People living in this part of the world have been
familiar with railway enquiry, flight information, telephone enquiry
and complaint centers for ages. The deployment of technology has not
only improved the quality of such services but now most of the
business entities are providing a variety of innovative services. All
such activities are aimed at retaining and serving customers in a
better manner, soliciting new business and informing the potential
customers about new products and services. This nucleus system is
often called 'Call Center'.
The system is based on state-of-the-art hardware
and software but human beings still play the most important role. By
pressing a few buttons on telephone instrument one can retrieve most
of the information, but addition of human factor makes the things
easier because the caller gets the feeling that he/she is being
attended personally. Addition of human factor is also deemed necessary
because of low literacy level in the country. Satisfied customers
results in more referrals and help in further increasing the number of
The database on products, services and customers
help in introducing new products and services and there seems to be no
end. In an attempt to get an edge over the competitors the corporates
are always looking forward to get the crucial information that can
help in distinguish them from rest of the lot. With growing population
it is very difficult to meet each and every customer personally.
However, the help-desk personnel are often bombarded with quarries for
which they may not have an immediate reply but the back office has the
capacity and expertise to resolve the issue.
It may be true that people have been using some of
facilities for ages but it is also worth understanding the concept
behind the contemporary Call Centers. In a nut shell and very simple
words 'a Call Center is a facility using which the existing and
potential customers get the information about a company, its products
and services portfolio. Going further, they may also buy product and
services or lodge a complaint in case a problem arises.
The concept can be better understood by relating it
to real life examples. Telephone directory may not be a good example
to cite but can certainly help in understanding the concept better.
With the growing number of telephone subscribers and conversion from
electro-mechanical to digital system, resulting in change of telephone
number, even the latest printed version of telephone directory becomes
obsolete by the time it reaches the customers. Regular updating of
printed telephone directory is not only a tedious job but also
involves spending a lot of money.
Deployment of technology has made the job easier
and cost effective. Now complete and updated information is available
in a comprehensive database and subscribers can benefit simply by
calling a toll-free number. To make the job easier the toll-free
numbers have been made short and easy to remember. Any one can just
pick up the telephone and find out the listed numbers of an individual
or a business entity by dialling 17. Previously, the attendants had to
refer to thick printed volumes of directories but now using 'find'
option available on the computer terminal available with the attendant
the information can be retrieved easily and quickly.
The above cited example may seem too simple to the
younger generation, as they are more familiar with Internet and mobile
phones. A more recent and rather complex example is 'online' trading
of shares. The clients are able to trade by logging in to one of the
many facilities. However, to find out the details of their accounts
they still need the help, though, it may not be necessary after some
time as the systems are being fully automated. Similarly,
establishment of Central Depository Company (CDC) has ushered in the
new era of paperless securities but a lot of support is still desired
by the clients. This help is extended through the help desk. Since the
number of clients is so big and one person cannot attended all the
quarries, it is being provided by a pool of people. The integration of
hardware, software and human beings is collectively called a Call
Another but more relevant example is the help line
established by the credit card issuers. Since the card holders and
vendors require the information round the clock, the back up facility
is provided by the help line, which is part of the Call Centers.
Previously in case the credit card was lost it used to take a few days
to stop its misuse. Now the same can be done in few seconds and before
any one can misuse the stolen card. How this has been made possible?
It is the combination of technology and database. The person, who has
lost the card, has to dial the help line. Customer support staff will
ask a few questions to establish the 'real ownership' and by pressing
a few keys on the keyboard stops further transactions.
