In terms of call centers, no other country stands out as much as the Philippines—in fact, it has become the leading destination for outsourcing in the world. From SMEs to multinational organisations, companies flock to the country and to contact centers that can best cater to their needs.
“The phenomenal growth of the contact center outsourcing industry over the past two decades has been spurred by a key factor: the workforce’s proficiency in English. Because many Filipinos receive much of their education in the language, it has become second nature for them to converse in English, especially when in a professional setting,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, one of the Philippines’ leading mid-sized call centers.
It is also well known that the Philippine culture has a close affinity to the West. From TV shows to movies to music, food, sports, and fashion, it’s easy to see just how big an influence Western culture has had on Filipinos. These key factors have contributed to the growth and success of call centers in the Philippines. The industry now has over a million workers, who are a mix of call center agents and those performing back-office functions. “The numbers are impressive, but it is also important to note that not all contact centers perform at the same level. If you’re looking for high-quality talent, then make sure you’re looking in the right place,” says Ellspermann.
While most agents are exposed to the English language, not everyone has the same proficiency level. The difference largely depends on their upbringing and location. Unlike in the UK, for example, where it doesn’t matter whether contact centers are in Liverpool, Manchester or in London, the quality of call centers in the Philippines can change significantly depending on where they are located.
The incredible thing about agents who have learned English as their second language is that they may even be better than some agents in the UK. But again Filipinos’ proficiency in English is a matter of their social and educational background. The country’s top talent is usually employed in call centers in Metro Manila. That’s because some of the country’s biggest schools and financial center can be found in the nation’s capital and the area therefore attracts more of the educated, professional population.
Keep in mind too, that English proficiency isn’t solely about one’s ability to speak the language; it’s also about vocabulary, comprehension and the ability to be naturally conversant, which is crucial to the performance of any call center should there be a need to go off-script.
If call centers in the Philippines cannot find the quality talent that clients demand, then their work will be all for naught.
“Of course, quality comes at a price. While labour rates in the Philippines are much lower than those in the UK (by as much as 60 percent), skilled agents who know their worth typically won’t work for anything less than £3-4 per hour. Low-cost vendors that offer their services to clients in the £5-7 per hour range simply can’t afford to hire these premium agents. However, they are essential to make programs work and to deliver a world-class customer experience,” says Ellspermann.
If you run call centers in the Philippines and want your clients to be happy, then you need to prepare to invest in your agents. Be ready to scout out the most talented ones when it comes to English proficiency because at the end of the day, the quality of the service you provide will all come down to your agent’s language skills.