Why India’s call center industry is struggling

Why India’s call center industry is struggling

India has been one of the major players in the BPO industry, it’s believed that India’s BPO sector started in the mid of 1980s and grew tenfold since then. As a matter of fact, India’s gross domestic product is largely composed of the BPO sector, this is how influential the BPO industry is in the country’s economy. However, after dominating the offshoring industry — which dominates nearly half of the global offshore market — for decades, India’s BPO sector is struggling: an unexpected stumble, especially in the voice and call center industry.

A large number of call center firms in India have been keen in transferring their operations outside the country, eyeing the Philippines as the new call center hub in Asia. There are many reasons pointed out by call center firms as to why they are moving their basic back office services out of India. Despite the mass layoff in the BPO industry in India, the country still largely enjoys the largest share in the BPO market. However, they are losing more than 70 percent of their voice and call center businesses to the Philippines.

As mentioned, there are many reasons why call center firms are moving their services to the Philippines. Notably, India has been suffering from a shortage of English proficient talents, the rise of labor costs in the country greatly rationalized the call center sector as well.

In addition to that, despite having a large number of college graduates a year — composed of 3 million college graduates a year, only a fraction of this figure is capable of being employed. As a matter of fact, the problem doesn’t end there — keeping the call center agents is another struggle. According to Forbes, young Indians working as call center agents are susceptible to cultural shock and high work burnout. As an illustration, call center agents are taught of Western cultural mannerisms to “boost English proficiency and conversational skills” — however, the primary goal of this is to eradicate the Mother Tongue Influence — in which Indians are known for their very distinct accent. In fact, almost all Indian call center employees are suffering from culture shock and social trauma, which is why employee retention in the industry is very difficult.

Aside from rising labor costs and shortage of talents, the call center industry in India is largely hampered by linguistic and cultural compatibility. These setbacks on the voice service sector in India have been viewed as the detrimental factors in the struggling growth of the industry.

Why BPO companies are shifting to the Philippines

Why BPO companies are shifting to the Philippines

In the past years the Philippine economy grew rapidly and even outpaced China’s slowing economy. As a matter of fact, World Bank and other international institutes even consider the Philippines the new Tiger Economy in Asia. The strong manufacturing sector, flourishing remittances of overseas Filipino workers and other economic stimuli used by the Philippine government greatly help to rebuild the country’s feeble economy, which was considered before as “The sick man of Asia”. — But not known to many, the BPO industry has also played a vital role in the success of the country’s sturdy economy.

The Philippines has been slowly overtaking India as the top destination of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies especially call centers. There are many reasons why BPO firms are shifting their service to the Philippines. As an illustration, India has been one of the pioneers of the BPO industry in Asia. However, a lot of factors have been pointed out by BPO firms which greatly hampered the industry. The industry has been battling with the complicity of labor conditions, poor infrastructure, lack of data protection laws and social economic & political instability. As a matter of fact, according to The Economic Times, India has been losing 70 percent of voice and call center businesses to the Philippines.

The Philippines, on the other hand, as the emerging leader in the BPO industry, has been heavily investing in developing the BPO industry through legislation and using different economic stimuli to increase government spending in infrastructure and improving the socioeconomic structure of the country, to better accommodate the industry which is expected to surpass the overseas Filipino workers’ remittance (which the country’s economy partially relies on) by 2017.

The economic and political stability of the country, as well as government support for the IT/BPO sector, has been instrumental to why BPO companies are shifting their eyes to the Philippines. As a matter of fact, a lot of BPO firms are confident with the Philippines for passing good laws needed by the industry. In addition to that, the Philippines meets labor standards, which greatly concerns BPO firms.

However, despite crippling India as the leader in the BPO industry in Asia, the Philippines still faces different challenges, particularly the competitions between ASEAN countries through 2015 ASEAN Integration.

