Etisal International Egypt: The new call centre - Ashraf El-Tanbouly, Egypt

For organisations looking to outsource their call centre operations, the go-to location has long been India. In fact, so ingrained is the association between call centres and the subcontinent that alternative regions have been all but ignored.

The tide, however, is turning, with many companies seeking out new prime locations for their contact centres. One country poised to take advantage of this emerging trend is Egypt, which has numerous benefits in its favour. Not only is it ideally located between India, America and Europe, but it also boasts a strong talent pool and a naturally hospitable culture.

"Egypt can serve the world differently to India," says Ashraf El-Tanbouly, general manager of Etisal International Egypt. "We are much better suited to multilingual projects, with many of our population receiving American, British, French and German national education and able to speak the languages. Egyptians are also very welcoming and customer-service-oriented."

Etisal was founded in 2003 as the call centre arm of the Riadaa Group. Since then, the group has grown dramatically, with two centres in Saudi Arabia as well as three in Egypt, and over 3,500 employees.

"Egypt can serve the world differently to India. We are better suited to multilingual projects, with many of our population receiving American, British, French and German national education."

While the Saudi Arabian facility focuses on Saudi and the GCC region, the Egyptian operations do not confine themselves purely to the Egyptian market. Rather, they harness their employees' linguistic skills to cater to European and American organisations. The centres are staffed by university graduates capable of speaking Arabic, English, French, German and Italian and other languages.

Etisal is also highly flexible in terms of the sectors it serves giving it genuine scope when it comes to attracting a broad client base. "We have clients in telecoms, banking, aviation, delivery and logistics," says Mohamed Eissa, CEO of Etisal. "Basically, we provide all types of outsourcing."

The advantages of outsourcing

Outsourcing gives such customers the opportunity to focus on their core business, eliminating the operational and investment hassles of opening a call centre themselves. They can benefit from a flexible call centre capacity, a high-quality service level and economies of scale.

Depending on its scope, an Etisal call centre operation can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with staff committed to excellent customer service and sales acumen.

"A call centre is not just about answering phones," insists El-Tanbouly. "It's about understanding what the customer is saying and adding value to their experience."

Following the events of the Egyptian revolution, some companies have expressed reservations about the viability of maintaining operations within Egypt. Etisal, however, successfully insulated itself from the upheavals, maintaining a 'business as usual' policy throughout.

"During the uprising, we continued as normal for 364 days out of 365," says El-Tanbouly. "People in Egypt want to work. Even during the unfortunate incident where the previous government cut the telecoms, the international lines between us and the world remained intact."

Customers' doubts, he says, are generally assuaged once they have seen Etisal's capabilities. Whether they need to expand an existing call centre, but lack the space, or are attracted to Egypt's human resources but don't want to establish a facility themselves, Etisal is fully equipped to meet their every requirement.

Bespoke services

As El Tanbouly sees it, the major factor that sets Etisal apart from other contact centre outsourcing organisations is its ability to provide Western quality for a better price. With state-of-the-art technology, its capacities include voice handling, email and web handling, and the ability to maintain call and customer interaction history. It has all the capabilities of a European or US call centre, but without the exorbitant costs.

"A call centre is not just about answering phones. It’s about understanding what the customer is saying and adding value to their experience."

Because each company's needs are so specific, Etisal does not advocate a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, its consultants are able to meet with individual customers, assess their outsourcing needs and develop a model detailing the primary benefits and ROI.
The company understands the importance of company culture and has developed structured approaches in order to emulate a client's values and pilosophy during a project.

Governmental support provided by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) is instrumental in providing the required telecom infrastructure and maintaining a continuous stream of university graduates who are ready to work in the BPO industry in general - and Etisal call centres in particular.

"Customers can have the same control over their call centre as they would if they hosted it themselves," says El Tanbouly, "but we give them the value of our experience. We want to help our customers' businesses grow."

Ashraf El-Tanbouly, general manager of Etisal International Egypt.
Etisal call centres have all the capabilities of their European or US counterparts but without the exorbitant costs.