When South Africa squares off against Mexico in the opening game of the World Cup today, it will bring six years of preparation and planning to culmination.
But South African Tourism had a little less time to get its call center staff prepared.
"The total development time to get rolling was nine weeks," said William Price, global manager of E-Marketing, South African Tourism, part of the country's Department of Tourism. "We've literally had days and weeks to implement everything."
Used to roughly 1,000 calls a week from four key markets, the department had to prepare itself for what it expects will be 10,000 calls a week and most of the world turning its attention to the African nation. That meant roughly doubling its call center staff from 25 to 50. It also meant adding some new language capabilities. South African Tourism typically served visitors with five languages: French, Italian, German, Dutch and English.
"Getting bodies in seats was not the problem," Price said. "For us, it was getting the right languages. We had five; we needed to add Portuguese and Spanish. What we found is it's not just putting people with a headset in a chair. There's a lot of training involved to get people to take tourism-related calls."
On top of the ramp up, the organization had to adjust and react to new demands from other regional tourism boards prepping for the World Cup.
"It's been a bit frustrating because we’re not just working with our timeline," Price said. "All of a sudden, everyone wants to participate. When the Department of Tourism says please comply, we've had to plug in every one of the provincial tourism boards. It's like chasing the goals but the goals keep moving. It hasn't been easy."
The organization also needed to get its resources and infrastructure geared up very quickly and do quality assurance on top of it. That made South African Tourism a prime candidate for Software as a Service -- as well as the ability to flex up and down with licenses.
"I was very interested in the cloud computing environment because I wouldn't have to invest in software and hardware," Price said.
South African Tourism deployed Salesforce.com -- replacing a system based on Microsoft Excel -- using it primarily for case management and real-time reporting. Once the World Cup winds down and the contact center can scale back down, Price will cancel some of those licenses, though the IT department is interested in keeping a handful for its own internal technical assistance tracking.
The implementation is also changing the way South African Tourism does business. For example, one department is in charge of making sure establishments are properly rated by the organization.
"Before, we had to have people on the ground and do site visits," Price said. "We have the opportunity to change that business model completely. For example, when we get escalations where people say they're not happy with a hotel's rating, it shouldn't be five star, we take that call, log it as a case and distribute it out of the call center environment to a person who can respond accordingly."
Making soccer social
In addition, South African Tourism is making a big commitment to social networks with the World Cup.
"The other thing we're really excited about is to plug in to online spaces," Price said. "One of the things we believe in is [that] social media is critical to people traveling. Travel is social. People are tweeting, using Facebook, capturing images and sharing where they're going next. One thing we wanted to do was capture perceptions out there and how those perceptions change."
South African Tourism has two Twitter accounts, @GoToSouthAfrica and @William_Price, a South African Tourism Facebook fan page and a YouTube Channel. Visitors can tweet questions to @GoToSouthAfrica and agents will respond, using Salesforce.com's Service Cloud 2. It's also using Salesforce Ideas to gather feedback from visitors, and it created an iPhone app allowing users to access the Salesforce Ideas portal to access and share information about locations, hotels, game venues and other pertinent feedback.
"All online feedback is pushed into the call center so people can see comments and requests," Price said. "It allows us to log all of the calls and run live reporting -- which languages are getting which requests -- for training and capacity management."
In the end, Price and all South Africans are hoping that their efforts will be well worthwhile.
"For us as South Africans, we really are having to do a lot of big things in big ways to catch up to the expectations around the World Cup specifically,” he said. “Everyone is real stretched out and real excited."