Philippines advised to step up PR for outsourcing

Von Melissa V.

For the Philippines to remain competitive in the call center industry, the country"s government has been advised to work double-time in promoting the country?s offshore services and enhancing its overall image worldwide.

?The Philippines needs to improve its PR (public relations) globally,? stated Ad Nederlof, chairman of global call center software firm Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. ?People read all sorts of negative things about the country which may not be entirely true and which take away a lot of potential business. The country needs to invest time, money and effort to make it more attractive to foreign investors.?

According to Nederlof, India, considered as the country?s closest competitor in terms of offshore outsourcing, is ?scared? of the Philippines, which should make Filipinos more optimistic about the growth prospects of the local call center industry.

?Filipinos are friendlier, able to render more personalized services, and possess closer cultural affinity (with U.S. companies). They are able to completely differentiate themselves from most people which is why Philippine labor has been so popular around the world,? Nederlof explained.

Although the gap between the Philippines and India is getting smaller, the difference, measured in terms of the absolute number of people employed in the outsourcing sector, remains huge. With its 1.1-billion population, India is expected to generate jobs for 3.5 million additional call center agents by 2009.


Nederlof added that China is another growing competitor, especially in the area of Web-based call center technology which is currently a weak spot for both Indians and Filipinos. ?The Chinese are now leveraging their ability to come up with all types of technology and skills to improve Web-based systems rather than let the language barrier hinder them,? he noted.

Although Web-based communication presently accounts for only about 5 percent to 10 percent of the overall call center communication process, it is expected to grow to 30 percent to 40 percent over the next few years, and, eventually, even outpace the growth of voice communication.

Nederlof pointed out that the Philippines should also watch out for other call center players such as Argentina, Malaysia, Jamaica and the Bahamas where cost of labor is relatively cheap and the locals? English-speaking skills are quite good.

Nevertheless, the Genesys chairman said the Philippines can expect the number of call center agents in the country to grow from this year?s 40,000 to approximately 500,000 to 600,000 by the end of 2009.

According to Nederlof, Senator Manuel ?Mar? Roxas II may have underestimated the growth of the call center business when he projected that the industry will generate jobs for ?only about 310,000 Filipinos? over the next five years.

To support his statement, he cited that studies have shown that the global call center market is expected to employ 20 million people by 2009. Of these 20 million, 30 percent or six million jobs will be outsourced or run offshore.

?In a potential market of six million people, a 310,000 figure would only mean a market share of about 5 percent which is rather low. Everyone expects the Philippines to garner more than that,? claimed Nederlof.

Given the potential growth in the call center industry, Genesys, a subsidiary of French telecommunications giant Alcatel, expects to ramp up its presence in the Philippine market by developing its reseller network. The call center software firm has already partnered with three local distributors for its Philippine operations.

Its call center clients include Digitel, Contact Point, and the U.S. headquarters of Advanced Contact Solution, PeopleSupport, Client Logic and Thomson Financials.