The effect of Agent attrition on call center firms

The effect of Agent attrition on call center firms

Agent attrition has been slightly crippling call center firms in recent years — “I quit” is probably the worst phrase a manager or a supervisor will hear from a demoralized call center agent. As a matter of fact, employee turnover in the call center sector is surprisingly towering. In fact, the high agent attrition has a long standing impact on the company’s productivity. As an illustration, customer service metrics will be affected, because there are very few agents in the team handling a large volume of calls. However, the negative impact of agent attrition does not end there — it’s like a domino effect — leaving a vacant position in a call center means an additional workload for the remaining agents who are likely to perform inadequately, and may impact the overall team performance.

Aside from work burden, hiring a replacement is another story — hiring the right agent to the position is another struggle. Call center firms are aware that recruitment is not an easy task; aside from scarcity of right talent, the cost associated with advertising and the screening process is laborious and costly. In addition to that, it takes a long time for trainees to learn about the company and its product, in addition, investing in these people without seeing much return is a gamble. As a matter of fact, only a small fraction of the agents actually complete their training program. Moreover, it still takes time for these agents to fully learn everything, and continuous guidance of managers or supervisors is still necessary — considerable time, effort and cost are required to attain their full potential.

On the second thought, the negative effect of agent attrition can be avoided. According to Talkdesk, reducing agent attrition starts with choosing the right applicants — by hiring the right applicant, call center firms can invest in the right people and can avoid wasting money. Moreover, enhancing training programs can gradually help to reduce inadequacy and disorganization, which is the main reason why agents are leaving the company.

Meanwhile, probably one of the most effective ways for employee retention is by providing the right recognition and reward programs — by ensuring that every employee gets the right compensation and acknowledgement, that is more than enough to express the company’s gratitude. In fact, with this approach agents’ motivation and morale will increase. Aside from recognition and reward programs, having an open-door policy between the company and the agent will bridge the gap between the management and the ordinary employee — by which collective discussion can be attained.

Surviving the night shift

Surviving the night shift

Working as a call center agent is challenging work — since the majority of outsourced service came from a western time zone, call center agents tend to work in night shift to meet the timezone of their western clients — and sleepiness is the greatest foe of all call center agents. This daily norm has been very common among call center agents, however, despite all the efforts to overcome sleepiness during night shift, it remains a daily burden. As a matter of fact, the struggle does not end during the night — since a lot of agents’ natural body rhythm is patterned on their respected timezone, sleeping during daylight is another struggle.

Moreover, there are various ways to overcome or perhaps lessen sleepiness during night shift. Notably, everything starts in preparation, it’s better to have a clear timeline to condition yourself prior the shift. In fact, having a good sleep or rest is still the best way to overcome sleepiness — however, I know it’s very difficult to sleep, especially during daylight. That’s why I highly advise to set your room’s atmosphere to total darkness; biologically speaking, our body secretes sleep-inducing hormone during total darkness, which help us fall asleep. As a matter of fact, various studies suggest that lack of proper rest can result to tiredness throughout the day.

Prior to the shift, it’s best to fuel your body with the right amount of food that will energize your body throughout the day — the higher quality food you consume, the better your mind and body will function. In addition to that, it’s also very crucial to properly hydrate your body by drinking a lot of water. A lot of people underestimate the power of water in their daily life. Drinking the right amount of water can help the body to function properly, especially the brain function.

In a published article by Hayley Irvin, “5 Super Easy Health Tips for Call Center Agents”, during a shift, it’s also important to do some stretching during breaks to reorganize your thoughts, especially if sleepiness is imminent — as a matter of fact, stretching can be done not only during breaks, but also while you are in your station, it’s also nice to move once in awhile especially if you are seated for more than 8 hours straight — just make sure it won’t affect your performance.

There are also different alternatives to ease sleepiness during graveyard shift; aside from the conventional coffee, call center agents can also use chocolate as an alternative to coffee. In fact, chocolate has more caffeine compared to coffee — it’s also nice to taste different after all.

In the end, staying healthy should be your top priority, and this can only be achieved if you give yourself the proper rest — just remember that health is wealth.

Qualities of a good Supervisor

Qualities of a good Supervisor

In the field of call center profession, having a good supervisor is very important. The stressful and frantic environment of the call center industry has heavily influenced agent’s performance. As the backbone of the team of call center agents, the presence of a supervisor serves as the driving force in boosting the morale of the team. In fact, given all the stressful conditions of this profession, supervisors play a vital role in agents’ retention.

