There is a climate of uncertainty for an estimated 4,000 call centre agents working with MTN Nigeria, as the telecoms company has struck a new deal to give its Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) job otherwise termed call centre operations to an Indian firm, Ison BPO Limited. Ison is billed to take full charge of the outsourcing business for Nigeria’s largest telecoms company in August, this year.
MTN is taking the job from CNSS (Contact Centre) Limited, an indigenous firm that provides a full complement of in-and out-bound call centre operations, service delivery and management services, encompassing specific services for various business sectors. CNSSL also provides back office processing, consulting and training and development services and has employed empowered over 6,000 Nigerians through its local operation.
According to investigations, the call centre agents’ concerns emanated from the feelings that the move by MTN to transfer the call centre operation job from an indigenous firm, CNSSL, to the Indian company could lead to ‘enslavement and poor staff welfare.’ “We have heard about the plan by MTN to take the call centre job from the company that currently manages its call centre operations which we work with, that is CNSSL. CNSSL is an indigenous company and now, MTN is taking the job from the local company to an Indian firm. So, this calls for serious worries,” a female agent at the Lekki call centre of CNSSL said.
She explained that under an Indian company, the welfare of Nigerians will not be taken care of because Indians are used to maximising profits at the expense of their employees.
Another agent, who did not want his identity disclosed, said: “We have some precedent in this economy where an Indian company took over call centre operations for a telecoms firm and before long, it started treating the agents it acquired as though they were not human beings. This has definitely left us bewildered.”
He said that although they have been assured by MTN that there would not be any negative impact on the staff, which they had trained and invested in heavily, majority of them were still sceptical about these assurances, as nobody can guarantee what the Indian company is coming with as a policy, may be to slash salary or even downsize.
Contacted on the development, MTN Nigeria’s Public Affairs General Manager, Mrs. Funmi Onejide, said the exercise was not meant to lay off its call centre agents in the country. According to her, the outsourcing of the call centre operation to the Indian firm was not a “staff rationalisation/ retrenchment exercise” but rather an exercise carried out “in line with global best practices.” She noted that, as a company that has invested over $13 billion (over N2 trillion) in the Nigerian economy, MTN is committed to working with indigenous companies and other players in the market in a competitive manner. “Let me start by saying that our call centre operations were outsourced many years ago,” she said.
She added that as part of the MTN Group’s continuous efforts to drive further efficiency towards improving the quality of customer service delivery across its footprints, a competitive bid was held for the call centre business across English speaking Africa. Onajide said further to the bid process, MTN has signed a new outsourcing contract with a new organisation, Ison BPO Limited, following the competitive bidding process. “Competitive bid/ tenders and outsourcing of certain parts of our business including the call centre is in line with global best practices for organisations in our industry.”
She stressed that a change in vendors by MTN did not amount to a staff rationalisation or retrenchment. She added, “Call centre staff members are at the front line of our operations and they are highly trained Nigerians who are valued by us.” Onajide also promised the company’s commitment to delivering quality of service that its over 60 million subscribers and other enterprise customers deserve, “guided by a strong culture of best-practice people management.”
However, many stakeholders have raised concerns, regarding the implication of MTN’s action on the economy. To them, the implication of taking away of the business from an indigenous company to an Indian firm is that Nigeria is not yet strong in its local content policy drive. According to them, Nigeria is where MTN makes the largest chunk of its money in all its over 20 countries of operation and yet they are taking such a contract from an indigenous firm and awarding it to an Indian firm.
By Pita Ochai