationships we build with our clients and partners.

But we know we have to be better than many other countries; not equal to them, but going further and faster in every area when it comes to quality, innovation and standards. We also have to invest more, ensuring we deliver for every client.

What data security processes are in place for companies considering offshoring to Sigma Connected?

Bevin: There are of course natural concerns among companies when customer data is being processed offshore.

However, all of our data is housed in the UK from our Head Office and handled in exactly the same way as any other call centre in any location in terms of processing and security.

We carry all relevant compliances through our HQ, such as FCA and GDPR, and all regulatory certifications to operate a fully licensed service from South Africa so clients can rest assured that their data is completely secure.

And finally, Bevin, why should companies choose to offshore services specifically to Sigma Connected here in South Africa?

Bevin: I honestly believe our culture makes us different to anyone else. We are brave, we are willing to try new things and not scared of change.

This approach brings with it a level of flexibility and agility that means we can put clients’ needs ahead of business requirements in terms of delivery. We go the extra mile to offer them – and in turn their customers – a service tailored specifically to them.

Our business culture is built on the foundation of respect for each other – and this continues into our client relationships and ultimately relationships with their customers.

We are brave because we are prepared to be a pioneer in this industry. Just one example is being the first and only BPO to take the call centre jobs to Mitchells Plain in Western Cape – taking jobs to the people who need them most.

That’s been a big step for us and shows just how committed we are to playing our part and helping local communities in South Africa.