Call center firms have been keen in promoting a harmonious environment for their employees. In achieving this, supervisors are at the front line in maintaining a friendly environment among call center agents. However, maintaining an amiable environment is not an easy task. It requires a great amount of patience, motivation and leadership skills. In fact, the work of a supervisor is not only limited to maintaining a good relationship between his/her agents, but it also provides technical support, which call center agents rely on. That’s why it’s also very important for a supervisor — aside from having a positive attitude — to be well-cultured with the industry, to better enhance the agent’s ability through coaching.

As a matter of fact, the call center industry is the most dynamic sector, that’s why continuous learning is a must — supervisors should be independent learners, as agents largely rely on their ability to grasp problems and solve them quickly.

Bridging the connection between stakeholders cannot be achieved without open communication. That’s why it’s also very important for a supervisor to regularly hold meetings, which can serve as a good opportunity for collective discussion between the supervisor and the team. As a matter of fact, this will help the team to discuss potential issues that affect the team’s performance, and also establish a clear objective that will guide the entire team in achieving goals.

In addition to open communication, implementing an “open-door policy” can bridge the gap between supervisor and agents. The supervisor should be approachable to encourage every agent to discuss certain issues that affect them on a regular basis. Having this kind of approach can have a positive impact in boosting their morale and performance.

In the end political skill is required for a supervisor to achieve all these — but what is political skill? It’s not a convention skill we see among authoritarian leaders, but rather it’s a leadership skill needed to leverage the work relationship between supervisor and agents — wherein supervisors can inspire their subordinates to follow by gaining their respect.

Positive attitude

Positive attitude

The customer service industry is probably one of the toughest jobs — dealing with annoying and furious customers every day is not an easy job. In fact, dealing with these kind of everyday behavior can cause mental and physical exhaustion, which may negatively affect agents’ physical health, and may lead to poor performance. Moreover, despite this baleful effect on health condition, a lot of people — particularly young ones — prefer to work as a call center agents because of the promising future it offers.

It’s noteworthy that call center work is not only limited to customer service. As a matter of fact, there are two types of call center jobs: outbound and inbound. Notably, outbound and inbound call center have one thing in common — they need to deal with annoying customers every day. That’s why it’s inevitable for call center agents, regardless of the nature of their work, to feel the burnout.

Indeed, being in this kind of environment everyday can debilitate one’s perspective to continue the work, and maintaining a positive attitude in this industry is very important. As a matter of fact, having a positive attitude can significantly help agents ease the work burnout.

There are many reasons why customer representatives or call center agents need to maintain a positive attitude in their daily lives. Moreover, maintaining a positive attitude can only be achieved by changing the agent’s perspective towards their work. It’s a matter of conditioning the mind by seeing the lighter side. As an example, try to have a good conversation with your customers — not all customers are annoying, there are some customers who are very affectionate, and love to give a good conversation.

Having a positive attitude can motivate the entire team, and most likely help other agents to overcome the obstacles they’re facing in the course of their job. As a matter of fact, according to Arindam Nag, people who have a positive attitude in the workplace can inspire people around them to see the positive side, and may see the world differently.

In fact, positive attitude can also make an agent more productive; according to website Training Today, most customers will more likely respond positively to a call center with a positive attitude. In fact, maintaining a positive attitude can increase job satisfaction — call center agents who find their work enjoyable and rewarding can result to a lower employee turnover rate.

PH BPO industry and ASEAN Economic Community 2015

PH BPO industry and ASEAN Economic Community 2015

The ASEAN Economic Community 2015, also known as the 2015 ASEAN integration agreement, is an economic blueprint drafted by the ASEAN members to establish a regional integrated economic community. All member states will be subject to a “single market and production base” which will allow the free flow of goods, services, and investments, as well as the freer flow of capital and skills in the ASEAN region. However, this blueprint has been viewed by many as a looming threat to the BPO industry in the Philippines, which is slowly crippling India as the leader of the BPO industry in Asia.

