Businesses have been working through the longest period of challenging economic conditions in nearly a century. A record period of sustained economic growth came to a shuddering halt with the 2008 financial crisis, and afterwards, it seems that British companies have faced a succession of challenges that have transformed the business climate. Even if we return to a period of moderate, stable economic growth, the effects of this sustained period of turmoil will remain for a long, long time.
“But businesses do not exist in isolation; customers and shareholders have felt that pain too,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, an award-winning BPO in the Philippines. “Together, these create pincer-like pressure on companies. Customers, feeling the effect of more than a decade of wage stagnation, demand low prices while having ever higher expectations of customer services. Shareholders, meanwhile, continue to expect a return, looking for businesses to generate healthy profits despite the pressures they face. Businesses have to find a way to meet these competing demands.”
Ellspermann adds, “Focusing on customer service is likely to be the key to business success. Customers have more choices than ever and are keen to ensure they get as much value as possible; they will rarely hesitate to exercise that choice. A key factor in consumer preference, shown time and time again, is the importance of high-quality customer service. When customers feel they are valued, and their issues are resolved promptly and successfully, they exhibit greater loyalty to a company or brand. Indeed, even when times are tough, good service is so valued that people will pay a premium for it.”
Using third-party BPOs in the Philippines has been a proven way to reduce costs while maintaining service quality. However, when the economy worsened, some businesses followed the instinct to reshore their processes. The desire to have closer control over customer services is understandable; it is a natural reaction to danger to keep close everything that is important. However, for many, this instinct will prove to have been the wrong choice.
“In fact, the reasons for choosing to outsource to BPOs in the Philippines remain as strong today, and during any economic challenge, as when times are good. The most important factor, for many businesses, is the savings that it offers. But while it might be hard to precisely quantify the benefits, the enhanced customer experiences a BPO can provide will have huge long-term benefits,” says Ellspermann.
Every business has its own mission statement, but at the end of the day, the tendency is to focus on their core service or product. And while customer service is important, no one starts a business because they want to provide customer service or back-office functions for a product—they start the business for the product itself. The exceptions to this rule, of course, are BPO companies in the Philippines, whose product means they specialise in those very front and back-office functions.
“This is not to say that outsourcing business processes to the Philippines is entirely risk-free,” Ellspermann notes. “It takes time to get the BPO requirements right, working with the provider to ensure they are offering exactly the level and type of service required. There is also the risk that not all providers are equal, so research is required to find a premier provider that has the required specialities. However, the Philippine BPO industry has been seeing renewed interest from Western companies that, after regrouping, are recognising the significant advantages they can get from providers with deep domain expertise and experience.”
The Philippines offers significant advantages over other outsourcing destinations. It is a world leader in BPO services and has surpassed even the long-dominant India as a destination for call centre outsourcing. The country has had a long connection with the West, leading to a strong cultural affinity which, combined with a highly educated population, means that contact centre agents are fluent in English, frequently speaking with little or no accent and understanding slang and idioms. When communication difficulties are the biggest single cause of complaint about contact centres, fluency is critically important.
BPOs in the Philippines can also offer significant savings. As well as offering the savings one would expect from sharing costs like estates, recruitment, training, management, and infrastructure across multiple clients, the country also has a lower cost of living, which is reflected in significantly lower labour costs. This means that despite being an attractive and well-paid career option in the Philippines, BPOs can offer services at around 50% of the cost of domestic providers in the UK and comparable or enhanced levels of customer service. Outsourcing to an award-winning BPO provider such as PITON-Global in the Philippines makes excellent business sense.