Four questions for the call center and BPO industries that need to be asked

puzzled-lookLet’s keep it simple. Certain members of the call center/business process outsourcing (BPO) industry took the “offending” lines from GMA-7’s drama series “The Borrowed Wife” way too personally. But why dwell on a perceived slight over something that may or may not be true when there are bigger things to worry about? Because these bigger things will affect the entire industry, regardless of whether the “slurs” affect each of you at a personal level or not.

Here’s a chance for everyone to engage in more “constructive” dialogue. Following below is a list of questions that people both inside and outside the industry will be able to relate to, and will and should inevitably ask of you, as they try to, as Filipinos are fond of saying again and again, “understand you”:

1) With regards to the ‘slurs’ from the TV show – “hindi ako nag-aaral para sumagot lang ng telepono!” (I did not study just to answer phone calls!) and “pang-walang pinag-aralan lang yan” (it is solely for the uneducated) – in your point of view, what is the root cause of people having these and other negative perceptions of the call center/BPO industry? Why do these perceptions persist?

2) What are the steps that you, as a part of the call center/BPO industry, propose, in order to negate, correct, and reverse the effects of such a perception, both at the micro/individual and macro/collective levels?

3) The “image” that the call center/BPO industry in the Philippines currently has at the macro level is that of its competitive advantages – cheap and abundant labor, a good (albeit deteriorating) English-speaking workforce, familiarity with Western cultural attitudes, and the friendly and welcoming nature of the Filipino people. As the global outsourcing trend gradually moves towards phasing out having to speak to telephone operators, how does the industry plan to adjust? What other competitive advantages does the local industry plan to develop and pitch?

4) What is your value proposition for the call center/BPO industry?

Hypothetical situation A: I am a job seeker with degree X. I have been offered several opportunities with various companies with various degrees of relevance to what I finished in school. I also have been offered an opportunity with a call center/BPO. Why should I take the call center/BPO job above all the others?

Hypothetical situation B: I am an investor looking to start a business here in the Philippines. Assume that capital is no object. I have been offered various opportunities to partner with local businessmen in various sectors, and one of them involved a chance of putting up a call center/BPO here to cater to my company’s needs. Why should I do so here in the Philippines?

Quite simply, sell your industry.

Because the call center/BPO industry reputedly emphasizes problem solving and critical thinking, if you know the industry really well, it really shouldn’t be too hard to answer these questions.

Start thinking about the inevitable future, ladies and gentlemen.

customer focus
The ultimate end point of any company, regardless of whether call centers continue to exist or not.

[Photo courtesy: ryanaweaver.com and aronline.co.uk]

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About FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

49 Comments on “Four questions for the call center and BPO industries that need to be asked”

  1. Just to share: The initial reason I see why people prefer to work for a BPO company is the MONEY, plain and simple. It’s quite sad to see people taking this alternative simply because the jobs that their degree demands is not enough to support their needs/they need fast and hard cash easily. It’s a monotonous job to be a CC agent, no matter how big you’re earning.

    I was a former recruitment specialist for a call center and I saw many of my office mates from the same department having their work drives eroded because of the monotony of their jobs.

    I believe given a couple of years, this BPO thing might collapse it it’s own weight.

    1. From comments am starting to see a trend/areas to be addressed

      Strategic issues:

      Infrastructure
      Innovation
      Integration
      Insularity

      Operational problems:

      Motivation
      Monotony
      Management
      Measurement
      ( inclined to add manners – attitude)

      Would be interested in the following since you were recruitment specialist

      Were people given modular/additional skills training
      Was there a career path/progression
      Did people have the flexibility to change tasks – inbound/outbound – or did it not make any difference to the monotony
      Was ther an effort to vary/expand/rotate the job
      Did unrealistic performance targets rule the day/night
      Was there bonuses/profit sharing
      What % of hires were graduates
      What was the quality of management
      What was the staff turnover levels
      Was there a bpo/kpo element or just telesales/customer support
      Did the employees have input/ability to discuss concerns/ feel involved
      Were the customers happy

      I

      1. 1)Were people given modular/additional skills training – Time management and leadership training were the only skills training received from our team alone.

        2)Was there a career path/progression – Phonescreener->Rec. Specialist->Rec. Manager only

        3)Did people have the flexibility to change tasks – inbound/outbound – or did it not make any difference to the monotony – Slight flexibility of tasks in the sense that employees would be given like 2x a year for a different task that is related to their job, other than that the job was monotonous (ie taking calls and interviewing people thru phone 8 hours a day

        4)Was there an effort to vary/expand/rotate the job – Answer in #3

        5)Did unrealistic performance targets rule the day/night – Most of the time around 70-80% within the year the targets are realistic except for the quality of candidates for interview.

