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Although Kenyan ISP SkyWeb Technologies has 2200 dial-up customers, its CEO Gilda Odera told us last week that:”The market is getting tougher and this has forced us to look for other ‘value-adds’ so that we can use the ISP as a platform to do other things.” So its first new business has been the introduction of a call-centre business:”We want to focus on this area and grow it locally.”

It has 20 seats and has won a contract to carry out market research for a company based in Canada. It is also hoping to sign a telemarketing contract with a publisher to carry out subscription renewals.

The biggest nightmare has been finding, training and retaining good people. When it advertised, it got an enormous number of responses but found that in person, many applicants did not have “the voice” needed for phone work. To overcome this problem, it now asks applicants to leave a voice message which enables them to carry out a preliminary sort of applicants. The best kind of applicants are those that have had some level of international exposure (often through education abroad) that allows them to understand particular words and contexts.

It pays between KS15-20,000 a month, with really skilled operators able to earn KS25,000. It groups employees into three categories: Entry level, intermediate and advanced. It takes 3-4 months to go from entry level to advanced.

Its calling is done using VoIP and it uses the services of a call centre it works with in Canada. Calls cost US0.22 cents a minute. The call centre bills them for these costs and the client has an Asterisk box that handles the calls. However Odera believes that once SkyWeb gets other clients it will look for its own provider.