Hot topics in Manila just now include the trends affecting call center employment. For some time now the Philippines have been at the epicenter of a technological revolution when it comes to satisfying customer demand by imposing a layer of dedicated help staff. However, analysts are commenting on the increasing evidence of a seismic shift in this sector of the labor market.
The voice-based services that have been the mainstay of call centers in Manila and elsewhere in this part of the far East are being replaced. The paradox is, that although this evolution in the ways call centers deal with customer demand is aimed at providing greater customer satisfaction at a cheaper rate, it will require more staff training, and increased investment in the appropriate hardware.
Head of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, Jojo Uligan, underlined what the new, holistic approach to customer services, or ‘business process outsourcing' (BPO), would mean for the future of the Philippines technology-driven workforce. His projections indicate that the nation is set to more than double its number of BPO employees, rising to around 1.3 million by 2016. This represents a climb of over 100%.
Uligan has been working with the Manila government to ensure that the Philippines' often fragile infrastructure is robust enough to absorb such an acute expansion. The fact is that the shift from voice-based technologies to a more generic approach, which would through a host of services into the mix – including accounting and human resources – is happening all over. While Manila and Cebu are certainly the traditional hubs for call center activity, the same factors are having an impact throughout the country.
Philippines has a relatively high unemployment rate, and call center jobs are particularly sought-after because they are continually in demand, and are also considered to be amongst the better-paid for workers at the lower end of the specialized skill scale. The Filipino government recognizes this, and is therefore offering extra incentives to BPO's who are considering setting up here, such as fast-tracked working permits, tax breaks and other perks. Government officials also published the ‘Philippine Digital Strategy' last year, specifically aimed at promoting the benefits of modern communication networks.
The benefits of harnessing the potential of BPO's are there for all to see, and its gratifying to know the government are listening to the advice they have been receiving for some time. Because under-employment is an issue in these islands, the jobs that can be provided by BPO's are most welcome. The one thing employers will be keeping an eye out for is the fact that western governments, especially Barack Obama's administration in the USA, are becoming increasingly committed to reduce job outsourcing and bring jobs back to local employers. So while the emphasis must be on providing value for money, this can't be done at the expense of excellent service.