Turkey’s ‘smokeless industry’: Call centers mushrooming
As numerous domestic and international companies have realized the significance of call centers for the expansion of their businesses, the demand for skilled operators in Turkey has notably increased. (Photo: Today's Zaman)
Call center businesses, known as the nation's “smokeless industry,” which provide employment and contribute to the economy, have been spreading throughout the nation in line with the need of both public and private businesses.
People have dialed 118 for unknown numbers for years, a service provided by the Postal and Telecommunications General Directorate (PTT), which used to be the only call center service provided in the past. But with the development of the services sector the country has seen the demand for call centers increase from companies who want to utilize customer opinion in order to expand their businesses. The Turkish call center industry has left behind prominent nations with the quality of service its employees provide, in addition to technological advancement.
This will be the seventh year of the Turkey Call Center Awards -- until last year known as the İstanbul Call Center Awards -- which are seen as a major contributor to the advancement and spread of call center offices all over the country.
Meltem Karateke, general manager of IMI Conferences -- which is the organizer of the event -- notes the addition of a new category to the awards this year, the Best Customer Management in Social Media Award, adding: “So far 35 call centers have applied to compete, and we will distribute awards in 12 categories. This year we have an applicant from Germany as well. The panel of jurors consists of 25 experts in the field who carefully consider each applicant. Our aim is to spread the word about how well the call centers are managed and how the industry develops by implementation of innovative ideas.”Jury foreman Kubilay Güler stated that when the awards ceremony began seven years ago there were only about 10,000 workers in call centers, but this number now exceeds 60,000. He commented: “With this speed of growth, if the number of call center workers reaches 250,000, Turkey will posses a significant share of the global industry. And with the contribution of KOSGEB [the Small and Medium Industry Development Organization], our employees are not only seen as phone operators but successful young professionals who speak foreign languages. International firms now direct their focus to Turkey as a result of the presence of these professionals, who do not have [strong] accents, and are beginning to prefer Turkey over Indian services.”
Güler further explained that thanks to infrastructure provided by Turkey’s leading fixed-line operator, Türk Telekom, call centers are able to service all parts of the world from any point in the country. He said, “With the contribution of the skilled labor force and global expansion of domestic brands, we can describe the call center business as a ‘smokeless industry,’ similar to the country’s tourism industry. As the industry becomes more qualified each day, we expect it will attract more foreign customers.”
Emphasizing that the IMI committee, which has analyzed call centers in the UAE, Germany, UK and Holland, among others, visits call centers in Europe every year, Güler underlined that call centers in Turkey are in much better condition. “We see what a great job we have done as the companies we serve receive awards abroad,” he added. Also announcing that the last day to submit applications to attend the Turkey Call Center Conference and Expo, which will take place in October, is July 13, Karateke said the participant companies will be able to take advantage of support provided by KOSGEB.
Domestic businesses relate their success to call centers
Mehmet Akif Demirtaş, responsible for strategic planning and administrative operations at İstanbul Gas Distribution Industry and Trade Incorporated Company (İGDAŞ), remarked that call centers had helped the company to satisfy over 90 percent of their four million customers, and stated, “We owe this to our call center, where over 60 operators are working.” Noting that the approval rating of the company’s corporate reputation was found to be over 80 percent according to recent research, Demirtaş emphasized the importance of call centers to the business and thanked IMI for rewarding their quality of service.
Bank Asya Alternative Distribution Channels General Manager Ali Sait Özkan said the award they received from IMI has encouraged them and led them to enter a call center contest that took place in London last week, where they won third place in the category for the Europe, Middle East and North Africa region. “We train our own call center operators, and after strict training they can transfer to work at our headquarters and branches in a variety of services. This year, we have transferred 15 percent of operators to our branches. We have also established regional call centers and plan on increasing the number of employees in the near future.”
Burak Bacak from Finansbank also praised the IMI for its contribution to the call center industry and stated: “The awards we have received from IMI motivates our employees and provides extra resources to the department from the company to bring the customer service to another level. Additional resources are required in order to carry the department further. We currently employ 850 workers in our call centers in İstanbul and Erzurum and plan on hiring 150 more employees.”