Amazon launches South African customer service centre

Amazon’s Senior Vice President of operations and customer services Marc Onetto, jetted into Cape Town, South Africa for the official launch of the company’s new Customer Service Centre, which is expected employ around 1 400 people by December.

The centre is the renowned retailer’s second project in South Africa and is meant to complement its South African Development Centre, also based in Cape Town, which does work on Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) programme.

The support centre had previously been operating out of temporary offices since its arrival in the country last year. The new centre means that the company is able to offer a full range of support, including technical support for its Kindle e-Reader.

Onetto cites the friendliness of South Africans as a large reason for the company deciding to locate a service centre in South Africa.

“The fundamental culture of this company is customer-centric,” he said. “When we offer customer services let’s make it from people who are nice, we found that in South Africa”. Other motivating factors included Cape Town’s location, both in terms of climate and time zones.

Referring to the extreme conditions which gripped much of Northern Europe last year, Onetto says that there were points where “people couldn’t go to work, so we could serve our customers from here [Cape Town]”.

When asked about the possibility of Amazon expanding its services in South Africa, Onetto stated that logistics in South Africa were not of a high enough calibre for the company to commit to launching services such like its cloud player and full vendor support in the country.

He added, however, that this could change in the future, citing the fact that Amazon had, at one point, stopped shipping to the South Africa, owing to unpredictability with the country’s customs officials and postal service.

James Greenfield, who heads up the Development Centre, said the good experiences of the EC2 development team had assisted in bringing the customer service centre to South Africa.

He added that the calibre of the South African engineers working at the development centre compared favourably with those around the world.

According to the Development Centre’s site, “EC2 is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers”. The service also claims to provide “developers with complete control of their computing resources and lets them run on Amazon’s proven computing environment”.

In line with the company’s desire to increase its South African footprint, the Development Centre is also expanding from its current base of around 50 engineers.

On the topic of allowing third party developers in South Africa to become vendors, Onetto said, “We are developing this and we believe that it’s a great opportunity for South African merchants who want to sell stuff with Amazon”.



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