The Business Process Outsourcing industry is set to shift its resources toward higher-value services next year as the global financial crisis takes its toll on traditional markets. According to the results of a recent survey, the BPO sector sees "good to outstanding" prospects for non-voice services. The survey was conducted by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P) and Outsource2Philippines (O2P) and managed by strategic marketing operations firm TeamAsia. The results showed that 65 percent of respondents felt that the prospects for this year were "excellent to outstanding." Another 30 percent said prospects for next year were good, while only 5 percent said the business outlook would only be "fair". The survey results come amid fears of a sharp downturn in the industry on which the government is banking to keep the unemployment rate at manageable levels. The survey results confirm that despite the impact of the global financial crisis on business activity in major markets, providers of non-voice outsourced business process services are optimistic that their businesses will continue to grow next year.
BPO industry officials estimate that as many as 400,000 will be employed by the sector by the end of 2008, although many concede that the government goal of having a million call center workers nationwide by 2010 will be difficult to achieve. The combined gross revenues of Philippine-based BPO firms are expected to hit $6.8 billion this year, up from $4.9 billion in 2007. Together with an estimated $14 billion in remittances from expatriate Filipinos, the industry is a vital source of foreign exchange for the country.
A total of 188 respondents participated in the survey, which was sent to 583 BPO executives, providing a 32 percent response rate, 84 percent of respondents provide non-voice outsourced business process services. Most respondents of the 91 percent, said the value added of their services was moderate, high, or very high, indicating that most non-voice BPO services provided in the Philippines are at least reasonably sophisticated. Non-voice business process services include animation and graphics, back-office services such as HR administration and accounting, customer care, engineering services, financial services, software development and other services and tech support.
The Sydney-based online publishing firm recently came out with industry forecasts for the Asia Pacific region. Its study covered nearly 2,500 companies with call center operations across Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Filipino call center agents must improve their sales techniques to compete more strongly with outsourcing giant India, according to an industry observer. India's "classic" outsourcing model derives its strength from outbound sales.
However, they acknowledged that the Philippines' strength lies in customer support, which makes up the bulk of the contact center industry in the country. Results of the said study showed that call centers are now in a period of transition from providing traditional services and support to revenue-generation. Among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is leading the way in this transition from the initial model of call centers as cost center.
The study shows that 65 percent of contact centers recognize the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell during a typical call, meaning more opportunities to generate revenue, about 70 percent of contact centers in the Philippines are already measured as profit centers. The results strongly suggest that the industry has recognized further opportunities and is on top of developing trends, and the contact center is fast becoming an organization's most valuable revenue generating asset. The industry, however, must continue to address human resource challenges such as agent attrition. The search for the people with the right skills still remains a major concern for Philippine-based call centers and that training schools geared towards contact center careers focus more on sales techniques, not only on customer service or language skills.