        6)Was there bonuses/profit sharing – Quarterly bonuses for the team + performance bonus for the group that exceed/meet their quotas every week.

        7)What % of hires were graduates – High school or College? All of our employees are college grads.

        8)What was the quality of management – I would rate around 60% for management’s response to employee concerns.

        9)What was the staff turnover levels – Turnover would happen at least once a year for management and regular employees.

        10)Was there a bpo/kpo element or just telesales/customer support – Purely telesales/customer support

        11)Did the employees have input/ability to discuss concerns/ feel involved – Yes, there are monthly meetings/performance reviews for employees to discuss their problems/concerns.

        12)Were the customers happy – Sorry, I can’t answer this since I was not involved in the actual CC agent operations so I can’t gauge the overall positive feedback from the customers.

  2. Disclaimer: I am not a call center agent, I’m a software developer, but have been involved in some BPO companies.

    There are no easy answers to this challenge but:

    1. The former incarnation of call center operations are telephone operators, which was back then traditionally an entry-level, low paying job. Filipinos being taught by their parents to measure the size of their egos with the size of their paychecks, old stereotypes exist despite the fact that call center agents are better-trained not only in English but in many technical skills required in their specific client, and even if they are way better paid than the “telephone operators” of yesteryears.

    Couple that with another bullshit Filipino ego-trip — the PRC license — and assuming that any profession not requiring a board exam is “not a real profession” further perpetrates the stereotype. Believe it or not this also happens to some of us software devs, even if some of us earn a lot more than what we’d do if we went with a licensed profession.

    2. I don’t know, but seriously, do you really have to waste your time doing that? If working an honest living and progressing in one’s career is hard enough, do you really have to worry about other people’s opinions about your profession? The hell with those people.

    3. I do not have an answer to this question as I’m not personally involved in the industry. However, being involved in the forefront of technology I would say that while menial tasks can easily be fulfilled by machines, when shit hits the fan and a problem needs to be solved — human interaction is still best.

    Machines do NOT have the same creative and problem solving skills (yet, but don’t hold your breath) in solving customer problems the way people can. So sure you can order and buy stuff online, organize your travel itineraries, and do all sorts of other stuff, but if a person needs help using a newfangled product, get’s the wrong item shipped to his home, or gets a flight cancellation that will cause missed connections, pick-up delays, and changes in accommodations — you still need to talk to a human.

    4. In the perspective of call center agents, I think this article (which people here will hate because it’s from Rappler) probably answers the question better: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/ispeak/48017-defense-telephone-operators

    To quote: “Just in their late twenties or early thirties, they found themselves managing hundreds of people and millions of dollars. Beyond call handling, they soon learned about people management, financial management, process improvement, strategic planning, and sales. With the industry at the forefront of globalization, they collaborate on a daily basis with colleagues from around the globe. In short, call centers are developing young leaders who demand high standards, have highly developed skills and who have a global mindset.”

    In terms of us software developers, aside from the “global mindset” the relatively high pay and lucrative return allowed some of us to consider and venture into creating our own startups, setting up businesses, creating jobs, and just generally contributing to the economy.

    1. Well, funny how you reacted to no.2. It seems that pinoys give more importance to this than no.3 and no.4.

      I am with you with regards to the PRC thing. Now I am a proud holder of a PRC thingy which is basically useless in my current line of work in my place of work. But hey, it had served it’s purpose only after a few years after graduation, after that, it was just used to make my wallet thicker even if I didn’t have enough money.

    2. Thanks for the thoughtful answers, Jon. Speaking for myself, I don’t necessarily dismiss the entirety of Rappler summarily; some of the writers do make sense, and some of them don’t. You just have to look a little harder than you do here hahaha.

      1) I used to work in a BPO. I worked with CSR’s and TSR’s so I somewhat can relate to certain aspects of their job. I was somehow fortunate, though, to be part of a team where my degree in particular was the one being sought for the job. Even if my course doesn’t have a board exam – and it probably won’t for a long time to come – companies are now beginning to realize the value that it brings to them, whereas formerly the reputation that it had compared to other degrees in the same school was that it was easy. I can relate to that attitude in Filipino society where ego is measured by paycheck, because it occurs in the social circles which I frequent. It’s not an attitude that’s going to go away soon.

      2) You’ve got a point, Jon. Maybe it is a pointless exercise in and of itself. How I wish, however, that more Filipinos can just say nonchalantly, like you did, “the hell with those people.” Unfortunately, Filipino society is one that forces its inhabitants to place utmost emphasis on what others think of them, instead of inculcating in them the ways to build their own sense of self-worth by their own standards. And it will be like that way for a long time to come; that people even showed outrage at a line that was supposed to mean absolutely nothing, from a fictional TV show, no less, is such a sign of that.

