Call centre industry is bursting with opportunity for friendly, well-spoken and hard-working people

Phumza Macanda

Phumza Macanda

The government has targeted the call centre industry in its job creation drive because of its potential to create jobs quickly, and it hopes to increase employment from 65000 to 100000 jobs by 2010, which means there are huge opportunities in this sector.

There is more to working in a call centre than just answering the phone, says Phumla Tshabalala, a call centre manager at the Call Centre Nucleus.

"I'm a product of this industry, proof that if one is willing to work hard and grow, they will," she says.

Tshabalala's work in the field has earned her the manager of the year award this year from the industry body ContactInGauteng.

Entry into the call centre industry is simple, especially if one is well-spoken. Tshabalala was working as a sales consultant at a boutique when she heard about a technical support position in a call centre.

She applied for the position, though she did not have any experience, then worked her way up to team leader, and now manager.

"I learnt everything I know on the floor. But I suppose I was lucky because I had a mentor who held my hand and taught me everything," she says.

The Call Centre Nucleus is an outsourced call centre solutions provider. The company manages call centres for its clients and Tshabalala's job involves identifying how a call centre fits into the clients' objective and then formulating a strategy to meet that business objective.

"A call centre strategy involves determining how many agents it will have, what tools will be used and how much it will cost to get all that done.

"The challenging part of my job is managing the client expectations. I constantly have to communicate with the client about what we are doing and what they can expect and when," says Tshabalala.

As a manager she has a demanding day that starts at 7am and includes meetings with her team leaders, evaluating the previous day's performance against set targets, planning how performance can be improved, responding to queries and recruiting new agents.

When she is looking for call centre agents, she wants well-spoken people who are self-motivated and can work as part of a team.

"I want people who like customers because that is what the job is all about. If they do not like dealing with clients, that comes through and affects their service levels," she says.

Tshabalala says that working with people is the number one reason she likes her job.

"My drive is to ensure that more young people build their careers in this industry. There's no greater satisfaction than seeing someone you've mentored through their struggles succeeding."

But she advises those who want to work in the industry to understand that it is a highly rigid and controlled environment.

"We have to monitor everything on a daily basis, from the time people start work to when they can take their breaks. It helps with the nature of the job," she says.