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Mace Connect eyes contact centre riches

A Middle Eastern company aims to become a major player in the multi-million dollar global contact centre industry.

A company born and based in the Middle East has ambitions to become a major player in the global contact centre industry. Mace Connect, a division of Qatar’s Mace Group, has established two 120 seat centres, one in Dubai and one in Qatar, and has a business plan that allows for that to grow to three, 500 seat sites by the end of 2003.

The company has already signed up AT&T as a customer and intends to target other major Western companies through sales partners in Europe and the USA. The company has not deliberately set out to attract local business, but says that its outsourced contact centre offering is attracting a lot of interest from the local market.

“We are aiming to compete directly with European, US and other English speaking competitors,” says Jamie Robinson, CEO, Mace Connect. “Our advantage is that we can hire the best labour from lower cost countries, pay those people a very competitive salary compared to their domestic environment and still be considerably cheaper than in the West.”

Mace Connect’s key advantage as it aims to compete globally is price. Robinson says that compared to a cost per operator in the West of around $125,000 per annum, Mace Connect can provide a top quality service for as low as $40,000 per operator per annum.

Companies can choose to work with Mace in three ways. The most likely option is to go with complete outsourcing, whereby a company hands over all of its contact centre needs to Mace, which provides the required technology and manpower. The second option is to have Mace build the contact centre on the customer’s premises and train its staff how to use it. The third option is for the customer to rent seats within a Mace call centre and man them with its own employees.

Contact centres are a prime candidate for outsourcing because building one is not something you should try at home, Robinson argues. “If you’re going to purchase a contact centre, there is a minimum entry level,” he says. “You’re looking at $150,000-200,000. That a huge amount of capital investment to make.”

Trying to reinforce the point that Mace Connect is competing with Western contact centres, and not low cost offerings in Asia, Robinson points out that Mace Connect is a ‘contact’, not a call, centre. This means that it can provide internet, fax, e-mail and chat-based customer support, rather than just phone-based services.

Robinson, a 12 year veteran of the industry who has worked all over the globe, claims a further key advantage. Employee attrition can be as high as 75% per year in Western contact centres (and is a growing challenge in India), which raises costs and can cause discontinuity in service. “[However,] in the Gulf states, it’s much easier for us to control the flow of labour in and out,” says Robinson.

Mace Connect intends to provide services in a wide range of languages, including English, German, French, Russian, and Arabic, and is quoting for Xhosa and Bantu language services. Call centre staff are being recruited from Asian and African countries, such as Namibia in the case of German speakers and Senegal in the case of French.

Robinson admits that potential customers do express a preference for indigenous speakers, but insists that Mace Connect only recruits speakers of mother tongue standard. Once on board, potenital operators have to go through one month accent neutralisation programmes with institutions such as the British Council.

This aspiring international player expects the bulk of its business to come from the international market initially, and for the local market to provide more and more of its business in the long term. If the company does meet its growth plans, it could be turning over tens of millions of dollars within just a few years.

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