Call Centers -- RP's Emerging Sunshine Industry
The call center service has been dubbed the country's latest sunshine industry, expected to generate around 24,000 jobs in the next two years. When a door closes, a window opens. Even as the Philippines feels the fallout from the global IT crunch, it has benefited from the prevailing cost-cutting trend in an unexpected way -- an unprecedented boom in the call center business. Indeed, the call center service has been dubbed the country's latest sunshine industry, with the sector expected to generate around 24,000 jobs in the next two years, according to Toby Monsod, former assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). "It's a very promising industry. Everybody's growing and hiring," Benedict Hernandez, Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) chair, said in a recent interview. From 2000 to 2001, the segment reportedly grew by more than 200 percent, and local call center revenues are projected to increase from $173 million in 2002 to $864 million in 2004. Optimism runs high as an international research group forecasts the growth of ICT-enabled services to a $200-billion industry by the year 2010, with the call center segment's share at $42 billion. Reports say that in the United States alone, there are 1.5 million call center seats that could be outsourced, and so far the Philippines has less than 10,000 seats filled, indicating the domestic industry's huge potential. What are call centers?
A call center is a central customer service operation where agents (often called customer care specialists or customer service representatives) handle telephone calls on behalf of a client. Clients include mail-order catalog houses, telemarketing companies, computer product help desks, banks, financial service and insurance groups, transportation and freight handling firms, hotels and IT companies. The size of an operation is described in terms of the number of "seats." A seat consists of a station with two or three people alternating in several shifts to provide 24-hour call center service. The industry's main target markets include the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. Many factors contribute to the local industry's sizzling development pace. One is the rising cost of doing business in industrialized countries like the United States, forcing foreign companies to downsize and outsource peripheral e-services to developing countries like the Philippines to cut overheads. CCAP president Jose Ferreros also cites the better power and telecommunications infrastructure, competitive labor cost in terms of quality and value for money, and strong government support for ICT-related industries. Of these, skilled labor is the country's acknowledged ace. Filipinos are renowned for their English proficiency, high IT literacy, warmth, trainability and customer orientation. Domingo Guanio, assistant vice president of Software Ventures International, which runs SVI Connect, comments that "we're unbeatable when it comes to the way we speak English. We're also more patient in handling calls and more customer-oriented." Major industry movers
Today, there are 16 key industry players. Among these are Etelecare International Inc., Infonxx, PeopleSupport, C3 Customer Contact Center Inc., Sykes Asia, Inc., Contact World, SVI Connect, Cquadrant and Immequire Philippines, Inc. Most are joint ventures with ICT conglomerates. Even Easycall Communications Philippines Inc. has abandoned the paging business and is investing P1.46 billion over the next five years in a call center facility, Board of Investments records show. And more foreign firms are expected to set up call centers in the country. According to Bong Borja, chair of Contact Federation Philippines Inc. (CFPI), at least four foreign companies have bared plans to establish offshore operations in the country this year. These are expected to create 400 to 1,000 seats and provide about 2,000 jobs. Last...
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