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Call Center Phenomenon

We often hear of the term call center. Everybody is talking about it: Great paying job, no need for college diploma or professional license, just the willingness to learn the acumen of the business, flexible in terms of working hours, and have good communication skill and behavior.

Students, professionals, even housewives and idle barrio people are applying for the job. It is said; “Everybody is queuing for the queue.” In recent years, the local call center industry grew phenomenally making it the most dynamic industry in the Philippines in terms of both labor and economic potentials. Yes, the Philippines is at the center of this economic boom – the phenomenon known as call centers.

WHAT IS IT?
A call center is a centralized office used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. It is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers, outgoing calls for telemarketing, clientele, and debt collection.

Through an extensive open workspace, the network is handled by call center agents, with workstations
that include a computer for each agent, a telephone headset connected to a telecom switch, and one or more supervisor stations.

It can be independently operated or networked with additional centers, often linked to a corporate computer network, including mainframes, microcomputers and LANs. Increasingly, the voice and data pathways into the center are linked through a set of new technologies called computer telephony integration (CTI).

Most major businesses use call centers to interact with their customers. Examples include utility companies, mail order catalogue firms, and customer support for computer hardware and software. Some businesses even service internal functions through call centers. Examples of this include help desks and sales support.

Some companies employ staffs to work in their call centers almost by “bulk” – hiring applicants requiring little or no educational qualifications or experience. In contrast, some firms demand lengthy customer service experience, various formal certificates and impose a complicated and staged recruitment interview procedure.

From an operational point of view, call centers are queuing networks. The simplest call center, consisting of
a single type of customers and statistically-identical servers, can be viewed as a single-queue. Queuing theory, the underlying concept in call centers, is a branch of mathematics in which models of such queuing systems have been developed for statistical analysis. These models, in turn, are used to support work force planning and management by helping answer common staffing-question.

Call Centers use a wide variety of different technologies to allow them to manage the large volumes of work that need to be managed. These technologies ensure that agents are kept as productive as possible, and that calls are queued and processed as quickly as possible, resulting in good levels of service.

Business process outsourcing is regarded as one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In the Philippines, it is the latest trend in the services sector in the 2000s and is led by demand for offshore call centers. Indeed, the call center industry is rapidly emerging as the top industry in the country.

The growth of call centers continues to be rapid, up from 72 registered in late 2003 when the Asian Call Center Review reported the Philippines as the first rank in the offshore call center industry for the Asian region, surpassing India at the second spot. From being an almost unexplored business territory in 2000, the call center industry has grown by leaps and bounds.

There are a lot of call centers in the Philippines, the bulk being in Metro Manila mainly in the business districts of Ortigas Center in Pasig City, the Makati Business District, Eastwood City Cyberpark in Quezon City, and Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. Both local and foreign-owned call centers, however, ventured to regions outside Metro Manila setting up offices primarily in Metro Cebu and other key cities such as Baguio City. Bacolod City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo City, Zamboanga City, Angeles City, Dumaguete, Lipa City, Cainta in Rizal, Bacoor in Cavite, and Santa Rosa in Laguna.

ADVANTAGE OF THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippines is considered as location of choice for call center establishments due mainly to inherent socio-cultural and economic advantages.

The country offers 24/7 multilingual and multimedia supported premium services for marketing, sales, customer care, crisis management investor relations and other key business applications. The reasons cited for the bullish outlook towards the Philippines have been, among others, due to lower operating costs. English language proficiency and high ICT skills yet low-cost workforce.

While call centers actually began in the Philippines as simple providers of e-mail response and handling services, these have developed capabilities for almost all types of customer interactions, ranging from travel services, financial services, technical support, education, customer care, online business to customer support, and online business to business support.

Among the calls handled by various Philippine call centers could be classified into inbound and outbound calls. For outbound calls, the services cover telemarketing, advisories, sales verification, credit and collection, reactivation/ reinstatement of accounts, benefit programs, customer services and order entry. Inbound calls cover a broad range of services, from all types of inquiries, technical help, transcription, complaints, customer service, support sales, marketing, and billing. The infrastructures are in place making it more cost-efficient to establish the business here than anywhere else.

Besides the Philippines is the geographical center of the Far East, where business transaction, as well as communication, can be sent and received from all fronts.

Call center agents in the Philippines are flexible in terms of working hours. They can be typically assigned
in graveyard shifts (unlike in other countries where strict working hours are imposed on business, interacting with customers from all over the world around the clock, mostly from the United States.

English proficiency is another field where the Filipinos have an imposed advantage. Though this advantage has been challenged, and in some ways surpassed by China and India, experts on the business regard Filipinos as easier to teach and learn, and has a more westernized attitude required for the industry.

Filipinos are also more adept to English Americanized speaking and communication skill, perhaps an aptitude skill already inherent after centuries of colonial history. Aside from this, Filipinos are also among the best in the world in terms of ICT skills and other computer-related proficiencies involved in the call center business.

Another distinct advantage is the Philippines’ low-cost workforce. Compared to western countries, Filipino workers are only receiving a third or even a fourth of the salaries of their western counterparts. This is an area that needs some reevaluation, that is, if we really want to make the most out of this business phenomenon. So, if you are a call center agent and you think you are earning a lot, think again!

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