ISON BPO assist clients with experiencecentric solutions that empower them in enhancing business efficiencies, streamlining operations and reducing costs through Business Process Outsourcing
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Donovan Smith
ISON BPO, earlier known as Spanco BPO in Africa, was established at the end of 2010 and started its first operation in Nairobi, Africa in February 2011 with just 110 staff. As a leading Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm, with a strong focus in sub-Saharan Africa, ISON BPO has grown substantially in the last four years and now has around 7000 employees working out of ten countries in Africa, two cities in India and Yangon in Myanmar. This rapid pace of expansion secures ISON’s footprint across its areas of operation, giving them an early advantage and this fast paced development is expected to continue. Global CEO Pravin Kumar explains that the company’s basic strategy has been to “dig deeper into every account that they take on”. By this he means the company would rather have a smaller amount of fully satisfied customers, rather than stretching their resources unrealistically, which could damage efficiency and customer relationships. As a truly multi-cultural organisation, ISON’s unique approach to service delivery in BPO combines building and managing call and data centre infrastructure, as well as global manpower outsourcing and call centre operations. “We help clients with experience-centric solutions that empower them in enhancing business efficiencies, streamlining operations and reducing costs,” says Kumar.
Having a senior management team who have all come from senior professional backgrounds has been a key factor in driving the business forward. The wide range of domain knowledge and expertise in the client segment has allowed for ISON to explore a solution-based approach instead of a transaction processing approach. “This approach to business means that we handle the outcome and not just a single transaction. By taking end to end responsibility of processes such as Customer Life Cycle Management means that our expertise in these sectors have to drive us forward and make us stand out from our competitors,” Kumar further explains. Moreover, it is ISON’s strong value proposition that really places them ahead of the rest. “Put simply, the cost of ownership must go down. And if you cannot bring it down, then clients will not return to you for business. We think of ourselves as cost leaders as we offer a very competitive price for the full range of solutions customers receive. As such, we are known as a high value service provider for managing customer experience,” he adds.
Managing Customer Expectation
As a result of the increased focus on technology in Africa in recent years – due to the rise of mobile money and Smartphones for example - ISON BPO has seen an increase in the number of clients choosing to use multiple services from them. Customers are more demanding than ever before, aggressively striving to adapt to newer technologies in order to remain competitive. “People used to outsource plain vanilla voice services from us. This has now evolved into multidimensional IT-enabling services covering the entire gamut of ITeS (Information Technology Enabled Service) including customer experience management using self-care, analytics and so on. We endeavour to change with the times in order to fulfil all our client’s needs and keep them up to date.” Expectations continue to rise, particularly when people come into interaction with technology, therefore, the role of good quality customer service is increasingly integral, which in turn allows ISON’s clients to increase their competitiveness.
BPO is an area which requires training, and as we enter the generation for employment opportunities in Africa, it is vital that current education regimes address the skills needed for development in the workplace. “IT & ITeS (BPO) services are known to be the most significant employment generating activities. While the continent does have an educated population to work in these industries, they require up-skilling which should be taken seriously by governments through Public Private Partnership initiatives.” Kumar believes that governments should take initiatives for creating proper infrastructure with availability of power supply and proper connectivity to residential areas. Another area of opportunity for the government is to improve the security and the perception of security across Africa as some of these services operate on 24/7 basis and should be treated as a priority area for development.
ISON offer skills training including soft skills and leadership training so that a better quality of customer experience can be provided. Further, the company has also taken some initiatives in up-skilling of competencies as a CSR activity. “One of the themes of our employer brand is that wherever we operate, we should be known as a welfare-oriented organisation. In pursuit of this theme, we decided to embark on our journey to generate employability in the countries in which we operate,” Kumar continues: “Our commitment is to provide employment opportunities to persons from marginalised communities through partnerships with reputable, not-forprofit organisations. Accordingly, we have set our CSR objective of recruiting part for our entry level talent from NGOs which we hope to achieve by March 2015.”
Testing Out New Markets
After consolidating their early start up operations in first three years, ISON BPO have moved the company focus towards securing growth into new areas, which Kumar is excited about: “Having started out in the telecoms sector, we have now begun moving into various sectors including the retail space, the Airline segment (Fastjet), insurance, power distribution and in banking.” Through this manifold growth and diversification, ISON can extend their vast experience and insights from consulting, migrating and executing thousands of large and complex business functions and processes in a global delivery framework. What’s more is that the company expect to witness substantial growth in the upcoming twelve months in all these verticals including the telecoms sector, whilst also hoping to start BPO operations in at least three new countries during this period.
Perhaps the most exciting venture that Kumar highlighted was ISON’s entry into Fastjet Airline’s account in Kenya and Rwanda, as the flying giant has agreed to outsource a large part of their customer-facing operations to ISON in phases. “This way, the airline can test us out in phases and if they like the services we provide, then we can see huge potential for the aviation segment across Africa to do the same. On the one hand we can use this experience as the building blocks to expand into the industry, and on the other it provides us with an opportunity to further improve customer experience whilst simultaneously reducing commercial losses in this segment,” he says. Furthermore, ISON provided Tigo Tanzania with a high level of service and consequently, they have awarded the company with a contract in Rwanda which has now been implemented. “Due to the successful roll out of our BPO with Tigo, we hope to be considered for their Pan Africa account, which would be a great achievement for the business and testament to the growth direction we wish to head in,” Kumar surmises.