Legislation should 'control' SA spam levels

2015-08-11 10:16 - Duncan Alfreds
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Automation is increasing the efficiency of call centres. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town - As call centres opt for more automation, local laws should help prevent South Africans from experiencing a deluge of text messages, says an insider.

"Automation makes it easier to send out unsolicited info but there is an increase in legislation to deal with this so the net effect is unlikely to change much," Bruce Von Maltitz, managing director of Cape Town based cloud telephony company 1Stream told Fin24.

Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act mandates that companies can collect information with the permission of "data subjects", and many firms are actively working to build in-house databases, rather than buy names from third parties.

However, the act has yet to be fully enforced and multiple South African firms appear to be shifting their operations to digital contact methods rather than traditional call centres.

Blocking techniques

Spam SMSes offend many cellphone users. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

The result is that companies rely on direct customer contact to boost sales, but there is a fine line between that and spamming.

"In some ways they are one and same - back in the days before email and text messages, home phones would ring at dinner time with telesales agents offering you everything from life insurance to specials on carpets. Technology has made it cheaper and easier to do the same but both are just as irritating as the other," Andre Steenekamp, CEO of digital marketing agency 25AM, told Fin24.

Von Maltitz, though, rejected that spam text messages would materially offend cellphone users because blocking techniques may not be as effective as intended.

"I'm also not convinced that call blocking technologies will work as people that send out spam can mask where it is coming from so it is very difficult to stop. I would be interested to know who would be prepared to pay for this technology to be developed to effectively deal with spam."

Call centres are increasingly adopting automation technologies, but a 1Stream report titled 'Key Trends Affecting the South African Call Centre Industry' found that technology makes up only 10% of call centre costs.

Von Maltitz suggested that the apparent lowered cost of tech tools might not always directly translate into lower operational costs.

"As salaries account for 70% of cost and emails can take longer to answer than a phone call it can push up your total costs. The same applies for chat, Facebook, Twitter, etc."

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