Eskom
Eskom. Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

2021 didn’t get off to a good start for South African businesses. With months of lock-downs behind us and no foreseeable end to the restrictions for some time to come, business is taking a knock.

While the pandemic poses a severe risk to the economy, there’s a far more urgent threat. In March of 2021, the embattled CEO of Eskom, Andre de Ruyter, said that load shedding would remain in effect for the next five years.

This leaves businesses asking how they’re supposed to manage their operations with regular power cuts effectively.

In this article, we’ll look at one potential solution – outsourcing. Could handing your customer service function over to a third-party provider in another country be the solution? Let’s find out.

Why Outsourcing Might Work for Your Business

Putting our power woes aside for the minute, using a third-party service provider makes sense at several levels.

Cost-Effectiveness

Running an in-house service department in South Africa can become expensive quickly. Our country has one of the most robust employee support systems in place globally. The average cost for an entry-level consultant is R12 000 per month.

Also, companies must budget for:

  • Costs for annual and sick leave as prescribed by the labor department
  • Training fees
  • Renting space to house the team
  • Providing backup agents
  • Supplying computers, desks, a CRM system, and monitoring performance

Access to Highly Trained Service Professionals

Delivering consistently good customer service is a skill. It requires someone with a positive attitude and genuine empathy for the client. By outsourcing the service function, companies gain access to skilled workers who focus solely on client support, not a burgeoning filing pile.

For companies with highly technical products, trained professionals become even more critical.

Fewer Labor Issues

The labour market in South Africa is a complex one. Having the best intentions doesn’t make any difference if a business inadvertently breaks labour laws.

By outsourcing this function, the responsibility for the team falls on the third-party provider. They’ll have to ensure that they properly manage all the rules and regulations.

Access to a Multilingual Global Team

Many South Africans speak several languages. They do, however, primarily tend to be African-based. For companies wishing to expand internationally, having a multilingual, global team on board might make more sense.

Flexibility

For companies running on a tight budget, the flexibility of increasing or reducing their service team at will is essential. By hiring a third party, companies improve their ability to deal with the ebb and flow of support requests.

Scalability

Building an in-house team takes time. Scaling that team-up can prove challenging. By outsourcing, businesses build the extra capacity that they require at a fraction of the cost.

24/7 Support  Despite Eskom

Now let’s look at the elephant in the room – load shedding and how it affects a business’s service capacity. While companies can use backup systems, running generators is costly. Unless businesses are willing to invest in expensive alternative energy sources, they’re at the mercy of Eskom and an ever-increasing petrol price.

For companies not able to change, outsourcing support to a company in another country could prove a simple solution to the Eskom dilemma. They’d need to ensure, naturally, that their primary server had backup power, so it remained accessible. They could, however, run their support lines independently.

Do you think this is taking things a step too far? Let me illustrate the potential frustration your clients might feel by using a personal example.

I needed to query something with SARS and had to hold for about an hour. I was glad when I got through to the consultant, but not for long. When I asked him to check something for me, he could not do so because of load shedding.

It was just the luck of the draw that I went through to one of the remote workers affected by load shedding. I won’t comment on how long it took to get through because that’s par for the course. Having waited so long, however, I did expect to receive an answer.

Picture your clients in a similar situation, and imagine how they’d feel. What if it was your business that dropped the ball like this?

Final Notes

Could outsourcing support to a partner outside South Africa prove a viable answer for businesses affected by load shedding? It might, but companies must perform a careful cost-benefit analysis first.

In an ideal world, we’d keep those jobs in South Africa. Unfortunately, with the current state of the national electricity provider, it may make better financial sense to hire an overseas team.

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