Successful call center outsourcing to the Philippines does not happen overnight or by chance. It is the result of a diligent vendor identification, evaluation, selection, and management process. You can dramatically lower your risks and improve your chances of long-term success by avoiding the mistakes others have made. Just follow these ten commandments—professional, not personal, statements based on more than two decades of award-winning call center outsourcing experience in the Philippines.
- Establish your outsourcing requirements and business objectives.
Clearly define your outsourcing requirements, business objectives, and expectations prior to starting your search for a suitable call center in the Philippines. Determine service levels (KPIs) and set your priorities. Decide on the set of tools you will use to establish and maintain an open line of communication with your service provider. Schedule weekly or monthly performance reviews to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all business objectives are being met.
- Identify right-sized call centers.
Limit your choices to call centers that are properly matched to the size of your outsourced operation. If your outsourcing requirements are anywhere between two and fifty full-time employees, then strike off your list the call centers that operate more than 1,000 seats and/or have more than 1,000 employees. Smaller call centers in the Philippines that operate between 100 and 500 seats typically provide much better and more personalised service for SMEs. Ideally, your business volume should be 3-10% of the vendor’s total seat capacity. That will ensure that you and your company will be considered a key account, and you will get the attention, premium resources, and service level you and your customers deserve.
- Look for a call center with an experienced management team.
Create a partnership with a facility that has a seasoned management team in place. You have to feel comfortable that they know how to run your business processes if you are to develop a successful long-term outsourcing agreement. Ideally, the management team should have at least ten years of experience working at a leading global outsourcing provider. That will ensure that they have a keen understanding of all industry best practices and compliance requirements.
- Choose a vendor with deep domain expertise.
Outsource only to experienced service providers with proven expertise in your particular sector. There’s no shortage of call center outsourcing providers in the Philippines that specialise in certain industries and services. The key to success is finding and partnering with a highly specialised vendor. These call centers are a bit harder to find than ones that provide a broad range of services. These “jacks of all trades and masters of none” call center outsourcing providers in the Philippines and beyond should be avoided at all costs.
- Analyse all key processes.
Take a meticulous look at the outsourcing provider’s key processes, including recruitment, training and onboarding, quality assurance, account management, and reporting. A leading service provider should be able to supply you with a comprehensive overview of all its key processes. With that information in hand, you can then compare it to other providers. You will readily see the differences and can make a more educated outsourcing vendor selection.
- Examine the call center’s infrastructure.
Take a close look at the infrastructure of the contact center partner beyond its data center. Scrutinise its facility. Request a video facility walk-through if you can’t visit. Do not outsource to a sweatshop type of establishment. The Philippine call center industry is highly competitive. Because of this, the most talented, qualified, and English-proficient agents won’t work for disreputable firms. The country’s top talent gravitates toward companies that provide the highest compensation and best working conditions. There’s no shortage of companies that offer a Google-like work environment. In fact, 70% of all call center employment opportunities in the Philippines are provided by multinational organisations, including third-party outsourcing providers and captive operators, which provide state-of-the-art facilities.
- Zoom in on the agent profiles and corporate culture.
Call center outsourcing to the Philippines is a communications business. The agents’ most critical assets are their voice and communication skills. Unlike the US, UK, and most Commonwealth countries, the Philippines has two official languages—English and Tagalog. Not all Filipino agents have excellent communication skills. The level of English proficiency can range from excellent to nil. Your call center partner in the Philippines is essentially an extension of your brand and business. The company’s agents act as your brand ambassadors and will become the link between you and your customers. Make a hands-on choice of a provider whose agents match the demographic and personality of your brand. You also want to make sure that the corporate culture of your call center outsourcing partner in the Philippines is closely aligned with yours.
- Check and compare the call center’s technology setup.
The technology aspect of call centers in the Philippines is often overlooked, its importance underestimated. Today’s leading contact centers are high-tech enterprises. A vendor that has invested in the latest, most advanced contact center technologies can achieve significant productivity gains over companies that have not. This can translate into fewer agent requirements. Cutting-edge technologies such as AI improve not only operating efficiencies but also customer experience.
Another IT-related aspect to examine is the center’s data security. Your outsourcing vendor of choice should at least meet PCI standards for eCommerce and finance and comply fully with the Data Protection Act. Don’t settle for anything less.
- Be involved in the program management.
Do not expect the call center outsourcing provider in the Philippines to just run with your program and do a good job at it. This is unlikely to happen. You need to stay involved in all processes, from the agent selection and training to the program co-management. Your operation in the Philippines is ultimately an extension of your company, and you should treat it as such. The more involved you are, the more successful the outsourcing relationship will be. Consider assigning a person within your company to co-manage the outsourcing relationship on a day-to-day basis. That person doesn’t have to be on-site in the Philippines but should be unwilling to settle for anything that is not up to your company’s standards.
- NEVER choose a vendor based on a low hourly service rate.
When selecting a call center outsourcing provider in the Philippines, your primary focus should always be on quality, not cost savings. Never select a provider based on a lower hourly rate vis-à-vis its competitors. This is inviting disaster. Low-cost vendors that charge in the £4.50–6.00 per hour range, or advertise with 70% cost savings, compete on price, not quality. They have to make significant compromises in agent quality, management expertise, processes, technology, infrastructure, and facilities. Understand that there is a direct correlation between the service rate a vendor charges and the quality of the performance you can expect to receive. There’s truth to the saying “You get what you pay for”, especially in an offshore call center outsourcing environment. Cost savings are meaningless if you end up with lower service quality than you had before migrating your business processes to the Philippines.
Ralf Ellspermann is the CEO of PITON-Global, a leading mid-sized call center outsourcing provider in the Philippines. Ralf has more than two decades of award-winning call center and back-office outsourcing experience in the Philippines. He has worked on both the vendor and client sides of the business, which gives him an unmatched understanding of the Philippine contact center outsourcing industry, its vendor landscape, and service capabilities. An internationally recognised expert on business process and call center outsourcing to the Philippines, Ralf has been a keynote and expert panel speaker at some of Asia’s largest and leading outsourcing conferences and summits.