      3) Indeed, you can automate as many processes as you can, but in the end, there is no technology that can automate the human aspect of operations – yet. But the dependence on human labor to do tasks that can be otherwise automated will inevitably be lessened. The difficulty that the Philippines faces is that it relies overly on its abundant and cheap labor pool to sell itself. But the digital infrastructure that is needed? And the development of higher end professional services? They need to happen at a faster pace than it is now.

      4) Finally, how I wish that the growing number of people who have skills obtained from a BPO would simply translate to more people building their own startups. However, there are many factors in the Philippines – quite a few not under the control of the BPO industry itself – that keep this from being more common than it is now.

      1. The notion of the “human aspect of operations” is getting thinner, however. And this is the biggest risk (and challenge) to BPO/outsourcing service providers. Siri is crap at the moment, but at the very least it is intelligent enough to give us a few chuckles ever now and then. But its (and other siumilar systems’) ability to mimic human intelligence will only get better with time and the rate of the improvement of that mimickry will accelerate every year (there is likely to be the equivalent of a Moore’s Law for AI) with every gadget version release.

        Ultimately, the complexity of operarting processes and human interaction protocols that are within the modelling reach of an AI algorithm will keep increasing. This means that BPO/outsourcing service providers will have to keep evolving — or, consequently, the cost of human components employed in the operation will have to keep going down to compete with the cost of automation (which will be increasingly daunting if that Moore’s Law equivalent for AI does exist).

        Back in 1968, the prospect of compressing the entire computing power of NASA into a single handheld device seemed like an impossibility. Today, we take that power for granted. The same will likely happen to AI.

        1. Indeed, and if policymakers in da Pinas continuously, and predominantly, choose to “lower the cost of human components” as their way of evolving with the times, eh di kawawa nga nanaman mga Pinoy.

  3. I think people should understand that those lines, “hindi ako nag-aaral para sumagot lang ng telepono!” (I did not study just to answer phone calls!) and “pang-walang pinag-aralan lang yan” (it is solely for the uneducated), are based on actual perceptions in real-life society. Erroneous as they may be, they’ve been around a long time. So hearing them as a line in a TV drama doesn’t deserve such outrage.

  4. Globalisation, increased competition, technological innovations, and emerging markets are just some of the drivers creating both challenges and opportunities for companies and countries.
    The challenge is to adapt to the new paradigm, the opportunity is to create new jobs/businesses
    .
    It stands to reason that there will be winners and losers.
    The winners will understand the markets/customers, take strategic long term decisions, and deliver at the highest quality.
    3rd world countries currently have labour cost advantages – critical during the recession – but less so as companies revert back to quality of service and innovation as the key differentiators. Service providers must follow suit, and if serving 1st world customers, then they must think and act to 1st world standards at all levels in an organisation.

    The losers will maintain a short term focus, maximum profit philosophy, loathe to invest or change, until the market simply leaves them behind and they become redundant, along with the employees who will also be skills deficient compared to their contemporaries/competitors.

    The quality of staff will be critical and currently it is simply not up to scratch. Money is not just the prime motivator, it is the sole motivator. That alone indicates something is wrong and unsustainable.

    Management must also step up. It is their job to plan, develop, and motivate. To move from archaic autocrat to modern mentor

    I am reminded when bill gates was asked by a reporter who he saw as his greatest threat.
    “Goldman sachs” ( the banking giant)
    The reporter somewhat perplexed said “why goldman sachs”
    ” because they want the best of the best people with the right attitude, so we compete head to head to recruit the same scarce talent”

    Every problem has its solutions – that’s part and parcel of business, and in the IT sector in particular problem-solving, creativity, change management, passion for the job should be in the blood.

    My thoughts about those who only do it for the money ( isn’t that what prostitutes say) – sad, but enjoy it whilst you can, maybe have already hit your career peak.

    i hope the rest contribute and make something better, however small every day. Be open to new ideas, question everything, keep learning, and find their passion. Success and personal pride will inevitably follow.

  5. I had 2 stints in the industry, both in Human Resources (though I have front-line experience and immersion) where the value proposition challenge is a very real thing.

    I got to work in a Filipino run outfit prior to its sale, and then to a huge transnational. While there are major differences in terms of operational maturity, process effectiveness, and culture between the two, I truly believe I learned immeasurable (and perhaps because they are intangible) things while there, that I truly benefit from today. I got good while I was there, I wasn’t learning as much and as fast when I wasn’t in the industry.

    Why? Working with global pros expose you to high level performance, and it’s not impossible to learn from them. Even us Pinoy yokels (/fake humility) can do so. My exposure to these guys made me insatiable for learning, competence building, and the accumulation of achievements.

