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Why UK companies are flocking to South Africa for contact centre services

uth African call centresCompanies large and small are making the decision to outsource parts of their operations offshore in a bid to cut costs, improve customer wait times and free up funds to invest in better technology.

Contact centre offshoring, in particular, is becoming an increasingly popular BPO activity. In a 
Global Contact Centre Survey from Deloitte, 35% of the 300 global respondents polled said they outsource their contact centre services.

Whilst India and the Philippines long dominated the global market, call centre services & solutions in South Africa are growing at a rapid rate, with South Africa fast establishing itself as a reputable, world-renowned BPO destination. According to HfS research, the industry has grown annually by 30-35% over the past five years, and employs around 210,000 people.  

Now regarded as a serious player in the BPO market, South Africa won the National Outsourcing Destination of the Year as well as the European Outsourcing Association Offshoring Destination of the Year in the last 5 years. 

The Q4 2023 BPESA Quarterly Jobs Report highlights that voice-based contact centre agents dominate the South African outsourcing landscape, making up 75% of the jobs pie. This is despite the acceleration of generative AI and chatbot software in customer service.

There are numerous reasons why UK companies are offshoring their contact centres services to South Africa – here are some:

Cost reductions

Cost plays a key role in the decision to outsource a business process. Deloitte’s most recent Global Outsourcing Survey infographic, which compiles responses from 280 executives across the globe, reveals that 59% of outsourcing practices are carried out primarily to reduce business costs.

On a steady-state operating basis, UK companies can make savings of around 50% by offshoring contact centre work to South Africa, according to industry association, BPESA. Adding to this is a favourable exchange rate and a national BPO incentive currently being offered by the Department of Trade and Industry, which pays investors up to R184,000 (GBP 9,800) per job created.  

Large talent pool

Every year, approximately 410,000 English-speaking people join South Africa’s national labour force, with the country ranking third in terms of global destinations able to support English services, BPESA explains.

And it’s not just the English language South Africans are skilled at speaking: many individuals, particularly in Capetown, are multilingual, with native or near-native speakers of German, Dutch, French and Italian easily accessible.

With such a broad language skillset, South African workers are able to provide emotional quotient (EQ) responses to customers, as opposed to mere intelligence quotient (IQ) responses. This results in exceptionally high service levels which match and often surpass service levels in other locations.

Broad skillsets

The South African workforce is skilled to deliver entry level service all the way through to more sophisticated back office tasks. For instance, BPESA notes that South Africa’s third stage education system creates three times more qualified actuaries than in India every year, along with large numbers of chartered accountants and other specialists.

South Africa has regularly topped The World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) list of 140 countries for offering the highest level of Auditing and Reporting Standard. This, coupled with the fact that South Africa’s data protection laws are in line with those implemented in the UK and EU, should bring an added layer of confidence to any business looking to offshore services to the country.

The city of Durban in South Africa is also a hub for telemarketing and retention activity, with companies throughout the UK and Australia outsourcing outbound customer contact to vendors there.

Cultural fit

It is widely accepted that South Africans have a strong cultural affiliation with people living within the UK, as well as Europeans, Americans and Australians. The South African accent is notably more neutral than other accents, and is therefore easily understood by customers in the UK.  Request a South African sample call.

Industry focus

According to BPESA, three industies in the UK stand out in terms of their adoption of South Africa as an outsourcing destination:
1. utilities and retail energy, with 37% share of outsourced work
2. insurance, at almost 18%, and
3. telecommunications, at almost 14%.


South Africa boasts a world-class infrastructure, from its healthcare and education to its roads. Visiting South Africa is simple, owing to regular, international direct flights.

The cost of living in the country’s main cities – including Johannesburg and Cape Town – is markedly lower than that of other BPO hubs such as New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, the country’s position sees it sharing a time zone with Rome, meaning it is in a good location to serve the UK market.

With the benefits listed above, it’s easy to see why business process outsourcing in South Africa is incredibly appealing to firms seeking to outsource their contact centre services.

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