iContact BPO, a customer service call centre serving international markets notably in the US and Canada, and part of AlefBet Holdings group, has a focused impact sourcing strategy of recruiting and employing disadvantaged and disabled South African youth throughout their operations in Johannesburg and Cape Town. It’s a socio-economic imperative in South Africa where youth unemployment sits at a shocking almost 70%.
Clinton Cohen, CEO of iContact BPO, explains that by applying the principles of impact sourcing to this job creation surge, the GBS industry is well positioned to make a fundamental difference in the lives of disadvantaged and disabled South Africans who would otherwise not have access to the formal job market and economy. About 90% of iContact BPO employees are recruited through impact sourcing, the average age is 23, 65% are women and 10% are disabled.
“Financial constraints and limited job market access mean that earning a stable living is a daily struggle for more than half of South Africa’s young, disadvantaged youth, which in turn has serious negative socio-economic repercussions. By implementing impact sourcing as a strategic focus in our business operations and broader outsourcing industry, we’re able to create opportunities for disadvantaged and disabled people who would otherwise face bleak career prospects. South Africa’s GBS sector is in fact one of few industries that actually grew and created thousands of new jobs during the pandemic at a time when most other businesses were downscaling, and this trend continues now. It is one of few industries that continues to grow, and its potential to create quality, sustainable jobs for the most vulnerable in our society is huge. As a business, we embrace this opportunity with absolute focus and commitment. The results and rewards are very clear in the performance of our people who are motivated and committed to delivering their very best potential, seizing the opportunities for their career development with both hands,” explains Cohen.
By having impact sourcing as a strategic imperative across the entire Alefbet Holdings group, strong synergies are created between the BPO businesses, which means that employees have access to a diverse range of job roles and opportunities to pursue. The creation of a focused and specialised learning and development arm within Alefbet Holdings – SA Business School and the Impact Sourcing Institute of South Africa – means that current employees and new learners have an unrivalled opportunity to progress their careers and professional development – an opportunity that is actively promoted and made accessible to all employees with the drive and ambition to take charge of their outcomes.
“Our impact sourcing strategy works to ensure that our recruits gain professional skills and transferable credentials that are applicable in many areas such as business development, administration, management, human resources, operations, IT support, training and development and so on. Today’s customer service agent could be tomorrow’s team leader, HR professional, trainer or payroll manager. Most of our disadvantaged and disabled recruits have not had the benefit of career guidance or the privilege of being able to cherry pick tertiary education paths in pursuit of a specific career due to severe financial constraints. A global business services environment like ours opens their eyes to the many diverse roles and opportunities within our businesses, with an employer that is willing to invest in their potential with focused learnerships and training interventions that sees them attaining a recognised qualification,” explains Cohen.
“We are very proud of the fact that we have young people from disadvantaged and disabled backgrounds who started with us in entry level roles and have progressed to senior management and leadership roles in our business. Strategically, we are well positioned by having direct access to the Impact Sourcing Institute of South Africa, which helps guide our business strategy from a recruitment perspective. Our impact sourcing models exceed the matrix of what our customers want and what our business needs. There is the real satisfaction that impact sourcing provides in being able to do well as a business, by doing good in our community, for the people who need the door opened the most,” concludes Clinton.
Multilingual customer service – iContact successfully landed a contract that required offshore BPO services into 13 African countries, including Rwanda, DRC and Nigeria. The client brief was for their customers in each country to experience local service, in their language, with all the cultural nuances necessary to feeling ‘at home’ and familiar. iContact met the challenge head-on by firstly convincing the client to centralise all their contact centre services so that calls dialled into a local country would be rerouted to iContact’s South African based call centre to be answered by a local agent of that country.
The hiring of expats from the various African countries was done through specialised recruitment agencies as well as ongoing engagement with the relevant country’s expat outreach programmes and consulates. The migrant community in South Africa is known to be one of the most under-valued and subjected to a very high unemployment rate. Through an interview process, iContact was able to offer high-potential expats from disadvantaged communities an income and a sense of belonging.
The success of this impact sourcing solution was two-fold – iContact secured a client who would otherwise not have accepted an off-shore solution and proceeded to service 13 African countries. Secondly, the growth of the campaign went from 12 to 130 full time employees within a 12-month period, illustrating once again that impact souring is good for business, for disadvantaged people and their families, and communities.
Daniel Molefe – from collections agent to CX Campaign Manager on a global account – Daniel Molefe found his way to the Alefbet group in 2011 where he started working as a collections agent at the age of 21 at SSDA, a collections and recoveries BPO. Daniel enrolled in and completed various customer service and team leader courses, and was later appointed to Team Leader and then to Quality Assurance Coach. He later took up a role with iContact BPO, as Inbound Resolutions Senior Supervisor, leading a team of 30+ agents and fellow team leaders. In 2020, Daniel was promoted to CX campaign manager on a multinational client account, for both the US and Canada markets. Daniel has two team leaders under his wing, a campaign trainer and a team of 21 customer relations specialists. As an avid lifelong learner, over the last ten years Daniel has taken up just about every training offering available through his employer, and recently achieved a Management Development Program (MDP) qualification.
“I never imagined that I would work in a customer service call centre with international customers. My personal and professional growth have been profound and I am living proof of the tremendous opportunities that the GBS sector provides for young people to carve our meaningful careers.
“iContact provides an environment where everyone with the ambition and drive can make it, supported with extensive training and mentoring opportunities and where your background and disadvantage don’t determine your future. I continue to share my experience and knowledge with other up and coming managers and team leaders. I impress upon them the importance of self-determination by walking through the doors that get opened for them, that would otherwise have remained shut, if it weren’t for the commitment of our employer to impact sourcing. To say that this business transforms lives would be an understatement,” says Daniel.
Pic (L-R) Clinton Cohen, CEO, iContact and Daniel Molefe, Program Manager, iContact