Yet another example is the support centers of
Internet Service Providers (ISPs). With the growth of Internet users
in geometrical progression and the scope of services being constantly
improved the users need to help intermittently to do their jobs faster
and in a better manner. Customers are often able to get a computer
generated reply but often they cannot proceed without the help of an
attendant, who can always be approached by dialling the help line
The story about the growing business of call
centers in Pakistan is incomplete without referring to two success
stories, ZRG and TRG. ZRG is a well recognised call center specialist
company that has been proving innovative solutions in Pakistan market
since 1994. ZRG enjoys the distinction of installing the highest
number of call centers, some of which receive over 100,000 calls per
day. The lists of customers include both local and multinational
companies. ZRG is also the first telecommunication solution providing
company from Pakistan to have received and successfully delivered a
call center solution export order from Africa.
While ZRG's key interest is in Pakistan, The
Resource Group (TRG), a company listed at Karachi Stock Exchange is
busy in acquiring call centers located in the USA and shifting the
infrastructure to Pakistan. These call centers are providing services
to most prestigious US companies/clients. TRG is the only Pakistani
call center serving international customers. On May 24, 2004 it
announced acquisition of leading provider of customer care and
marketing services. On June 10, 2004 it announced acquisition of
another US-based provider of call center services. This raised the
total acquisitions to seven.
The establishment of call centers, particularly the
operations of TRG, has opened new vistas. On the one hand these call
centers are emerging as a major employment provider, and on the other
hand are becoming a major of foreign exchange earning. In this regard
it is worth noting that India was initially perceived to be a better
location by the foreign companies but the entry of TRG has changed the
According to an analyst India may be a little
cheaper but it suffers from a serious problem — dialect. Most of the
Indians have peculiar dialects and at times it is considered a
disadvantage. Whereas in the call center business, particularly
serving a specific geographical location, the ethnic dialect is just
not acceptable. As against this the attendants/agents do not suffer
from this problem. On top of this the people keen in joining as
attendant/agent in Pakistan are making specific attempt to further
improve their language proficiency and command.
One of the reasons for the success of TRG is the
availability quality of manpower in Pakistan at competitive rates.
Initially TRG had a capacity of 200 workstations and plan to scale
this capacity of approximately 1,000 workstations by the end of 2003.
The principal criterion in selecting the work force is spoken English
language fluency. It has also developed selection process that allow
it to rapidly assess a candidate's language abilities using both
internal and sub-contracted sources.
Call centers have established a reputation as
employer of choice. Agents are paid highly competitive salaries,
representing a significant premium over equivalent wages paid by
leading multinational employers. Since the working environment is very
congenial both male and female are keen in joining the workforce.
Therefore, despite the growing demand there seems to be no shortage of
The activities of Call Centers can be grouped in
five key areas 1)
sales support, 2)
help desk, 3)
information delivery and 5)
customer support. All those companies or business entities that have
strong belief in an old saying 'customer is the King' are making
concerted efforts to get an edge over the competitors.
Commercial banks face two major problems,
overflowing liquidity and shrinking spreads. While they are striving
hard to make the best use of available funds they also have to
optimise cost to contain erosion of profitability. In order to offer
better customer support and attract new clients all of them are making
greater use of call centers including telemarketing services.
Among the commercial banks the call center of
Muslim Commercial Bank demands specific reference, though, some of the
other banks are also providing similar services. The bank offers a
wide range of financial products and services and trying to further
improve the quality of services. MCB call Center, a customer-focused
endeavour provides easily accessible, fast and reliable banking
services to its clients.
The call center entertains calls from registered as
well as non-registered customers. Registered customers are provided
with an ID and T-PIN code for access to the value added services.
Non-registered customers can easily get access to the value added
services by filling out an application form. According to bank
sources, "MCB call center is the answer to most of the basic but
frequent banking needs". Others are also trying to match the
quality or even surpass the industry standard.
In Pakistan the local call center industry is in
early stages, with all the centers except TRG are focusing on the
domestic industry and on an in-house basis. The most prominent
domestic users of call centers service are commercial banks and
cellular phone companies. Almost all these call centers are located in
the three major cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Most of the call centers are in-house but some of
the banks have hired the third-party services. With the growing number
of telemarketing companies it is expected that a large number of
institutions will also go for 'outsourcing of call centers'.