    There was this guy who was very good — that rare Filipino who truly bet on the industry and put in the work to earn a PMP certification and an MBA from AIM while in the industry, in order to get ahead within the industry. I still think he’s an exception, but he exists and I like him for his audacious gamble (he’s well placed in the company by the time I met him).

    Still, I’m SO HAPPY I got out of it. My health can’t take it. My psyche can’t take the 100+ emails a day never-ending stream of pressure anymore. There are awesome things to do, so many actually, but these have to be done on top of the spirit-crushing grind of process work.

    Now I’m out of the industry for about 2 years now and work at a non-profit where I try to transfer the process and system practices that made the companies in the BPO industry such beasts in terms of efficiency and value generation therefrom. (I don’t necessarily believe in this model for the long term, but that’s another discussion to make about the industry). I merely want to share what good (and some of the awful) I got when I was there — and what was good, is priceless to me.

  6. This is a little off topic, but I want to share a very different perspective on the IT-BPO industry with your readers.

    I am a mother, who spent 20 years working overseas, cleaning other people’s toilets, mopping other people’s floors and raising other people’s children. All in a desperate bid to make sure my own two girls graduated college. They did.

    Since 2006, I have owned and operated a small BPO in Davao and I am proud to be a small part of an industry that has created over 800,000 jobs. What does 800,000 jobs really mean? As a former OFW, I will tell you EXACTLY what it means.

    It means 800,000 Mothers, Fathers,Sons and Daughters who will now stay in the Philippines instead of being ripped from their families and shipped overseas.

    It means millions and millions of Filipino children will have a mother at home to kiss the hurt and tell them they are deeply loved.

    It means millions of Filipino children will have a father at home to offer a guiding hand.

    The answer to poverty in the Philippines is jobs.

    Whatever the shortcomings the IT-BPO industry may have, one thing is certain. The 800,000 jobs they have created in the span of a few short years is heroic.

    1. Good for you. What I want to know, however, is if the parents are in a BPO work schedule different from that of their kids; because if so, then the disconnect remains despite the elimination of the distance hurdle.

      1. I was born and raised with my Dad as an OFW, I have two kids, and I’m thankful that this industry.

        Even with the different time, parents can still spend their weekends with their kids, hug and kiss them goodnight. In an emergency you can file a leave, if in office ; be home in less than an hour.

        I do hope I have enlightened you.

      2. Working the night shift does create many problems and challenges for a family to overcome. However, those challenges seem small compared to working overseas and being separated from those you love most for months or years at a time. The separation itself creates a pain and anguish so deep that it must be felt and experienced to be fully understood. I simply do not have the words to describe it properly for you.

        1. Certainly agree with Myrna. It’s not a fantastic job to hear complaints everyday, or some who look down on you. However, it’s the lesser evil compared to working overseas and not seeing your kids for years. Every job has a downside. It’s just what’s important for you really. Your priority. Yes, for someone with good education from the best school to work as a CSR, advisor, and whatever else you call it, is, well, difficult to accept, or take, for lack of better word. But, unless you’re promoted to managerial post with a salary of 40k and more, I don’t advise it to be a job for long term. The pressure and reverse work hours adversely affect your health. But due to the difficulty of finding the right job plus the age discrimination in this country, BPO is the only one that can take you whatever your age is a long as you have the skills and can survive the tough metrics! I can understand the outrage because it is not an easy job- you can get fired for one absence, or three tardiness for work. It’s a lot of pressure from customers and clients.

    2. I dont think anyone would disagree with that sentiment.

      The issue was actually how to increase jobs further still and ensure people currently employed can enjoy job stability in the face of market and technological change, increase their individual skills and future value through appropriate training, improve motivation and for companies to move up the value chain.
      Since you work in the industry your perspective on the specifics would be enlightening re strategies, policies, and particularly home grown technologies and training initiatives.
      Davao i think is classified as a first wave city. What incentives apply. How is marketing co-ordinated ( after all cities compete between each other as well for new business). What are the l8njs with colleg3s/uni. Etc. Etc.

      1. @libertas You are correct, Davao is a first wave city. My particular challenge is finding talent. I am small, only 30 people, mostly PHP and .Net programmers. I have jobs for senior .Net developers that I can not fill. Same with mobile.

        As for strategies, policies etc. I will share, but full disclosure would dictate that I point out I never graduated high school, so I tend be simple. What works for me may not work for others.

        To train my people, I started a community service project using social media and web based technologies to empower OFWs with tools to protect themselves, help each other and join in the world’s fight against human trafficking.

