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What are Call Centres? | Financial Gazette

What are Call Centers?

We have received in the recent weeks, requests for a write up on call centers and the different types. In this week's article we resolved to address this very interesting topic. We hope you enjoy the article!!!

A call center is a centralised office used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. A call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outgoing calls for telemarketing, clientele, product services, and debt collection are also made.

There are basically two types of call centers – inbound and outbound. The terms are self explanatory. An inbound call center typically consist say 10 agents with computer terminals and telephone extensions which might be in the form or headphones or regular analogue phones. While an outbound call centers can be used for telemarketing where a company markets products or services on behalf of another huge corporation via the telephone. It is possible to combine inbound and outbound campaigns.

Inbound call centers

Inbound call centers are increasingly becoming a key component for companies based abroad who want to outsource their customer service function elsewhere so that they can concentrate on their core business. Presently companies like Coca Cola, Nike or Microsoft based in the USA have call centers in India, Singapore, Malaysia and of late South Africa and Kenya. What's the fuss? It is cost effective for these companies to send calls to these destinations over IP (thanks to the undersea fiber) than handle the calls themselves. On the other hand, it creates employment for the destination country.

A typical call flow would be something like this:-A Microsoft customer wants to activate her Office software over the phone. She dials Microsoft customer support number in the US. This call will be routed over IP to a destination in Harare where the call center exists. The agent will then interact with the customer over the phone while at the same time checking the customer details online using the internet from her desktop terminal.

Zimbabwe is an ideal call center destination for inbound calling for the following simple and not so obvious reasons. Most companies who need customer support services speak English. Secondly if you have been looking around there has been a lot of laying of fiber optic cable around Zimbabwe. Service providers have been laying fiber cables which carries data at the speed of light and can carry huge amount of traffic compared to either copper or wireless connections. Zimbabwe is being connected to the undersea cables from countries where the fiber lands at sea ports like Beira and Cape Town.

So you can easily setup a local call center to handle local customers. I am sure you have tried to dial ANY of the local cellular providers customer support number but never get to talk to anyone as their call centers are always busy – so they claim. Any organization no matter how small can easily setup its own inbound call center to handle your customer inquiries with ease. It is no rocket science to have say 10 agents connected to your call center system and receiving calls from local callers via cellphone, land line and even Skype !

Outbound Call Centers

These represent using a telephony system to make outbound calls with view to sell a product or service or to campaign for an event. The equipment and setup is basically the same except that in this setup your center is originating calls. A typical call flow for an outbound call center would be something like this: You have been sub contracted by an insurance company based in Johannesburg to sell their insurance policies to the South African market. An agent at your call center will pick the handset and make a local to South Africa as if she was in South Africa. This is what is called Internet Telephone or VoIP. Skype falls under the same family of this technology. From the list of potential customers accessible to you online your agents can now make as many calls to sell the policies. The more calls they make the more chances an agent has of closing a sale. So to the outsourcing company, they can now concentrate on their new product promotion while shifting the responsibility of making the calls to a well equipped company that simply specializes in making outbound calls. The local company based in Zimbabwe makes money by telemarketing products, services and event promotions on behalf of other companies which might be based locally or internationally. This internet telephony technology knows no borders.

Conclusion: Local Call Centers

For local companies, small call centre solutions that address all possible scenarios that you might be facing in terms of inbound or outbound local or international can be easily set up. These can be simple 2 x 2 which gives four possible setups in Zimbabwe.

(1) In house In bound (2) In house Out bound (3) Out house In bound (4) Out house Outbound. As you can see, you can setup a call center for your own company to be either inbound or outbound and you can also setup an call center to serve other organizations through outsourcing for either receiving and making calls.

This is no rocket science but better use of technology to unlock your business potential, create employment, serve your clients better and better still do it at reasonable costs to you.

For more information, questions and/or comments, contact, Cornwell Nemberi, Chief Executive of Standard Global Communications, at


03 March 2011

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