809 — Turkey: A strong candidate for offshore call centre outsourcing. By Alp Kohen, managing partner, Sistema

Sep 8, 2003 | Conteúdos Em Ingles

The development of the call centre industry in Turkey started in late 1996. Until 1996, only those companies whose operations required possessing a call centre were running call centres. Nevertheless, during the past years, the growth of the call centre industry has been significant. This is largely attributable to the increased awareness on customer retention and its impact on profitability and the necessity of offering alternative channels to reduce costs. Banks and GSM companies have largely pioneered the developments and made sizable investments. Other sectors had followed suit.

Today there are about 150 call centres in turkey where approximately 12,000 people are employed. The offerings of call centres have largely been embraced by banks; almost all banks in Turkey possess a call centre. Banks employ about 40 per cent of the workforce, followed by mobile telephone service suppliers.

During the past three years, outsourcing has also developed considerably. There are about a dozen of outsourcing companies in Turkey (all located in Istanbul), having about 2,000 seats – workstations – all together.

Perspective of offshore outsourcing

In addition to the mounting demand from local companies, Turkey offers excellent opportunities to be the location for handling Pan-European calls. During the course 2003, two major developments have certainly reassured that Turkey is becoming the “backyard” of German speaking countries.

The first development has been that Siemens Business Services have decided to serve their major customer from their center in Istanbul. The second development has happened with Lufthansa. They have recently opened up a center in Istanbul to serve clients in German language.

Moreover some Turkish call center outsourcing companies based in Turkey have realized this opportunity and are expanding to Europe. Customer Management Center (CMC) is one of the leading call centers in this arena and is active particularly in Germany.

Turkey has substantial strengths to be location for handling Pan-European calls . Some of them are:

· Ample and low cost workforce
· Availability of large number of qualified people who are able to speak fluent German.
· Low staff turnover.
· Dynamic and practical culture, “can do” attitude.
· General interest to work in call centers.
· Flexible labour laws (e.g., you can listen and monitor calls).
· Availability of qualified blue-chip suppliers.
· Low set-up and operation costs.
· Proximity to Europe.

With a population of nearly 70 million, over half of who are under 25 years old, Turkey has a great number of well educated young graduates. Turkey also has an extensive base of educated, native-speakers of a variety of European languages, mainly German and Dutch.

Beginning early 60’s, thousands of Turkish citizens settled in idle Europe, especially in Germany and Netherlands. Thereafter, a significant number of the second generation returned to Turkey, forming an extensive labour pool of native German and Dutch speakers.

Nevertheless, Turkey is not without some weaknesses on this area. These can be summarized as:

· Call centre sector is not yet totally recognised or supported by the government.
· Telecom is a monopoly thus highly regulated. Services provided specific to call centers are limited.
· Call centre industry is still developing; call centre management knowledge is less mature than some European countries.

If the offshore situation is analysed particularly from the perspective of Germany, the following opportunities appear:

· Turkish telecom will be deregulated as of 1 January 2004, thus yielding to more competitive prices and flexibility.
· There is growing interest from European countries, including German companies to go offshore due to cost pressure.
· Germans and Turks have been living together for about five decades, thus both cultures know each other. There is no need to convince Germans about the language abilities of returning Turks.
· Approximately 2,5 million Turks are still living in Germany. An increasing number of German companies see this ethnic group as an opportunity.

Turks are fluent in German and do not have an accent. Moreover, because they were born there and returned or have lived there for a long time, they know the culture and the way of life. This is particularly important whilst trying to sell something in Germany to Germans.

Despite the fact that it is possible to offer multitude of languages from Turkey, the real area for concentration has to be German language due to the vast availability of German speaking people as well as lower cost of operation compared with Germany.

France and Netherlands are the two other countries where most Turks are located and French and Dutch are therefore the two other possible languages followed by English (to a lesser extent). Due to the close proximity, Russian, Polish and Greek can be supported from Istanbul.


Turkey has a lot to offer. Famous Turkish hospitality coupled with the “can do” attitude ascertains that customers will receive superior customer service. Other than in Germany, the best and smooth accent in German can be found in Turkey. There are plentiful young Turkish people who were either born or worked in Germany. They are willing to work in call centers at a reasonably lower wages than European countries.

Needless to say, a lot will change after the telecom deregulation. Although prices will fall down, specific tariffs and / or services will be offered to call centers, it will still take time for call centers to fully benefit from the advantages of the privatisation.

Turkish outsourcing companies must remember the examples from the tourism industry: Neither do any of the companies benefit from price wars, nor it promises a healthy future.

The Turkish government should understand the call center business, what offshore call center means and what benefits it would bring to the country. It should help promote the industry in international arena, provide the call center companies with the required infrastructure and support.

As India, Philippi8nes do for English, Mexico for Spain, Morocco for French, etc., Turkey should concentrate on predominantly German language. With its skillful and fluent people, positive customer service attitude coupled with favourable price offers, make Turkey a very strong candidate for handling German contacts.

Alp Kohen
[email protected]

Em Foco – Opinião
Consultoria – Advice