The study conducted by the Asian Development Bank concluded that member states will meet different challenges including labor migration and fierce competitions between the Asia-Pacific neighbors. The Philippines as the emerging leader in BPO industry will expect a heavy blow of economic loss because of the aggressive competition, and may slow down or decrease the country’s economic growth.

Tholons Inc., a leading US-based globalization and investment advisory firm, named the Philippines the second largest outsourcing destination in the world, in which India has a narrow lead over the Philippines as the top choice destination. According to the published article, the Philippines’ BPO industry has grown tenfold from US $1.55 billion in 2004 to $15.5 billion in 2013. It is also expected that this figure will proliferate as the Philippine government has invested heavily to further develop the industry.

However, as a result of intense competition between ASEAN nations, the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 agreement is expected to hinder this growth. As an illustration, international companies may rationalize offshoring to ASEAN member states, as lowering trade and employment barriers in the region has been unloosed because of the agreement.

On the other hand, despite the different challenges posed by the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 agreement, the Philippines remains to have the upper hand in the region, as it already cemented its credentials in the international trade. In addition to that, the country has dominant characteristics, which lure a lot of offshoring companies compared to its neighboring ASEAN nations such as: linguistic and cultural compatibility, lower labor cost, which are the main reasons why international companies outsourced their service. The full support of the government in developing the industry through proper legislation and improving the country’s infrastructure sector widely contributed to the long-standing sustainability of the BPO industry.

Must-have qualities of a call center agent

Must-have qualities of a call center agent

Call center work has been one of the high-compensating jobs in the professional industry. As a matter of fact, in other countries, some BPO firms don’t even require their applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. However, the majority of call center agents in these countries hold a bachelor’s degree and even went to a reputable school, especially in locations such as the Philippines and India. Having a degree in this industry has been just one prerequisite and conditional requirement. Regardless of applicant’s educational background and work experience, it’s noteworthy to know what are the must-have qualities of a good call center agent.

Probably one of the most important characteristics a call center agent must have is knowledge retention. To optimize an agent’s performance, call center agents need to absorb large amount of information. In the first place, the primary goal of an agent is to provide exceptional support to customers, and this can only be achieved by memorizing large amounts of knowledge about the company and its service or product. As a matter of fact, having good knowledge retention ability can improve customers’ experience and agents’ performance.

At the frontline of the company, call center agents are exposed to a demanding environment and dealing with customers’ different personalities every day is a bit challenging. In this kind of working environment, being flexible is very important. As an illustration, agents need to handle dozens of calls every day, and dealing with an array of customers is inevitable. Moreover, since the majority of offshoring companies are in different time zones, call center agents should also be flexible working in challenging hours. (Night shift, weekends and during holidays)

Indeed, having effective communication skills is probably the must-have ability of an aspiring call center agent. Regardless of educational background, having effective communication skills is very important. — Take note, good communication skills are not only limited to conveying verbal messages or thoughts, but also involve active listening. As a matter of fact, active listening will help agents communicate more clearly and effectively.

In addition to active listening, call center agents’ primary goals are to provide the highest quality of customer support to avoid the same problem happening again. To avoid repeating problems, it’s a must for call center agents to carefully pay attention to detail; by doing this, agents would have a greater understanding of the customer’s issue. Combined with clarification, customer problems can be easily solved.

In the end, mastering these abilities cannot be done in a short period of time; even competent and skilled professionals started their careers as learners. As a matter of fact, practice and daily work experience is still the best way in improving one’s abilities.

Importance of Linguistic and cultural compatibility in BPO industry

Importance of Linguistic and cultural compatibility in BPO industry

The offshoring industry has been a key industry especially in developing countries. As a matter of fact, the outsourcing industry is one of the robust sectors in some Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Philippines — yes, you read it right, Vietnam has now ventured into the BPO industry, this communist state country has been rarely recognized and is overshadowed by the Philippines and India in the list of top BPO destinations in Asia. However, the outsourcing industry in Vietnam has been hurdled by linguistic and cultural compatibility, which are pivotal points in mapping a good location and long-term sustainability, particularly in the call center industry. That’s why the BPO industry in the country is only limited to document-oriented business processing.

