The Philippines has emerged as the world leader in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Today, more businesses will choose to locate their call centres there than anywhere else. But it offers a range of outsourcing options that go far beyond the traditional call centre, from content moderation to animation, from customer service to lead generation; there are BPO services in the Philippines providing services to Western businesses in every conceivable sector.
“It has, however, emerged as a world leader despite its BPO sector being almost non-existent a little over twenty years ago. Philippine BPOs are where they are today because of a mix of innovative government policy, the sector’s foresight and investment, and some natural advantages the Filipinos themselves could offer,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, an award-winning mid-sized BPO in the Philippines.
The policy that kickstarted the sector was initiated in the late nineties by a government keen to encourage investment in the nation. Although not explicitly aimed at the BPO industry, the government created economic zones where investors could benefit from incentives, such as easy development rights and tax breaks. The policy was incredibly successful, and the next few years saw the establishment of hundreds of BPOs in the Philippines.
However, the policy support continues to be in place long afterwards. Following the 2008 financial crash, the government-funded schemes to re-skill Filipinos returning from aboard to work in call centres. And more recently, the state has been aligning Philippine regulatory frameworks with strict western standards to help BPOs working in the financial and healthcare sectors.
The industry has also supported its growth. Now a large sector with well over 800 providers, there is a natural incentive to ensure they can compete on quality and price. Most premier providers will operate from custom-built premises, offering the ideal environment for BPO work. But they also invest heavily in their infrastructure. BPOs were one of the first adopters of AI to create customer service bots and provide call agents with assistants that offer suggestions, allowing the human call agent to focus on the customer.
But perhaps the biggest advantage has been the Filipinos themselves. The population brings several benefits. They have been through the country’s strong educational system, and they have a very high level of fluency in both the English language and English culture. And Filipinos are renowned for their friendly and helpful nature, making them ideal for BPO work. A western customer calling from Australia can get exceptional service and never even realise they are calling the Philippines because of the agent’s fluency.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the nation’s low labour costs mean that BPOs in the Philippines can offer significant savings. Despite being an attractive career option, the costs can still be as much as half of a domestic or in-house provision while maintaining and enhancing service quality.
The sector has deservedly emerged as a world leader, and with the continued commitment of all the key players, that position is unlikely to change any time soon.