If you’re looking for a way to set your business apart, look no further than the improvement of customer service. A snap survey of the attitudes of ordinary South Africans to general business service levels reveals that most people think the service they receive leaves much to be desired. “Retaining customers you already have is so much easier than trying to get new ones,” says Morwesi More, founder and director of Plan B Call Centre Solutions. She believes call centres are one of the most effective tools available to businesses to improve their customer service levels. “It is easier for both customers and businesses to interact via a call centre rather than face-to-face each time a customer has a query or complaint. Also, removing the need for a walk-in centre can help minimise business costs,” she adds.
This might be stating the obvious, but the fact is that businesses in South Africa have been slow to make use of call centre solutions. This is particularly puzzling considering that our skills base is of a high enough standard to prompt many UK-based companies to set up their call centre operations in this country. Few people understand precisely how call centres can be used to help their business materially improve its customer service levels. “The result is that businesses are reluctant to spend money on setting up a call centre, in spite of the fact that doing so is an investment in better customer service,” More adds. But these industry-specific challenges have not been a hindrance to Plan B’s success. Started by More three-and-a-half years ago with funds she had saved, the company now employs almost 280 staff members and has clients in the government, private and parastatal sectors. As a promoter of the importance of customer service, More is on call 24 hours a day. “A client can call me at 3.00am and my service level agreement states that I have to respond within an hour,” she explains. A zealous pursuit of service excellence drives the training of her call centre agents. “The business has a first-call resolution policy which means that our agents are trained to solve a customer query immediately. If that’s not possible, we call the customer back.” When asked what makes for a good agent, she replies, “They have to understand the client and their products and be able to gauge caller satisfaction.” Ever vigilant about its service levels, the company also conducts regular customer satisfaction indexes and randomly monitors calls at its various centres.
Much of the company’s success can be attributed to this stringent quality management system, but some of the credit must also go to More’s willingness to break into new territory. “I’m not a comfort zone person and I like to take risks,” she says. There are few call centre solutions specialists in the industry and Plan B is the only one that is 100% black- and female-owned. More explains that overcoming negative attitudes towards her race and gender has been a challenge. “Key decision makers in business are largely white and male and some find it hard to believe that I can provide them with a cost-effective and efficient call centre solution,” she says, adding that international clients can be equally prejudiced. She has also experienced the flip-side of the race coin where companies award Plan B call centre contracts precisely because it’s black-owned, but have no real faith in its ability to deliver. Infuriating as these attitudes can be, More has chosen to focus instead on building a track record that nobody can argue with. “I have nothing to prove and I try to let the work I do speak for itself,”she adds. Her goal for the future is simple: “When people think ‘call centres’ I want them to think Plan B Call Centre Solutions,” she says, explaining how she aims to firmly establish a footprint in the private sector so she can make the most of every opportunity that comes her way. Young, talented and hard-working, this is one woman the industry is sure to hear more of.