        All our young programmers start off contributing to this project under the guidance of our senior developers. We call the project OFW Watch.

        For mobile talent,I hired the best mobile developer in Mindanao (in my opinion). Using our OFW community service initiative as the foundation, he is training four developers and we will be releasing a mobile version of OFW Watch next month.

        As for policies, the one I will share is the absolute requirement that my people conduct themselves with the utmost integrity in dealing with the client. Integrity even in the smallest of things. because no matter how hard we try, sooner or later we will break something. We can fix anything, but broken trust.

        As for marketing, we have no sales department. Every customer has been a referral. Our growth is limited by the talent pool.

        Long term strategy is to productize our community service initiatives for the OFW. We want to become the best in the world at creating little private labeled social networks supported by mobile to meet the needs of other niche communities.

        My hope for my company and the Philippines is that one day people will hire us simply because we are the best at what we do.

        1. Thank you.
          You represent the next wave of micro-entrepreneurs. Every job counts and i am sure has been achieved by your passion, commitment, and hard work. Respect.

          And you underline the point that BPO is not simply about global corporates sucking up and underutilising university graduates. There are multiple business models/opportunities.

          Future inclusive growth will be helped from small focussed leading edge companies who develop and deliver innovative solutions/apps especially with a mobile focus, as you clearly recognise.

          The sad point about BPO which is not published/known is that 92% of the work is ‘exported’/done for overseas clients, so the country is not using bpo skills to improve companies in other industries in its own ‘back yard’.

          I am sure more can be done to help bpo micro-entrepreneurs, with training, finance, and marketing. The technical skills shortage is a real issue. But if there is a will at regional/national level then there are solutions. It takes innovation and commitment from the non-tech, non-strategic bureaucrats! Mmmm.

          Angel investors are used successfully in many countries.

          I hope you continue to grow. I am sure you will.

    3. @Myrna, seems like you’ve plowed your overseas earnings into the right places — into contributing to the expansion of the nation’s capital base. I wish much of the rest of OFW remittances get spent the same way!

        1. @Robert Malit Sir, thank you for the kind words. I visited your link. The concept is so interesting. Particularly the part about OFWs. However, the “About Us” section of your site does not provide the visitor with the info needed about the people behind your project to allow us to do our due diligence.

    4. As others above me have expressed, Myrna, it’s indeed very heartening to hear your experience. Now, if only there were more people like you elsewhere throughout the country!

    5. Now if only the government had that in them, we wouldn’t be having lack of jobs in the Philippines, would we? And I mean that not only with BPO jobs. Still, I don’t want to be negative, but 800,000 in a span of few years still cannot meet the annual number of graduates.

      http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/03/18/life-after-graduation/

      Don’t get me wrong, I salute you, Myrna, but I just do not see that the government gives a hoot about our children’s future.

    6. There is an interesting relationship between the 2 largest contributors to economy
      Ofw – people go abroad to work
      Call centers/bpo – work from abroad comes here

      Generalisation is dangerous but ofw opportunities have given literally millions of less educated people the chance to earn abroad, but at a high social cost, especially since many are married/have children

      Call centers/bpo have given high educated/univ graduates/nurses the chance to stay here but complain of monotony, degrees/education not being utilised, but enjoy the money, ‘status’, and single life, which i think the majority are.

      Ofw’s – 10 million – all groups/levels ( many are settled abroad and would not want to return) – contract housemaids – ? 600,000
      Cc/bpo – 800,000 employees
      Graduates per annum – 400,000

      The optimum social, economic, and educational strategies do not necessarily forge natural synergistic benefits meaning compromise/possible conflicts of interest, since all needs cannot be met.

      Retrain ofw’s
      Risk brain drain
      Overeducate and underutilise
      Vocational education influenced by cc/bpo industry

      So what is a boon for one sector can be a bane for another.

      Management of a nations talent pool is a delicate balance particularly when the wrong short term pressures/decisions can result in long term structural unemployment.

      Plenty of options. No easy answers

  7. I’m not an agent but I do work in a company with a support department and a sales department.

    1) BPO companies don’t require support agents to have degrees and from a country with so many companies not willing to hire anyone who did not graduate from the big 3/4 universities, having a job that requires no degree at all will get you labelled such things.

    2) Absolutely nothing. I used to have the same ideas about agents but I’ve learned to appreciate them once I started working with them. Support agents are the shield that protects us from unnecessary queries while Sales agents talk to potential customers, both things allow us to do our job which is to maintain and improve our products.

    3) Based on experience, people listen more than they read. The answer may be in front of them but they still need someone to point at it.

    4) I know a few people who got more technical positions in our company who started by joining the support team. These guys have the chance to really learn their specific domains.

