By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Despite the looming challenges that may come its way, the Philippines’ call center sector is expected to remain as among the strongest segments that contribute to the national economy, according to the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP).
CCAP Chairman Benedict Hernandez cited various analysts who have defended the domestic contact center’s resilience and outstanding coping mechanism of local contact centers for the sector’s lasting strength and growth potential.
Overall, the business process outsourcing (BPO) is projected to become a $40-billion industry by 2022 based on a 16 percent annual growth rate. This will make the BPO sector the country’s top dollar contributor, displacing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remittances.
Hernandez also noted of the continuing hiring in the industry. The recent disclosure released by government-sponsored job site PhilJobNet indicated that out of 6,120 active job vacancies it posted in the January 18 week, about 17 percent or 1,029 positions were call center opportunities.
Most industry analysts from around the world also agree that the Philippine contact center sector is poised to benefit the most from an ongoing shift from customer service to customer experience.
Global consulting and research firm Everest Group, through its white paper entitled ‘Philippines at the Helm of Delivering Customer Experience of the Future,’ has found that contact centers in the country are very ready for this shift.
Higher level of agents’ skills could also counter the speculated setbacks of increasing automation across various industries. In fact, some of the local contact center companies have already implemented measures to ensure their agents meet current requirements from international clients, leading to more new high-skill jobs with higher pay rates.
“We are excited about the new opportunities that are arising within the local contact center sector as we collectively address ongoing shifts focusing on technology and nature of service,” said Hernandez. “In the onset of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and automation, new jobs will be created to support higher level of customer experience.”
One of the firms that have embraced such adjustments is the Philippine operations of US-based Genpact Services LLC, which has started skills upgrade programs four years ago. “We need to sharpen the saw in terms of soft skills and enhance those in terms of science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Genpact Services Country Manager Danilo Sebastian Reyes, who is also a member of CCAP’s Board of Directors.
“English proficiency is still an advantage. But there are skills that need to be enhanced to upgrade the level of service provided into a customer-experience-focused one,” Reyes added. Aside from providing necessary trainings to its employees, the company is also coordinating with the academe to make sure specific skills required in modern contact center jobs will be integrated in special courses offered by local universities. The goal is to make more fresh graduates more than ready to take modern call center jobs immediately.
The continuous growth of the local contact center sector is also one of the primary drivers of the ongoing rise of the property industry’s office segment. In 2017, a record total of 1.2 million square meters of office space was added to the already growing land area occupied by call centers nationwide. “In 2017, we have seen the highest growth so far in terms of supply,” said Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Philippines Regional Director Sheila Lobien during a recent business forum. Lobien also noted that the country has among the lowest office rental rates in all of Asia—ranking ninth to the lowest in terms of rental value. Thus, most global companies that require outsourcing services see the country as a cost-efficient site for their extended offices.