Businesses have been outsourcing call centre services to the Philippines for decades. The attraction is easy to see; by relocating both front- and back-office functions, it’s possible to achieve substantial savings on operating costs. When done well—and the Philippines has become the world’s leading destination because of the high quality it offers—it boosts the bottom line not just by lowering overhead costs but also by improving customer service.
“We deal with our clients’ customers every day, so we have seen the trend at first hand,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, an awarding-winning call centre service provider in the Philippines. “Customers are becoming more and more demanding, expecting high-quality service but also great value.” The challenge given to call centre operators like Ellspermann is to provide consistently high-quality services while keeping his clients’ costs as low as possible.
“Businesses are in a difficult position. They are operating in an uncertain economy but have to meet the often contradictory demands of customers demanding lower prices and great service and shareholders demanding profits and returns,” Ellspermann explains. “But all the time, competitors are hovering, and the businesses that succeed tend to be the ones that already embrace digital operating models, that can respond flexibly to the challenges they face.”
Although the trend of customers having ever higher expectations is nothing new, it has been accelerating. Older generations might remember visiting four or five different shops for their groceries, but now they can order online and have the goods delivered in less time than a two-way trip to the shops might take. Businesses must ask themselves how they can best structure their organisations to meet the demands of their customers, and outsourcing has long been one of the leading answers. And while times have changed, the arguments in favour of outsourcing remain as compelling as ever.
One of the key attractions is the savings. Compared to running an in-house operation, outsourcing a call centre helps reduce the costs of setup, physical infrastructure, and staffing, as well as minimising the ongoing costs of HR, legal, support, and management. These savings are amplified by offshore outsourcing. The contact centre outsourcing industry in the Philippines is typically around 50% of the cost of onshore provision, largely because of the country’s lower cost of living and therefore lower labour costs.
The downside, for many, is the perception of risk. Outsourcing to a call centre in the Philippines can feel like a reduction in control. Not only are key services being provided by an external company, but they are being provided thousands of miles away. As long as the contract specifications are stringent, however, offshore outsourcing can provide both significant savings and higher quality services.
Call centres in the Philippines are world leaders. The nation has passed India as the destination of choice, ending the subcontinent’s long position of dominance in the outsourcing sector. And the reasons are easy to see. With the support of the government, the Philippine call centre industry has seen continuous growth since the late twentieth century. There are now over 800 outsourcing providers, creating a hyper-competitive industry.
The Philippines also has a highly educated population with close cultural links to the West. Much of this is the result of the country’s historic ties to Anglophone countries, and it means that educated Filipinos typically speak fluent English with little or no accent and are familiar with Western culture. They can quickly develop a rapport with customers and avoid the communication difficulties that are the leading cause of complaints about offshore call centres.
The combination of well-educated and fluent call centre agents and low labour costs means that call centre outsourcing to the Philippines can offer significant savings while maintaining—or even improving—customer service levels. Call centre jobs are a well-paid and attractive career option in the Philippines, with premier providers offering above-average salaries and training and development to help create a talented workforce.
“It is a challenging time to run a business,” says Ellspermann, “but there’s never an easy time when you are leading an organisation. The advantages of outsourcing call centre services to the Philippines, though, are constant. Taking advantage of them, even when times are tough, makes good business sense.