Transformation and Inspiration
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Bensizwe Group has adapted, expanded and diversified at a rapid rate over a seven year period in order to capitalise on the most prominent tech and telecom trends manifesting in Africa, while realising a dream of the Company’s Group Chief Executive to enhance the provision of human capital to the sector on the continent.
Mandla Msimang embarked on his journey in the DRC in 2008 after identifying a need for call centre solutions from his previous role while working for Vodacom. It was a business link which has proved to be pivotal in the following years as the global telecoms giant gave Bensizwe the platform to showcase its innovative approach to workforce management.
“Outsourcing call centre solutions and human capital was quite a new concept back in 2008 but an opportunity presented itself and things quickly developed from then on,” Msimang recalls. “It was a simple concept of recruiting staff members for our clients, placing them on their premises, paying their salaries and taxes and then setting a fee based on a commission structure.
“Eight years’ later and we have nearly 1,000 staff members for different clients on our books, working alongside massive companies like Africell, Tigo, British American Tobacco, Vodacom and Turkish Airlines.”
While initially pioneering the service carried out to such comprehensive standards, there is now competition in attaining esteemed contracts such as these, but Bensizwe will always be the first to have conquered the market, having changed the landscape initially in the DRC, and subsequently in South Africa which now acts as a logical base for the wider Group.
The willingness to diversify and react to industry trends, both in regards to international expansion and service provision, has been the key to the Company’s continuous improvement over the years, as Msimang explains: “As a South African business, coming from a country that is rather conventional and systematic, we have tapped into informal and dynamic environments that other businesses have been reluctant to participate in.
“As we developed more experience in the developing African markets, we identified opportunities in the outsourcing industry such as effective and fully-fledged customised human capital management, call centre and ICT infrastructure, training and construction.
“We pride ourselves in understanding these markets and environments, and their unique way of operating, hence our ease in creating successful tailored services for many prestigious companies.”
Creating tailored services is an attribute stemming from the versatility that Bensizwe enjoys, having noticed certain shortfalls in the market that the Company’s skill-set could cater for.
Once this core service was in place, and subsequently replicated across the continent, Bensizwe also established a vital differentiator which Msimang himself is very committed to; creating an unrivalled customer experience across the board.
“The key is providing an efficient and effective service to our clients firstly, but then having constant communication with them as well,” he emphasises. “Some people think that once you have a contract you hand over the agents and that’s it. But what we do is ensure we have regular contact with our stakeholders to ensure all levels of communications and service is delivered.
“It sets us apart in the market because we not only give our clients the best staff members for what they’re looking for, but we are always on hand and available to monitor any complaints or issues, before dealing with anything that is brought up with our consultative committee which comprises management and staff.”
As a firm believer in excellent customer service, Msimang attributes achieving such standards to the close relationships that have been formed with Bensizwe’s significant clients, “constantly spotting new opportunities in which to align our overall strategy to our clients’ needs”.
In the DRC this is being seen around the Company’s drive to form a call centre hub by creating Central Africa’s largest call centre for French speaking nations.
“We recently began a super dealer partnership in Kinshasa with Vodacom Congo,” Msimang says. “This project involves opening shops that service mobile payments through the M-Pesa projects, SIM connections and airtime sales, and our plan is to extend this project into other regions.
The rise of M-Pesa represents another Bensizwe-Vodacom success story by capitalising on the former’s agents preferring to bypass traditional banking routes in being paid, and the latter capitalising on Bensizwe’s IT expertise and contracting the Company as an aggregator.
M-Pesa has long been a successful offering on the continent as an informal and affordable micro-financing plan which is often preferred over banks in the DRC especially, due to banking charges and extra costs incurred through traditional methods. Bensizwe’s role within the trend has therefore been significant in bridging the gap to the general population within the country.
The customer registration processing (CRP) collaboration was formulated in a similar fashion under the motto; ‘Knowing Your Client’, as Msimang adds: “Customer registration processing is the process of registering cell-phone numbers and information, capturing the data onto a system. We have facilitated customer registration processing for Vodacom through an efficient and dedicated team.
“As of the present moment in Kinshasa and Katanga, we have successfully completed the rollout of the CRP project and it is an ongoing process. We are expanding this project into other regions and plan to extend this service to other telecommunications companies.”
Transformation and inspiration
The knack of extension has not just been mastered externally but internally also, ensuring that Bensizwe has an infrastructure and set of processes worthy of its current market positioning.
From a capital expenditure perspective, this has entailed an ongoing commitment to IT upgrades to ensure its systems are meeting world-class efficiencies while having a direct knock-on effect on the success of its finance, payroll and call centre technologies.
On the personnel side, the dedication is replicated in bringing what was a previously unexposed human resource talent pool up to the necessary levels and standards via extensive training initiatives.
“Our talent is well diversified and we place a strong emphasis on developing local workers wherever we set up,” Msimang states. “This is a through a principle of two values; transformation and inspiration.
“Our training and development division also has an in-house offering, were they work hard at anticipating the needs of our industry, as well as heeding calls for specialised worker training.”
Facets such as these – as well as its imminent Central African call centre hub project for Francophone – place Bensizwe Group in the position that the Group CE has always dreamed of for the Company; to become the largest and most expertly operated workforce management and telecommunication consultant across the continent.
Msimang concludes: “With this project for Francophone, we plan to support telecom companies, banks, transport companies and various other industries, sharing the customer experience and our expertise in this domain.
“Projects like this fit into our ethos of supporting various telecoms companies and, coming from a customer service background, it has been my passion to see ‘my baby’ grow into a teenage Company, and I now look forward to getting it through this stage also before taking a step back and giving it back to my people to take it forward.”