    I’ve also had some friends who became agents to pay for their tuition fees and are now working in their chosen industries.

  8. Why does anyone even ant to take one of these complete SHIT jobs? Whenever most people in the west call and get a Filipino on the line, they know it is a filipino and know that nothing that is of any concern to their call will be resolved. The filippine call center job is just a way for western corporations to save money and get the message out to customers to stop complaining because nothing is going to be done about your problem when you call the 800#.
    A dead-end job that has moved out of India to the filippines because even poor as shit Indians don’t want the crap job any more.

    HANG UP THE PHONE!and forget the call center agent job…its worse than a dead-end.

  9. Call center industry is worldwide. Especially for English speaking Third World countries, like us…India is one of them. People in India speaks the British English. And, most of their call center personnel are college graduate also.

    Industries in industrialized countries need to cut their cost in advertising ; in technical support; or plainly , in having an operator to answer every customer call.

    So, they outsourced this job to third world countries. Whatever way, your company can cut your operating cost: you have to do it…

    Anyway, they are now researching on a Robot Android, to take the place of Human Operators. Like the Auto industry in the U.S. Where from welding to assembly is now almost done by Robots. Call centers of human beings, will soon be replaced by Robots.

    A Robot works 24 hours a day…7 days a week. Does not complain, or take a vacation. It does not demand promotion and more pay…so there goes Aquino’s call center industries…phased out . They will soon be obsolete…like the typewriter…

  10. The over riding risk is an overconcentration on low margin voice rather than added value data (e.g any move to bundled services/new pricing models in other countries could have an adverse impact – data rules in the corporate it world)

    Acting as a labour pool sub contractor to, and strategically dependent upon global US outsource providers (who in turn are servicing major US corporates), and are not interested in new markets, smaller companies, rather than building wholly owned home-grown companies.(e.g the anti-outsourcing bill in US – defeated last year but due to be re-introduced)

    Dumbing down the best educated available talent rather than developing skills/innovation/entrepreneurial businesses (e.g. no knowledge transfer, and if the ‘ best educated’ become demotivated and just work for the money there is no beneficial trickle down effect – it is like permanently putting your best player on the substitutes bench

    Concentrating in 2/3 physical locations rather than distributing jobs

    Adapting the school curriculum to cater for bpo industry. Mmmm.

    No original research on bpos from industry/universities – ver unusual from a country which is no1 in voice, or is it just no1 in labour provision. Underlines that the country is not in the driving seat but being a passenger. Easy option but no control over own destiny should major outsources rationalise/lose clients etc. Accenture employ 35,000 in philippines, but also employ 80,000 in india)

    Acting as a cocoon and not integrating/achieving synergy with other sector/industries, or other industries benefitting from sharing knowledge/skills

    10% contribution to gdp. Very welcome but is it healthy ( india world overall no1 outsourcer/bpo – 1% of gdp. Indian outsourcing company infosys just won huge contract to run all of microsofts internal it systems and i guess microsoft are pretty choosy. Also microsoft appointed new indian ceo today. India has lost out on voice to philippines but are clearly going for the big prizes – they also run all saudia arabias government systems

    New entrants moving fast (south africa, brazil, mexico, vietnam)

    All seems another case of providing low cost labour to uncle sam, doing what they say – because that is easy option – and trying to exaggerate the filipino role.
    Which filipinos are travelling the world marketing, finding new business, negotiating contracts, speaking at major conferences, meeting IT directors from fortune 500 companies. I dont think many, if any – accenture et al would not like/allow that.

    not at the leading edge of technology ( many govt depts still are not even computerised), so lack credibility outside of voice market, which itself is changing through new products/techniques. does the philippines( as opposed to US owners) have leading edge researchers/developers.
    the government has not even gone to open source standards and seems to have no cohesive strategy/standards. who are the movers and shakers. i certainly cannot find any on internet/ business mags etc.

    God bless america.
    Can we outsource our government to them if we havent already

    1. All eggs (voice) in one basket (US global outsource providers) which is being carried by corporate america

      Corporate america has no contract with the philippines, and only an allegiance to its own bottom line/shareholders

      i would imagine all the contracts for the provision of service to the end customer ( e.g ford motors), are negotiated with and signed by the US operation ( e.g accenture chicago, not accenture philippines/manila. Makes a big difference. It also indicates who is running the show.

      1. @libertas:

        Good comment… You are a very knowledgeable Dude…U.S. and other industrialized countries, outsourced jobs; where there are no job takers in their countries. The reason Mexicans and South Americans climb over the fence in the American – Mexican borders, is to find jobs in the U.S. Jobs like: farm labor, low menial labor, unskilled construction works, etc…low pay because , they are undocumented aliens…they are also subject to being overworked and abuse. Sounds like the OFWs.
        Companies will always find ways to cut cost, and increase their profits. They are not charitable institutions…
        Lack of Philippine government planning is the major cause of our condition. Politicians with no knowledge and experience are voted. Just because they are popular. And, the corruption is too much in our country.

