For many years, the Democratic Republic of Congo did not have a centralized customer service platform where they could make simple requests, ask questions or even issue complaints.
Congolese entrepreneurs are hoping to change that with the country’s first ever independent call centre.
Congolese people can hear local accents on the other side when they call to talk to someone about their phone services, thanks to the Congo Call Centre.
Run by a husband and wife team, Fely and Annie Samuna, Congo call centre was created in 2009 and today employs over 300 people, who run customer service hotlines for corporate clients such as Samsung, Telecomms giants Tigo and Orange, in French, Lingala and English.
Huguette Samu is the call centre’s customer care director.
“By using our services, our clients will get to know what the end user wants and thinks. The service provider wants to know directly what their customers need. For example, we help NGOs establish communication lines where their beneficiaries can reach them, which is something new, that was not in place before. People used to use their mobile phones, but with mobile phones, you may not be able to receive as many calls and you may not know how the calls were handled, but using the services of a call centre can help you sort all of that,” said Huguette.
With an initial investment of 150,000 USD of their own funds, the entrepreneurs behind the call centre faced many challenges.
One was the lack of the bilingual call centre agents fluent in Lingala, French and Swahili, as well as operating in a country with one of the worst telecomms infrastructures.
“The main challenges for us at the beginning were financial, because we were using our own capital, so it was quite a challenge to keep the business afloat for two years. But we managed, we invested a lot in training and signed our first client in 2009, which was a relief, because it was very hard to finance such a business, especially because at the time people had no concept on the importance of call centres,” said Call Centre co founder Fely Samouna.
Today the business generates revenues of 2.3 millions USD, and is looking to expand its services in the hospitality, government and other financial sectors.
“In our experience, the general public has been open to the idea, and people are usually corporative when we call them to do surveys and introduce them to our services. They have come to understand that these services can help them run their business more efficiently. Now we also want to make sure that more businesses understand how vital we can be to their business, and how beneficial a call centre can facilitate many things,” added Huguette.
With improved connectivity and reduced call costs thanks to the recent arrival of the fibre optic cable, the call centre founders plan to expand their businesses to other cities in the country before they reach out to the wider Francophone region.