ZRG International (Pvt) Ltd

July 07 - 13, 2008

Pakistan is at the brink of a technology revolution. We are now experiencing growth in IT sector that our neighbor saw in 1990s. Many with a pessimistic view would say that progress is too little, too late, but in the past few years alone this writer has witnessed positive sustainable growth in many areas of the industry. The key word is sustainable. We cannot expect overnight changes in a system that has essentially not changed since deliverance from the English ruler. One of the recent growth phenomenons is that of call centers. Just like many other IT enabled businesses in the past, call centers are here to stay.

A call center is essentially a centralized location for the processing of calls originating from many different places. If you have ever called your mobile company's customer support, you have interacted with a call center. Although synonymous with toll free and UAN numbers, call centers of the day extend to provide a much wider scope of services compared to call centers of just a decade ago. Call centers can be useful for providing customer support, inbound sales, order taking, credit verification, outbound telemarketing and much more. Companies big and small are finding new and innovative ways of using call centers to improve services and reduce costs.

Well for one reason, call centers can be low cost and if you have a sound business plan, definitely they yield high profit margins. I've had many queries about how much would it cost to setup a call center, and just like the answer to all of them, this is not an easy question to answer. First, you must consider the number of seats (physical seats including a PC, phone etc) you intend to setup. Another important factor is to make sure you consider operational costs for at least a period of six months as part of the setup cost, because no matter what people say, no business breaks even in a month. The number of seats is the basis for your costing methods and so this is where one must start.

Next important cost factor is the type of software/hardware solution you will use for inbound or outbound calls. Cost for a solution can range between $ 2000 to $15,000 depending on the configuration and features you are looking for.

Another important factor in cost consideration is human resources. Currently nationwide dilemma faced by call centers is the lack of trained resources. Job attrition rates remain between 60-70% and retaining employees has now become an art. Strategies aiming at a small startup are best to reduce costs and risks associated with setting up a large call center with no one to man it. Not only is it important to hire the best available resources with excellent English language skills, but training of these resources in sales, customer services and regional demographics are also imperative.

Once you have these factors worked out, the next question is how to win business. Well, this is not as difficult as many would think. Outbound telemarketing campaigns are the fastest foot in the door. These usually offer a commission based payout and can be a high risk situation. But as in all other businesses, high risk goes hand in hand with high profits. The core strategy here would be to implement a great core team to achieve sales targets. Once you achieve breakeven, the size of the call center can be gradually increased to obtain maximum efficiency. On the other hand, inbound campaigns are more difficult to win and even more difficult to manage due to the strict Service Level Agreements. Inbound contracts are more reliable income earners and therefore offer stability to the business. A good ratio would be 65 % inbound and 45 % outbound business within the first year of the call center being established.

That is a quick round up of what you should look into and what you should expect if you're looking to startup a call center in Pakistan. This article does not even begin to scratch the surface on how to setup and operate a call center, but it is a short introduction only. If interested, the internet is a vast knowledge pool on the various subjects mentioned in the article.

Since the advent of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the availability of broadband to common consumers, the scope of these highly profitable businesses is growing in Pakistan. Low cost bandwidth is definitely the driving factor in the rapid spread of these businesses in Pakistan. According to a study by PSEB, Pakistan has 80 international registered call centers operating in Pakistan with the number growing daily. The same thing happened with many other businesses like IT colleges and software houses.