Employee Experience

Call Center Industry Challenges in The Philippines and How To Address Them

15 November 2019

Ever since the first call center started its operations in the Philippines in 1992, the industry significantly contributed to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At present, 1.4 million Filipinos are currently employed in the industry, according to the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP). No wonder the Call Center Industry remains to be the ‘sunshine industry’ through the years.

And yet, the rapid growth of the call center activities in the Philippines comes with challenges that are experienced by employees of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.

It’s important that we have an idea about the call center industry challenges that are happening right now. This way, we can properly strategize how to address these issues and create a more sustainable source of living for Filipinos.

Here are the most pressing call center industry challenges in the Philippines:

Low employee morale

Tired call center agents

In June 2015, call center employees from an international BPO company began establishing employee unions. Employees claim that ‘there’s no other way to fight back’ against unfair quotas and systematic termination done by the company they belong in. The issue even caught the attention of international media, like The Guardian, which published an investigative story about it.

Despite that, there are still BPO companies who disregard the importance of employee morale.

In a survey done by Jobstreet in 2016, the Philippines’ largest job portal, employees in the BPO Industry scored the lowest in the Happiness Index. And for a country that’s said to have the happiest workforce in the world, that says something.

How To Address This:

Empower them to genuinely help customers. Your agents will only rush through calls and see their job as nothing but a number if you’ll only measure their success based on call volume.

Build a culture where resolving issues and retaining customers are more important than hitting numbers. Employee morale is high when there are job satisfaction and optimism.

Frequent Absenteeism

Call center agents' workspace

In a global study done by Dimension Data, the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region recorded higher incidents of agent absenteeism compared to anywhere in the world. And yet, despite this, Filipino BPO employees were also tagged as ‘more patient’ than those in other regions. Call centers in Asia also scored 100 percent in customer satisfaction, which is higher than the global score of 84.5 percent.

The high absenteeism, in fact, is attributed to the unconventional work schedules. It becomes more challenging for agents when they don’t have a permanent shift. Graveyard work hours are considered odd for the Filipino body clock. It also puts agents at risk of sleep disorders and body pains.

Yet, despite it all, many Filipinos still choose to work in the BPO industry because of high salary, great company benefits, and the chance for a good career.

How To Address This:

Improve your employee engagement strategies. It’s not all the time that your employees will be motivated by money.

Create new experiences for them. Reward your employees for a job well done. Make your office environment a fun place to work in. Give them a reason to come to work every day, aside from the standard pay they get.

The truth is, whether in the BPO industry or not, employees are motivated when they feel like their job has meaning.

High Attrition Rate

Letter of resignation

There are two types of employees who resign in a BPO company. The first one is a job hopper, a person who transfers from one BPO company to another in search of the ‘best offer.’ And the second one is an overseas worker, a person who prefers to get a job in more developed countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

It’s only in the year 2017 when staff retention in the BPO industry improved. But the years before that recorded as high as 80% attrition rate in the industry. This remains to be a big industry challenge for many HR professionals retaining top talents become a priority amidst digitalization.

How To Address This:

Understand why your employees resign. And proactively do something about it.

In the Philippines, the most common reasons why call center agents resign are the following:

  • Lack of job fulfillment
  • Better opportunities outside
  • Unfair workload assignments
  • Bad work environment
  • Overly strict management
  • Lack of appreciation

As an employer, part of your responsibility is to address these challenges. If your people are leaving because of such reasons, chances are other employees feel the same way, too. Don’t wait for the day they hand over their resignation letters before you do something.

Upskilling or reskilling employees

Focused call center agents

Many companies in the Philippines have second thoughts in providing training for employees because of the high attrition rate in the industry. And because of this, making sure that your employees remain at the top of their game is one of the major challenges that the industry is facing.

The impact of AI technology will produce more high-level jobs globally. And this would entail high-level skills from BPO employees all over the world. [24]7.ai Philippines President and Country Manager Jose Rienzi L. Ramirez said that the future of the BPO industry will eventually evolve. Customer satisfaction will require superior human intelligence and an efficient understanding of human emotion.

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has now poised more opportunities than threats, there’s still work that needs to be done.

How To Address This:

Provide digital proficiency training to your employees. Improve their skill sets. Make them more valuable than AI assets. Train them to handle more complex jobs and problem-solving responsibilities and leave the repetitive tasks to AI technology.

No matter how advanced automation could be, there will always be tasks that only the human mind can do.

Employee health issues

Stressed call center agent

The stressful nature of the job puts BPO employees in various health risks. Graveyard shifts disrupt their work-life balance. Time difference affects their psychological well-being. It makes them adapt to unhealthy habits that can cause them serious health issues in the long run. This is one of the major call center industry challenges faced by many BPO employees today.

It is common for call center agents to experience headaches, fatigue, eye strain, back pain, and voice problems. But what most agents fail to realize is that these can just be symptoms of bigger health issues.

According to the Department of Health (DOH) Former Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, BPO employees have a high tendency to counteract their job’s health risks with unhealthy lifestyles and risky sexual behavior.

“These are all risk factors that can lead to serious health conditions, such as respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health diseases,” she added.

How To Address This:

Encourage health literacy among employees. Being in the BPO doesn’t mean indulging in unhealthy habits in inevitable.

Johnsohn & Johnsohn Philippines, in partnership with DOH, started an advocacy campaign called ‘Voice Your Care.’ The campaign aims to promote health and wellness through healthy eating habits. The campaign specifically aims to inspire the BPO sector in the Philippines to live healthily and excel in their field.

This sparks smart strategies on health literacy drive for BPO employees in the Philippines. Every company has a duty to take care of their employees’ well-being. Adapting strategies like J&J’s will give you a healthier and more productive workforce.

Final Thoughts

At present, the BPO industry in the Philippines remains to provide decent job opportunities to over a million Filipinos here and abroad. As we move along with global digitalization, companies have the responsibility to fix industry challenges and make sure that they maintain a happy workforce.

When you take care of your people, your people take care of your clients as well. And in an industry where customer satisfaction is of utmost importance, it's just fair to make sure that your employees are rewarded for their hard work. It goes without saying that having employees that are committed, motivated, and empowered drives business.