Philippines BPO Is Set To Soar Even Higher Post-Covid
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and contact centers generate about 9% of the entire GDP in the Philippines so the government takes customer service seriously. When Covid-19 arrived, most of the country was forced into a very strict lockdown, but there were some exceptions for contact centers. If it was possible to work with a reduced team, enforce social distancing, and provide accommodation or secure travel to work then they could continue to function.
Naturally there was an impact on the entire industry as some contact center agents had to be accommodated in hotels near their office, bus services had to be arranged, and a plan for agents to work from home had to be implemented.
It’s less common for people to have wifi at home in the Philippines when compared to regions such as Europe or the US, so that was an immediate challenge. How do you safely move your people into a work at home operating model when they don’t have any internet access at home?
But our team, and many others in the industry, rose to the challenge. We partnered with local telcos and ensured that as many agents as possible were able to work from home - we pushed the infrastructure into places where it had never previously been deployed. We paid for these new wifi connections and we even advanced pay in advance to many of our agents to help them stock up on items they might need throughout the lockdown.
All through the crisis, the focus for Transcom was always on making sure our team was safe and able to continue working. Our agents treated business continuity as a mission. Many of them moved into hotels near to the office, unaware of when they might see their own family again, but they did it to ensure that they could keep the business running normally during a very uncertain period.
The new normal is rather different to the Philippines delivery model of the past, but I believe it has been improved. Depending on the account, we have around 50-80% of our agents back in the contact center so teams are now blended and all include a certain percentage of work at home team members now.
We have created our own private fleet of 52 buses that are traveling all over Manila constantly so our employees know that they have a safe way to travel between work and their home - they don’t need to take a chance on public transport.
Our team has adopted virtual hiring, virtual training, and virtual onboarding so new team members don’t need to travel around the city for interviews. The office environment has been redesigned to enforce social distancing and safety for everyone on the team. Social distancing is now the new reality for all of us.
There is a new reality throughout the customer service industry globally, but it has been even more profound in the Philippines because there are over a million agents here and it is such a significant part of the entire national economy. I don’t think that we are returning to how the industry operated in 2019 and I know that most of our team are actually happy about this.
They have embraced working from home. Where they needed help getting the infrastructure in place, we have now made it happen. Our Philippines team is now much more flexible, agile, and engaged. Nobody would have asked for this pandemic, but it has helped us to address how our team operates and they like the improvements that have been implemented so far.
In the midst of the pandemic many CX analysts talked quite negatively about the Philippines, assuming that a country so focused on large contact centers could not change and embrace a more blended and resilient future that included working from home. They were wrong because the change has already happened. Our Philippines contact centers are now ready for 2021 and our colleagues are excited about this more flexible approach to work.
Everyone wants to build resilience into their customer service so this crisis is never repeated. When you see how quickly the Philippines could adapt you will know that this is a region that has embraced resilience.
Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn if you would like any more information on the transformation of our Philippines contact centers. I can share some great experiences and insights - the team there have achieved so much this year that I’m always happy to talk about it!