The Philippines: The Needle in the Haystack
Negative stories and customer complaints related to the use of outsourced customer support call centers are nothing new. Businesses have been quick to direct the customer support end of their companies business overseas in the hopes of cutting costs. Amidst these negative stories though is a surprising one – the story of the rise of the Philippines over the last ten years to become one of the hot spots for call centers.
Call centers operated on the islands specialize across a wide range of industries, including education, technical support, and financial services for both outbound and inbound. However, beyond simply being a place that’s proven it has the ability to be great at inbound call center management, it has also proven an affordable place to maintain a customer support team.
In addition, there are three critical reasons why the Philippines has surpassed other countries in Asia such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to become a titan in the call center industry.
No Language Barrier – One of the common complaints among Americans when calling customer support centers based overseas is that they can’t understand the workers to whom they are speaking. Whether due to accents or an unfamiliar lingo, Americans have repeatedly complained about language barriers. This is most commonly associated with call centers in India, where the workers, while fluent in English, speak a British form of English and often have heavy accents.
Filipino call centers do not have the problem of a language barrier because the residents speak a version of American English, and they even use many of the same idioms and slang. This gives American callers a sense of familiarity and comfort when speaking to their call center agents.
Filipino Hospitality – The Philippines is known for being – by American standards – an exceptionally hospitable place. The natives are known for welcoming total stranger tourists into their homes for rest and a meal. There is a unique sense of community amongst Filipinos and towards outsiders.
This attitude carries over into their call centers. Filipino call center agents are known for being extremely courteous during calls. Everyone feels welcomed and well-treated.
No Cultural Barriers – One of the common praises laid upon Filipino call centers is their manageability. This is because their culture operates similar to the United States’, so business process outsourcing there isn’t a difficult transition for most companies.
Furthermore, it’s not a difficult transition for customers, since Filipino’s are quite familiar with American culture. They know our music. They know our TV shows and movies. They know our fashion. They know our geography. As a result, call center conversations can venture off into territory familiar to Americans.
- High Education Levels – By 2011, The Philippines was known for being the biggest foreign employer of call centers agents in the world, with over 400,000 workers (compared to the second largest country of employment, India, with 350,000 agents). Many of these agents entering the work force are college educated, so they’re equipped to handle some of the more complicated fields, such as technical support.
The initial motivation to outsource call centers to the Philippines may have been for the inexpensive labor, but the industry has grown now due to the quality of service provided by Filipino workers and their excellent call center management. The Philippines has a motivated work force that has set new standards for customer service.
What Filipino call center agents do well is welcome callers with warmth and hospitality, then connect with them and communicate in a relatable, understandable manner. This is an important reminder for all call center agents on how important it is to connect with customers in a natural way.