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.
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.
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.
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.
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.