Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 March - 5 April 2006
Issue No. 788
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Outsourcing excellence

An Egyptian call centre achieves elite status, by becoming the first in the Middle East and Africa to receive certification from the world's leading authority on contact centre best practice standards. Pierre Loza reports

Based in Egypt's Smart Village, Xceed call centre celebrated the receipt of the first Customer Operations Performance Centre (COPC) certification to be awarded in the Middle East and Africa. In an event which was attended by Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tareq Kamel, company CEO Adel Danish described the award as a "a valuable endorsement to the offshore outsourcing industry in Egypt, which will reinforce Egypt's position as a recognised and preferred call centre destination".

Outsourcing could be as simple as an Egyptian agent answering a telephone-call placed from France, by a client who needs help with how to use software. An industry like outsourcing thus requires language skills as well as technical knowledge. In this respect, Egypt is regarded as having great potential in outsourcing because of the availability of its easily- trained human resources.

Xceed's CEO says that he recognises the Egyptian government's efforts to reinforce the IT industry. This includes providing funding for training potential employees, reducing international telecommunications prices, and, even, subsidising trips to international exhibitions. But he also underscores that much remains to be done concerning the pricing of Inter Arab telecommunications. "It is cheaper for me to do business with Europe or the Unites States compared to Kuwait, for instance, where [telecommunications] prices are very high. I think this is something we should try to change." Created in 1997, COPC provides the only standard in the telecommunications sector that specialises in the call centre industry. COPC Chairman Cliff Moore praised Xceed's performance, calling it "one of the best" that his company has come across. "Most companies take about a year to get certified, but [Xceed] did it in only eight months."

Some companies demand COPC certification for their outsourcing options, which means that getting certified becomes a sure vote of confidence for those receiving such certification, especially in emerging markets. There are currently only 150 COPC certified call centres in the world. Moore says that certification plays a considerable role in determining how an outsourcing destination is viewed. "India has had the most rapid adoption rate of the standard, which is part of the reason it is viewed as a favourable outsourcing destination," he said. COPC will continue to audit Xceed's performance in 2006, in order to monitor whether it can continue to be awarded the certification.

Egyptian MCIT Minister Kamel said he believes the award indicates the existence of an indeed booming and evolving industry -- one that has been the outcome of efforts exerted on several fronts. "Together with the Call Centre Association and the support of Telecom Egypt, we were able to reduce the prices of international telecommunications and remove all the regulatory barriers for this offshore business. [This was done in a manner] effectively matching international prices available in India and the US," Kamel said. The minister also cited Egypt's placement in 12th place on the A T Kearney Global Services Location Index of 2005. The US comes in the 11th position on the same index. Kamel also announced that a ministerial task force would be entrusted with implementation of the A T Kearney offshore services recommendations.

COPC and the MCIT are also planning to cooperate in training of managers on both the domestic and regional levels.

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