        1. Thought i would end my input on this subject, which i have enjoyed – kudos and respect to fallen angel – on a positive/practical note by brainstorming a few ideas ( no particular order) – am sure many are in hand – the big US companies know exactly what they are doing, but excluding them since they dont run the country and could ‘relocate/redirect’ business/traffic at the flick of a switch to another country, -but ideas generate ideas, change enables improvement, progress means prosperity.

          Ideas brainstorm

          Modular mba/professional qualifications developed for part-time study for bpo staff to develop skills over extended/flexible time period University affiliated.

          Open source standards – government to use and endorse

          IIP (investors in people) – use as quality standard for people management and training

          TQM ( total quality management) – cultural change through structured approach

          ‘Malcom baldrige’ style quality standard awarded to best company each year. Weighted towards innovation and staff development

          Scholarships to work 6 month period in US outsourcers

          Universities to use part-time pro bono business ‘guest lecturers’, qualified mba students. Practical experience not just academic theory

          Micro-entrepreneurs – guidelines and assistance for setting up small specialist bpo’s, and co-operative virtual assistants. Assistance from DTI

          Annual working seminar – filipino bpo companies/ filipino organised.

          Call for papers – ideas, projects, research.

          Local ( city competitions for best start upbusiness idea/plan in conjunction with local universities) – winner given e.g. cash to fund one year business, free office space and equipment

          Professional associations in key sectors ( legal, medical, publishing, graphics, tourism) to each have bpo liasion person/expertise/knowledge

          Angel investors – used very successfully in many countries to crowdfund for new start ups – seedcorn investment – internet based

          University research – phd subjects/research on bpo – r.g cultural change, occupational health issues/impact, technology trends
          Future organisation models
          Review of global literature on bpo’s

          Dept of health – ? Occupational health law

          Virtual assistants – more support and help in marketing

          Benchmarking – template for use in industry

          DICT – more visible and supportive. Enhance quality and expertise

          International conferences – send filipino speakers.

          Ofw transition programme – investment/start up programme

          Placements in bpo offices in US – short term interns

          Employee survey – Conduct industry wide employee survey. Ideas for improvement

          Champion in public – better public image needed for industry. Lack of marketing

          Professional association – needs to be more dynamic and leading edge

          Review language training – all american driven. There are other countries/potential clients ( rest of world hates american accent/idioms)

          Documentary on bpo industry -reality tv!! good subject 10% of gdp but likes secrecy

          Case study of call center ( use in mba programmes)

          Best practices in industry – review and publish. Share knowledge – it adds value

          Quality improvement teams – specialist areas/subjects

          Management training of filipino key employees in US head office

          Small satellite offices/home-working – spread jobs where they are needed using hybrid model

          Improve image

          Too much measurement/targets – measure the right things

          Cultural clarity and core values

          Brainstorming sessions

          Job variety/motivation – if you increase monotony then you destroy motivation. Management must solve the problem or bpo’s will become an assembly line which destroys brains that the universities have just built up, and which will be used up and rejected after a couple of years ready for the next batch. Don’t dehumanise people. That happened in the industrial revolution 200 years ago.
          It is the country’s most valuable resource and not to be traded for quick easy money. From ‘sex trafficking’ to ‘brain trafficking’ the country must have more respect for life and move from simply a provider of cheap labor. Where is the pride in that!!

          Overall focus on a transformational strategy which builds solid foundations, and flexible skills to adapt to inevitable technological and market changes.
          Develop and retain talent – they are key to the future.
          Develop an innovation and entrepreneurial culture – innovation is critical to success and what customers are now looking for. Entrepreneurs will be the ones to develop and deliver.
          Develop home-grown businesses – self- reliance.

          Thomas edison ( inventor)

          “Discontent is the first necessity of progress. There is always a better way. Once it is found it seems simple/obvious. There should not be so many rules that they suffocate thinking and creativity”

          “The most necessary task of civilization is
          to teach people how to think. It should be
          the primary purpose of our public schools.
          The mind of a child is naturally active, it
          develops through exercise. Give a child
          plenty of exercise, for body and brain. The
          trouble with our way of educating is that
          it does not give elasticity to the mind. It
          casts the brain into a mold. It insists that
          the child must accept. It does not
          encourage original thought or reasoning,
          and it lays more stress on memory than
          observation.”

