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Call Center Technology in the Philippines

New graduates like to call it a stepping stone to a better career while others see it as a glorified phone operator job. No matter what people think about the call center industry, there is no doubt that it has been a sector that has helped boost the local economy and has put our country back on the global trading map. Contact centers in the Philippines offer 24/7 multilingual and multimedia supported premium services for marketing, sales, customer care, crisis management, investor relations and other key business applications. It is considered as the sunshine industry of the Philippines today because of the oppurtunities it gives to new and post graduates and the salary it can offer. Plus, the two key requirements are fluent English and a college degree. The Philippines is rising to be the contact center capital of the world with more than 80 contact centers and if we strive to develop it, we might just beat our neighbor countries in Asia in this call center competition. Some of this countries maybe more advance than us in terms of infrastructures and techonology, two things that are truly a great factor in having a successful contact center. But we still have several advantages over them. We offer quality service, we have a warmth and natural [accomodating] attitude other nationalities lack. Plus, we have a more neutral accent. We are better than them in speaking English. The Philippines is considered as the best English speaking community in Asia. We are a society that equates speaking English with intelligence and we have a large English speaking workforce. So even if we cannot

win the technological battle in the contact center industry, we can atleast be competitive in terms of service quality with efficient and skilled agents. Of course, the competition no longer just comes from India. There is a large number of developing countries jumping on the outsourcing bandwagon. However, in many of these countries, including those in Central and Eastern Europe, English is a weak third language and they are often lacking in quality communication skills. In fact, the real competition will actually come from Africa, most notably South Africa. According to every Asian call center review since 2001, the Philippines has proven to be the number one country in Asia to provide offshore English-speaking call center solutions. It has outpaced India in key areas such as English, standard of agents, telecommunications and quality of local management. This applies equally to call center activity from both sides of the Atlantic. But one of the big problems that the Philippines is facing is some of the people who are working in a call center has a global standard to work for a call center that would build the Philippines as the call center industry in the Philippines. One of the problems is the English standard. Some of the agents are not that fluent in English. And it is not just English that an agent should learn when he has to work for a call center that has hopes for being a globaly competitive call center, one has to learn even French or an European English Accent. To a British ear, a Filipino sounds very close to American. At first, this may appear to be negative but if used correctly, its effect can be very positive. Whenever a gatekeeper hears an American accent, he rarely thinks its a telemarketing call. It is unlikely that many of the expatriate American community in the UK would work as telemarketers so when a gatekeeper hears an American accent, it sounds as though the call has increased importance. This is one of a number of reasons why companies using Filipino telemarketers have shown increased performance compared with other offshore locations. Another is the technical know-hows. To effectively work for a call center, one must have knowledge in technicals, electronics, sales and marketing, computer know-hows and also one must atleast have an idea or knowledge about the culture of the big countries that comes for our call center services like the United States, Europe, and Australia. Anyone who thinks that India has stronger cultural ties to Britain than the Philippines based on our historical ties doesn't truly understand our history. With the exception of a small part of British colonial history, the Empire was exclusively about trade as opposed to spreading cultural influence.

Obviously, there are some cultural similarities between India and the UK. For example, Indian food is among the most popular cuisines among Brits. Also, with so many people of Indian descent living throughout the UK, Indian contribution to the UK is vast. However, this is mainly one-way traffic with India and the Indian people influencing the UK with very little cultural influence going the other way.

Although there are conflicting theories on what defines culture and therefore, which countries are culturally close, the theory I subscribe to is the America-North Korea theory where the United States is the most "Western" country and North Korea is the most "Eastern" country. Countries in Western Europe are close to America, while the other so-called "hermit societies" or "closed societies" are closer to North Korea and then there are a whole host of other countries in the middle. Asia represents a broad spectrum of cultures from Eastern to Western but in the entire continent, the Philippines is considered by many to be the most "Westernized" country in many aspects of culture. While there are differences with British culture, they are generally easy to overcome.

However, aspects of culture such as food and dress are generally irrelevant when deciding on call center location. The important aspect is "communication culture" and this also varies from East to West. The successful salesperson in an Eastern country can be often be too aggressive based on the standards of the "West," whereas the Western salesperson would be far more subtle and would generally spend greater attention to listen and understand the needs of a prospect. When call centers in these "Eastern countries" provide culture training before dialing the UK, they spend a lot of time talking about geography and history and too little time on how to adapt the way they communicate. However, it is always an uphill battle since they could have communicated that way their whole life and would undoubtedly communicate that way when they go home after their training. As with other cultural aspects, the typical Filipino will communicate in a similar way with Americans, making it easier for them to understand and to be understood. Whether we admit it or not, the Britons are culturally close to America in almost every aspect of our lives, including the way we communicate. We are, therefore, also culturally close to the Philippines. It is this cultural



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