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Safcom opens new call centre

ATHI RIVER, Kenya, Apr 27 – Mobile phone operator Safaricom expects its efficiency in handling calls and resolving customer queries to continue improving significantly in the coming weeks.

This follows Monday’s unveiling of a Sh800 million ultra-modern call centre in Mlolongo area in Athi River Division, which is equipped with the latest technology and data system tools.

“Our aim is to answer 85 percent of all our calls within the first 20 seconds of the first ring. When we moved here on 1 November (2008), we saw an immediate uptake in the efficiency probably between 20 percent to 30 percent increase because we have more capacity, more room and it’s a much nicer environment,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Joseph said of the centre, which was formally a warehouse.

He said the contact centre, which has a seat capacity of 1,000 staff – but was only utilising 630 seats – would enable them to deliver good customer service to their growing subscriber base, which now stands 13.5 million.

Currently, Mr Joseph said line 200 and 234 for PostPay customers and their money transfer service M-Pesa respectively were each operating at 90 percent efficiency. Line 100, which receives huge volumes of calls, was at 75 percent but he expressed confidence that its effectiveness would soon hit the 90 percent mark.

“We can now handle 100,000 calls a day,” he boasted about the centre, which has created close to 1,000 job opportunities for the youth.

Customers have over the years lodged numerous complaints on Safaricom’s congested customer care centres. The congestion has risen from the growing number of its subscriber base as well as the provision of value-added services such as their money transfer service M-Pesa.

With the opening of the facility however, Mr Joseph added customers would also have the chance to give feedback on the operator’s products, services and the network and suggestions on how they can improve them.

“Among the services to be provided by the centre are prepaid and post-paid customer inquiries, data service dedicated to handle data products, M-Pesa service, dealer service line and directory services,” the CEO added.

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While answering questions from journalists after a tour of the call centre, which also has an in-house crèche, gymnasium and training rooms, Mr Joseph hinted that they could in the future also start leasing the centre to other firms for third party business services to enable them take advantage of the growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.

“There will be opportunities later on that perhaps we can expand it to deal with outsourcing to other people, but at this point, its just Safaricom’s only. We need to have the efficiency, the training but if the need arises and we have the capacity, then we might offer it to other people. But that’s in the future,” he stressed, adding that there was still room to grow.

Mr Joseph disclosed that although they had moved a majority of their staff in the customer care department, a few floors at Safaricom’s Headquarters in Nairobi’s Westlands area would be reserved for an emergency call centre, while the rest of the building would be used for other functions.

Initially, the company had planned to outsource the centre but Mr Joseph explained that they found it economically viable to do it themselves.

Speaking during the official opening of the facility, Information Minister Samuel Poghisio lauded Safaricom for putting up the facility saying it would go a long way in enhancing customer experience.

“Sometimes back, getting through to Safaricom’s customer care was a nightmare now most of us can confess that the service has tremendously improved since the contact centre became operational,” the minister said through his Assistant Dhadho Godhana.

In order to keep up with the global trends that require real time solutions to the needs and challenges of the telecommunication world, he urged other industry players to invest in their customer care staff through training and the provision of a good working environment.

He also appealed to them to be prepared in anticipation of the many opportunities that will be created in the BPO industry, following the landing of The East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable, which he assured would reach Mombasa by June.

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