DESPITE a slowdown in the business process management (BPM) industry’s growth, the Philippines is expected to continue getting a significant share, especially in the voice sector.

Quoting the 2017 assessment of the industry by the Everest Group, Jojo Uligan, president of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), said the good language skills, high empathy of local agents and cost competitiveness have maintained the country’s footing in the global outsourcing industry.

“We are still strong in the voice sector,” said Uligan, despite the rising number of tasks in the non-voice channel showed in the same study.

According to the Job Complexity Survey by CCAP, the voice sector is still a key service offering, with about half of the employee-respondents handling voice accounts.

Of the agents who are doing voice jobs, only 14 percent are engaged in low-skill tasks. These traditional voice-job responsibilities include telemarketing, order-taking, and provision of simple customer service assistance.

Those engaged in jobs requiring middle-level skills make up 51 percent of the respondents. Their job tasks range from providing solutions to customers’ problems, processing health claims, domain process assisting, providing technical support, bills collections, and outbound selling.

High-level skill jobs are being done by 35 percent of the respondents. Some of the tasks they do are decision-making for troubled projects and accounts, providing technical support, complex claims processing, technology service deskwork, and financial analysis, among others.

With the entry of artificial intelligence, Uligan said the industry remains resilient and adaptive to changes.

Demand for more skills

Contact center companies in the country are exhibiting a high level of readiness to take on more challenging tasks that require higher level of skills for both voice and non-voice jobs.

“These new technologies haven’t stopped us from growing,” said Uligan. “In fact, the survey showed we have graduated from rendering basic outsourcing services into higher-value jobs,” he added.

Uligan noted that further education for employees and improvement in skills sets would be the best options for the industry to stay ahead in the midst of technological change.

CCAP is targeting to grow between seven and nine percent this year. The industry employs 800 workers out of the 1.2 million workforce in the outsourcing industry.

The Philippine contact center sector generated $13 billion in 2017.

Currently, the Philippines is the biggest source of contact center services, expected to take 16 to 18 percent of the total outsourced services globally in 2018, according to The Everest Group. The country remains ahead of its nearest competitor in this market, India.

CCAP said that the City Government of Cebu is aiming to add at least 50,000 agents to its current roster of call center professionals, a move that is estimated to increase revenue infusion into the city to P10 billion monthly from the current P7 billion monthly.

The City is asking call center firms to let their agents continue pursuing further career development by allowing them to resume schooling for a college or master’s degree while working.

CCAP director Bong Borja said that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is well aware of the issues and challenges that the industry is facing. He said Osmeña has a lot of good programs in making sure Cebu remains an attractive destination for contact center business such as the electric jeepneys that will be operational 24 hours.

“It will be catering specifically to the needs of the call centers and it is going to stop in the major call center areas,” he said, adding that the mayor is also eyeing to build an ecosystem that would make Cebu a fun place to work in at night. (KOC with Mary Louise Jandayan, CNU intern)