Talk like an Egyptian

The multilingual and hospitable nature of the Egyptian workforce makes the country an ideal location to outsource call centre operations. Businesses should not be put off by political uncertainty

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Despite well-documented political unrest since January 2011, Egypt maintains its position as a lucrative destination for European and US companies to outsource and host call and shared service centres.

For organisations looking to outsource call centre operations, the most common locations have long been India and the Philippines. In fact, the association was so strong between call centres and the Indian subcontinent that alternative regions have been all but ignored, regardless of the great opportunities and potential that many of them possess.

The tide, however, is turning, with many companies seeking out new locations for contact centres. Egypt is geared to take advantage of this emerging trend by utilising the numerous benefits in its favour. Not only is it ideally located between America, Europe and India, but it also boasts a strong talent pool and a naturally hospitable culture.

Business as usual
Following the events of the Egyptian revolution, some companies have expressed reservations about the viability of maintaining operations within Egypt. One company that has successfully insulated itself against such upheavals is Etisal, maintaining a “business as usual” policy throughout.

Etisal was founded in 2003 as the call centre arm of the Riadaa Group. Since then the group has grown organically, with one centre in India, two centres in Saudi Arabia and three in Egypt. The centres are staffed by 3,500 employees, including many university graduates capable of speaking Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and myriad other languages. The company’s highly skilled and multilingual workforce have helped see Etisal named as the Best Outsourcing Call Centre Services Company, Middle East – 2013  by European CEO.

“During the uprising, we continued business as usual for 364 days out of 365,” says Mohamed Eissa, CEO of Etisal. “People in Egypt want to work. Even during the unfortunate incident where the previous government cut the telecoms, the international lines between us and the world remained intact.”

Customers’ doubts, he says, are generally assuaged once they have seen Etisal’s capabilities and the country’s potential. Whether they need to expand an existing call centre – but lack the space – or are attracted to the country’s human resources – but don’t want to establish a facility themselves – Etisal is fully equipped to meet every requirement.

“We do operate a call centre in India, but Egypt can serve the world differently,” says Eissa. “Egypt is much better suited to multilingual projects, with many of our population receiving American, British, French and German national education and able to speak the languages without an accent. Egyptians are also very welcoming and customer-service-oriented.”

Outsourcing for all
Etisal is also highly flexible in terms of the business sectors it serves attracting a broad client base. “We have clients in telecoms, finance, IT, healthcare, politics, retail, automotive, travel and home delivery,” says Eissa. “Basically, we provide all types of outsourcing to all sorts of business.”

Outsourcing gives customers the opportunity to focus on their core business, eliminating the operational and investment hassles of establishing a call centre themselves.

Businesses can benefit from a flexible call centre capacity, a high quality of service and economies of scale.

As Eissa sees it, the major factor that sets Etisal apart from other outsourcing organisations is its ability to provide business value beyond the pure delivery of services. Because each company’s needs are so specific, Etisal does not advocate a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, the company has a dedicated department of business consultants able to meet with individual clients, assess their outsourcing needs and develop a model detailing the primary benefits and return on investment. The business consultants map out the initial process, manage change, fine tune operations until stabilisation and assess the achievement of key performance indicators.

Etisal does not stop at maintaining the western customer experience for a better price, but exceeds expectations by providing operational intelligence and increasing efficiency of operations. “A call centre is not just about answering phones,” insists Eissa.

“It’s about understanding what the customer is saying and adding value to their experience.” Etisal business consultants work with Six Sigma experts to continuously improve operations both internally and even within the client organisations themselves – with the opportunity for clients to make their own suggestions of how aspects can improve.

The company understands the importance of each client’s specific culture and the uniqueness of each country being served. It has developed structured approaches in order to emulate the client values and philosophy during projects, as well as the terminologies of the geography being served.

Up and running
Depending on its scope, an Etisal call centre operation can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with staff committed to excellent customer service and sales acumen. This flexibility proves very valuable and essential to meet fluctuating client needs, such as peak, seasonal or overnight times. Etisal strives to adjust capacity according to business necessities in order to maximise return on marketing while maintaining efficiency.

Quality is always a major concern and so Etisal utilises a high degree of protocols and standards to assure optimised process, to uncover weaknesses and to make enhancements where necessary. It is an ISO 9001 company and implements the Customer Operations Performance Centre procedures.

Security and confidentiality of data is another significant issue held in high regard by clients – especially in the telecom and banking sectors. Etisal is committed on all levels to ensure a high standard of security to protect all the clients’ private and delicate information. Deployment of ISO 27001 standards makes the process and technology work together to protect sensitive data against misuse.

Transparency is another value maintained by Etisal, as it provides its clients with online access to dashboards, historical reports and call recording. “Customers can have the same control over their call centre as they would if they hosted it themselves,” says Eissa. “We give them the value of our experience.”

With state-of-the-art technology, its capacities include voice control, email and web handling, and the ability to maintain call and customer interaction history. It has all the capabilities of a European or US call centre, but without the exorbitant costs.

Governmental support provided by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) is instrumental in providing the required telecom infrastructure and maintaining a continuous stream of university graduates who are ready to work in the industry in general – and Etisal call centres in particular.