Energy suppliers in the UK, facing an unprecedented energy crisis, are getting offers of help from a surprising source – South African Business Process Outsourcing companies.
The UK energy regulator is having to find new energy suppliers for customers who used to be serviced by now-defunct companies. The new energy suppliers don’t necessarily have the resources to manage a slew of new customers.
Clinton Cohen, CEO of iContact BPO in South Africa, explains that the domino effect of the energy crisis in the UK is huge. It’s not simply a case of restoring supply but also managing the transition and take-on of hundreds of thousands of new customers to new suppliers, all in an incredibly short space of time, under tremendous pressure and without any budgetary provisioning made for the sudden increase in the cost of doing business.
With headquarters in South Africa, iContact serves global businesses within the energy utility sector. “The reality is that very few, if any, energy suppliers are geared for this rapid transition in terms of the human resources, administrative and technical support, data protection and client-facing servicing requirements demanded of the rapid take-on of new customers, all of whom need access to gas and energy as quickly as possible. BPO businesses are geared for exactly this kind of situation where rapid scale, business continuity and professional delivery are crucial, and where businesses need a solution without incurring massive capital outlays to what is essentially a transient challenge.”
According to Cohen, during unprecedented crises, systems, processes, technology, people and rapid scaling ability must be designed to support clients to manage their customer engagement and service through proactive offshoring strategies. “At the same time, the hard costs of the rapid take-on of thousands of new customers needs to be managed as it’s highly unlikely that any provisioning would have been made for a situation like this.”
South Africa is currently the third-largest offshore location for UK and Australian organisations for BPO services. Then there is the SA contact centre industry, which includes call centres, technical support and back and front office services for multinationals, which has also recorded exceptional growth in recent years, driven by strong support by government through the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition incentives.