Operating in a tough economic climate has become the norm for businesses. When a record-breaking period of economic growth and optimism came to an end with the 2008 financial crisis, the world started a prolonged period that seemed a succession of bleak news for business managers.
And even when things start to look stable, it will take decades for the economy to fully recover from the effects of those economic shocks. While many things have changed for business, however, the rationale behind outsourcing has remained as strong as ever.
“The pressures faced by business have always been the same. Shareholders will be concerned about their returns and expecting companies to deliver healthy profits. Customers, on the other hand, demand the lowest prices and, paradoxically, expect ever better service in return. If anything, following a period in which wage growth has been low and the return on most investments poor, these pressures have become stronger than before,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, one of the Philippines’ leading mid-sized contact centres.
And all the time, competitors are circling, and facing their own pressures, they are eager to swoop in and catch any disaffected customers they can.
Businesses cannot survive without customers, so it’s vital that customer acquisition and retention are as good as they can be. This is especially true as customers will not be willing to make allowances for challenging times. Why should they when other businesses are operating in the same climate? Businesses must, therefore, ensure they are providing products and services—including customer services—that meet or even exceed their customers’ expectations.
“This means that businesses’ front- and back-office functions must operate smoothly and effectively. Direct contact with customers, whether through sales or support channels, is critical because it shapes so much customer opinion. But back-office functions are important too. These processes should largely be invisible, but when they go wrong and the customer has the impression that a business is unreliable, it’s likely to make them question their loyalty,” says Ellspermann.
The reasons to choose contact centres in the Philippines remain as powerful, and perhaps even more so, than they did when the economy was strong. Cost is a big disadvantage of in-house or onshore outsourced operations. There is a significant outlay of both time and money to set up and run front and/or back-office processes. Aside from the cost of the facilities, infrastructure, and recruiting and training staff, there is significant ongoing overhead involved in operating contact centres. While some of these expenses can be avoided by using an onshore outsourcing provider, the costs will remain significantly higher than with a contact centre in the Philippines, where lower labour rates mean they can operate at the same level for around 50% of the cost.
The size of the contact centre industry in the Philippines offers advantages too. It has grown, since the turn of the century, into a significant sector in the country, with over 800 providers collectively employing over a million Filipinos. This creates a competitive environment that keeps costs low but can scale quickly and easily using the large pool of experienced agents at all levels. There is also significant institutional expertise, meaning that you can find premier providers who specialise in providing the functions you require, offering not just experience, but also custom-built facilities that can meet even the stiff requirements of the UK and EU finance and healthcare regulators.
There is also an astonishingly high level of English fluency in the nation. There are more English speakers in the Philippines than in the United Kingdom. The country has close historic links with the West, creating strong cultural ties that, combined with high levels of education, mean contact centre agents frequently have little or no discernible accent. This can be crucially important for customer satisfaction, as communication difficulties are cited as the leading complaint from customers.
The unique combination of a successful sector and the country’s links with the West combine to make it a compelling option for UK businesses looking to outsource. It is entirely possible to realise significant savings, perhaps up to 50% on in-house or onshore outsourced operations, while maintaining or even exceeding current service levels.
“In challenging times, a business should focus on its core product or service, the thing that makes it distinctive and drives the business. Outsourcing to contact centres in the Philippines allows this to happen,” says Ellspermann.