Maybe you are wondering what is the connection of linguistic and cultural compatibility in the call center industry. As mentioned, mapping a good relocation destination for call center outsourcing is very important. Notably, a majority of outsourced services are provided in the English language and it is very important that the chosen country of relocation is well versed in the English language. — Here in Vietnam, as well as, in India and the Philippines, there are both opportunities and obstacles.

The call center industry in Asia was first introduced in India, which is regarded as one of the nations with a powerful command of the English language. This is not surprising, India’s historic use of the English language is the product of colonization by England. It has been estimated that India has used the English language since the 1800s. However, despite having the linguistic and cultural advantage, a lot of call center industries are shifting to a BPO emerging market: the Philippines.

There are many reasons why call center firms are moving their services to the Philippines. Primarily, BPO firms in India have been facing different challenges. According to an educational portal (managementstudyguide.com), which tackles the growing problems of BPO firms in India, BPO firms are greatly affected by the current socioeconomic and political instability of the country, which forces them to discontinue their service.

Moreover, unlike other developing countries which served as a good relocation site of BPO companies, the Philippines has been distinguished for its advantage to other countries in terms of linguistic and cultural compatibility. The archipelagic country located in the Western Pacific has been part of the American state for almost half a millennium, and they embody the American culture until today. As a matter of fact, the Philippine government has developed a form of government somewhat similar to that of the United States, which is why a lot of western companies are very keen in relocating their companies to the country.

In fact, India has been known to be more economically and technologically advanced when compared to the Philippines. However, Filipinos are known for their neutral accent, which is the one considerable factor why a lot of call center firms choose the Philippines over India.

The book by John C. Messenger and Naj Ghosheh, ‘Offshoring and Working Conditions in Remote Work’, emphasized the importance of different factors BPO firms need to consider in mapping the right relocation of their service which include; the importance of the social and political stability of a country, linguistic capability and cultural empathy. These are very crucial factors in relocation of business processing, especially for long-term sustainability of the company, which mainly rely on manpower.

Call center: The toughest Job, but the noble one

Call center: The toughest Job, but the noble one

The call center industry has been one of the lucrative industries emerging in Asia, particularly in India and the Philippines, which served as the few Asian countries that had a developed market in the BPO industry. As a matter of fact, working in a call center industry in these countries has been a general trend, particularly for people who are looking for a high ­compensating salary and self growth and development.

However, entering the call center industry is not an easy process, applicants should first pass a series of interviews, composed sometimes of individual and panel interviews. As an illustration,interviewer(s) will ask various questions to gauge your verbal communication skills. In fact,sometimes they will intimidate you like a lawyer asking an accused in a trial, just to measure your tolerance in dealing with enraged customers.

If you passed this level of the limbo ­­ welcome to the jungle!

Being a call center agent is one of the satisfying jobs you will have, aside of higher compensation and benefits. You will also meet a lot of friends in this industry, who will be your best friends forever.

As a newbie, learning the art of customer service is probably the most challenging part of this industry, aside from learning all the aspects of your product. Probably, the most grueling part is how to adjust yourself to the personality of your customers, which will take time and failure attempts. In this moment in your career, you will realize how challenging and fulfilling the call center industry is.

Moreover, working in a call center is a demanding job. You need to work more or less nine hours, sit and talk to irate customers every day. Considering this kind of working environment, you need to have a high quality of physical and mental health to endure this kind of work every day. You need to sacrifice some of your basic necessities like going to the comfort room, or resting for a while, because the job requires your full attention ­­ it will definitely force your human capacity. In all honesty, these are the reasons why a lot of people enjoy this career. The challenges and the fulfillment’s are the things that fuel them to go to work every day.

In addition to that, helping someone (customers) get through to their problems can be humbling and fulfilling ­­ it’s a priceless experience! Having good communication skills is just one aspect that you need to have if you want to enter this industry. As a matter of fact, having a positive attitude in this industry will help you bridge between the market and customers, wherein transactions and any problems can be solved or can be done easily.