  11. The international association of outsourcing professionals ( iaop) is the key industry network group. Active country groups in 40 countries from us, uk, india, brazil, vietnam, australia… but NOT philippines.
    Island mentality and american subservience/dependence is too ingrained.
    ‘hi joe, give me money’.
    Clearly knowledge is of no value.
    now i understand, and despair.
    end of story.

  12. The ‘brain drain’ is the term used when educated people went abroad and their talent was lost to the country, but still beneficial for the individual. Lose-win

    Now the philippines has found a lazy way to lose talent without them even needing to leave the country – ‘the drained brain’.
    Educated people being digitally demotivated from abroad via technology. Lose-lose
    Only in the philippines!!

  13. I had been at the forefront when changes in the US health care insurance industry were taking place in the early 90’s. They have been the engine that sparked customer service outsourcing as a means to cut cost on the expanding employee wages, benefits and retirements. When their programs like employee telecommuting and other cost cutting measures failed to meet their goal, outsourcing became reality. Soon, banking and credit card companies were quick to follow.

    The move to the Philippines and India became reality when one big US insurers move to Nova Scotia, Canada showed little success on savings but very high level of success on customer service because it is an English language speaking nation. It has lower wages than it’s American counterpart.

    Customer service and telephonic courtesy is a new concept in the Philippine marketplace.

    The article itself and most comments are absolute fallacy. Philippine customer service agents are indeed far superior than India, Jamaica or Argentina in terms of accent reduction, agent response time, overall comprehension on inquiry, problem resolution and courtesy. Responding to inquiries such as: medical bill statements, personal injury insurance/attorney adjudications, credit card problems or student loan late payment or forbearance issues is no easy task. To take 60 or 80 in calls and as many out calls during an 8 hour work shift is very stressful. Log in system every call at 45 WPM, make written reports every day and at the end of the week submit a completed report to management is not easy task. If any body think these are easy, think again. I think call center agents should be paid at least 500.00 pesos per hour. Upward mobility are for those who are consistently performing their task, meeting their monthly goal and coming to work on time.

    Because of the rising wages in the US, call centers will be in the Philippines to stay.
    Robotics is total nonsense. It can only perform one repetitive task.

    1. “Robotics is total nonsense.” – tell that to IBM.

      There are a host of new services and emerging solutions coming to the market. Robotics and advanced IVR are just a couple of examples.
      Corporates are looking to multi-channel marketing in the future, but guess you already know that, and the impact it will have.

      I also assume you know what Watson is, and how IBM are repositioning that technology and leveraging on its success/potential.
      Enterprise wide platforms are changing as are ways of servicing customers.

      “IBM puts supercomputer Watson to work
      in ROBOT CALL CENTRE

      “Manoj Saxena, general manager of IBM Watson Solutions, said the system would revolutionise the way we interact
      with businesses:

      “We’re widening the scope that the technology addresses. It’s gratifying and exciting to see how rapidly this technology is developing. And, as far as I’m concerned, this is just the start. This next era of computing is going to touch all of our lives in positive ways we can’t yet imagine.”

      The new era of customer service will work via an “Ask Watson” feature, which will be able to answer questions from ordinary people and then offer solutions.
      IBM has managed to shrink the system by 75 per cent while making it 25 per cent faster, meaning cell centres will get a lot of bang for their buck as they begin to fire their human staff.”
      Technology trends – june 2013

      There were people like you who used to say word processing and personal computers wouldn’t catch on.

      If you don’t spot the trends, adapt and adopt then you lose competitive advantage.

      Hope you are not advising any companies and just answering phones.

    2. “Robotics is total nonsense.”

      krokodil,

      Apparently, you are still stuck in the 1950s. Automation technology and robotics has made significant strides in the last decade alone. And not just in the industry-specific scope mentioned by libertas.

      1. @Johnny Saint and @Libertas

        There is no question that robotics will take over most human functions as technological advances will change the way humans will live in the future. Presently however, robots basic functions are limited to mostly heavy and difficult repetitive tasks that replaces human effort which endangers human safety. Robotic technology have not reach a point where it can take over human activity like a cyborg or artificial life intelligence.

        IBM’s Watson for instance is being programmed to assist physicians in
        the areas of medical science. I’m sure it will be programmed for space technology as well. There is also strong possibility that it will be used on citizen espionage. Watson is barely two years in existence and its capabilities are limited at this time.

  14. Starting in england this september, all children from the age of 5 will be taught it/mobile/social app skills within the school curriculum, and from age 11 move on to ict/mobile design and practical applications.
    ” such skills are now as basic as reading and writing, and critical to equipping the next generation….”

    Competitive and comparative advantage will go to those countries who invest in education. The rest will have a difficult time, even getting good jobs abroad as the gap will become too great for the laggards.

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