You are having trouble with your internet connection, you call the call centre of your service provider. You are having trouble with your mobile phone, you call your carrier's call centre. Food hasn't been delivered on time, you call or message their Help Desk.
Unbeknown to you, you may have actually been talking to the same person, or at least a person employed by the same company: Genex Infosys.
"We say that if there are 17 crore mobile phone subscribers, Genex provides service to 15 crore people," said Prince Mojumder, the Chief Executive Officer of Genex Infosys Limited, "We feel proud of it. We are the brand behind the brands. For this reason, people do not know our name, but we are a part of their lifestyle."
Genex Infosys Limited is the country's largest call centre with more than 2,000 seats and full-set equipment.
The company handles the government information service 333, one of the country's two largest government call centres. They provide contact services to the government, telecom companies Grameenphone and Robi Axiata, ride-sharing company Uber, e-commerce, food delivery companies, and large MNCs like Samsung.
Besides, the company also does many back-office tasks for international companies, such as Uber. In addition, many banks outsource their banking service from their back office to Genex.
After the infrastructure sector, Genex is the largest company in terms of employment creation. The company has the highest concentration of employees in Dhaka and Chattogram. Their total number of employees is around 4,000.
Genex entered the call centre business in 2013 but faced serious challenges initially. Over time, many of the obstacles in the call centre and BPO (business process outsourcing) business have been successfully tackled by the company.
In 2009, when the government began giving licences for call centres, more or less 400 people took licences and started businesses. Now the number of call centres is less than 60.
"Everyone took licences irrespective of their expertise. Many people took licences and did not even start a business," said Prince.
The apex trade body of call centres, the Bangladesh Association of Call Center and Outsourcing (BACCO), played a very important role in the initial years. The association organised programmes like BPO summits to create awareness among leaders of other industries.
"After the summits, people came to know about BPO. People realised that call centres can be outsourced," said Prince.
During that time, they had to send people to different companies to make them aware of business process outsourcing, as well as call centres. The industry reached out to a massive number of people in a very short time.
The call centre industry scene changed when a major mobile phone operator company outsourced their call centre as MNCs are used to this culture in other countries.
"When Robi Axiata outsourced to us in 2013, it was a milestone for this industry," said Prince.
When we told their potential clients that a company like Robi Axiata was outsourcing, it became very convincing. Then the industry began to earn trust.
The Genex success story
Genex, according to Prince, is a customer experience expert in the country now. They are not limited to call centres and have diversified their services. In the beginning, they brought in foreign experts, but now they have developed skilled manpower. They have transferred knowledge to local resources.
Initially, the people who took licences focused on international calls. They did not think the domestic market would be very big. They got in trouble operating international calls as they needed to provide service in different time zones with a skilled English-speaking workforce.
The main reason behind the success of Genex is that it didn't put all its focus on the international market. Instead, they, from the beginning, tried to create a domestic market for the call centre business. The CEO cited maintaining international standards in respect of data security as another reason behind the company's success.
All of these policies played a vital role in paving Genex's way to becoming a booming business. In this sense, the contact centre for telecommunications is at an advanced level, be it technology or service-wise.
"We are not calling it a Call Centre; it is a Contact Centre now because we are not limited to only calls," said Prince, "Once, people used only calls. People now connect with others using different mediums like email, SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. For this reason, we are calling it a contact centre."
The term (Contact Centre) is continuously changing globally, too. They are taking the industry to a more advanced level. Many companies have started 'customer experience' departments in Bangladesh too.
The next frontier: Banking sector
For call centres, the banking industry can be the next frontier if bankers start outsourcing on a large scale.
Bangladesh has more than 50 banks. The banks were once very conservative, but Bangladesh Bank issued a circular stating all banks must have a call centre for their customers. Some of the leading banks have already started outsourcing, but on a small scale.Around 40 banks, however, have not outsourced their customer service yet.
The telecom sector has to maintain data security compliance the most. Their data security guidelines and compliance are very strict and they maintain global standards.
"We are providing them service year after year. This is a very good reference for the banking sector," said Prince, "They may say they are dealing with financial services, but I would say, the telecom industry has a lot of financial services."
According to Prince, the call centre industry is doing well, but there is a long way to go.
"Many companies are still opening call centres," said Prince, "even the government has come forward to set up a call centre."
The government is operating call centres for women, children and so on, on a small scale. Eventually, the government will have to outsource the service as demand increases, Prince feels.
Setting up a call centre or BPO company is good in terms of employment generation. Companies can recruit employees by providing short-period training, like say a two-month training, if the candidate has basic competence like conversation skills and basic computer operation skills.
"This short-span training is not available in other sectors like the software industry. In the software industry, there needs to be a lot of training and skill development," said Prince.
Prince believes there is a vast potential in the domestic and international market for contact centres and BPOs.
The language barrier
A major challenge facing the call centre industry in dealing with international clients is the lack of a sufficient number of English-speaking employees.
"You will get 20-30 English speaking employees. But when you need 200-400 English speaking employees, it will be difficult. If someone has a good command of English, they have many ways of making a living," said Prince.
The Philippines and India are leading the call centre industry globally. Bangladesh is lagging far behind.
"The size of the Philippines and India back-office IT services and call centres is around $200 billion. We are working with a target of $5 billion," said Prince. "Our total IT export is just over $1 billion."
The cultural/societal mindset of not working night shifts can serve as another barrier.
"The picture in India is totally different. India is abuzz at midnight too, where employees engage in adda and have tea in IT parks in the middle of the night," said Prince.
"I believe the potential in contact centre service is infinite, and we are moving forward to tap it," said Prince. He said that demand and price for this service is increasing in India. So, Bangladesh can provide the same service at a competitive price.