Cape Town’s burgeoning contact centre industry has chalked up another high-profile international client, with local company Sales Engine winning a contract to provide telesales services to two state lotteries in Germany. Sales Engine’s call centre, set up in just five weeks, has become the first in Cape Town to be making outbound calls to the German market.

The north and south German state lotteries (NKL and SKL) pay out a guaranteed million euros (about R8m) every day, with payouts ranging from EU1,000 to EU1m. “The lotteries run for six months at a time and players take out a monthly subscription for each one, rather than buying a ticket for an individual draw as in South Africa,” explains Sales Engine’s Sales Manager, Rita Bischoff. “The lotteries have been running for over 50 years and are a highly-regarded part of the German social fabric”.

The German government licences five companies to sell subscriptions and administer the lotteries. One of these, Boesche, has contracted Sales Engine to run a telemarketing campaign selling subscriptions to German citizens in both Germany and South Africa

Despite poor media perceptions of telemarketing, says Bischoff, Sales Engine has so far encountered “very little negative feedback. It helps that the lotteries are popular and well-known; but it’s also important that our team are not aggressive, in-your-face salespeople; they’re nice people who enjoy conversation. We’re very careful not to pressurise people into buying something they don’t want – that’s a road to disaster.”

To ensure that buyers have an opportunity to opt out, sales calls are followed up by a control call from an administrator who ensures that the customer is happy to proceed. Since subscription fees are debited directly from subscribers’ bank accounts or credit cards, this is also an important security measure.

Sales Engine’s venture into the German market has begun with just eight call centre agents who aim to make around 8,000 calls a month – but, says Bischoff, the potential for growth is substantial. “There are very few low-cost locations around the world that can offer German language skills,” she says, “and South Africa not only has a good pool of German speakers, but also offers an excellent work ethic. A number of potential German investors have expressed interest in outsourcing to South Africa.”

The proposition is make more attractive by the fact that, thanks to specialist call centre solutions offered by Telkom, “it’s actually cheaper for us to call Germany than it is to call locally”. The recently announced decision to legalise voice over IP (VOIP) technology will lower costs even further.