U.S. outsourcing bills won’t hurt Philippines

Although several legislations seeking to protect thousands of American jobs from going offshore are being proposed in the U.S. Congress, industry experts and outsourcing advocates in the Philippines remain confident that the country will continue to reap good business from the outsourcing market.

Jon Kaplan, president of U.S.-based training and consulting firm, TeleDevelopment Services Inc. (TDS), admitted that proposed legislations in the U.S. such as the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act,” which requires all call center representatives to disclose their physical location at the beginning of each call, could affect call transactions, but not seriously.

“Callers, particularly Americans, may be quite reluctant to give out confidential information knowing that the recipient is halfway around the world due to fear of security or just plain resentment,” said Kaplan. “What Filipino agents have to do is prove their capabilities and skills in handling calls to give the customer satisfactory service.” He added that the pleasant service customers experience after making a call would eventually outweigh their hesitance or negative mindset.

Board of Investments (BOI) managing director Gregory Domingo also dismissed possible threats posed by the proposed legislations. In a recent briefing, he said the U.S. information technology industry would never allow the legislators to enact such laws because outsourcing is a major element that has helped maintain the U.S. industry’s competitiveness.

Besides encouraging the BOI and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to work harder in promoting the Philippines as the choice destination for outsourcing, Kaplan suggested several proactive measures that would guide local call centers in maintaining their direction despite the legislative controversies abroad.

Kaplan said it is essential for every local company to be familiar with legislations that are coming out in both the federal and state levels in order to protect not only themselves but also their customers. Awareness of the present rules will not only minimize incidents of penalty but will also protect companies from ambiguous charges.

Companies should also focus on maintaining the quality of their most crucial asset — their people. If an agent is able to offer quality service to a customer and provide him with an overall positive experience, it is possible that customers will give more value to the situation rather than be bothered by where the call is coming from. This will help minimize the potentially damaging effects of the legislative proposals, Kaplan said.

Lastly, local call centres must provide strong internal career programs for coaching and developing their management teams. Kaplan noted that the majority of the management teams of local call centres are still currently “weak” and “unknowing.” To correct the situation, he suggested recruiting and training people from other industries who possess good management skills.

According to research and consultancy firm Gartner, half a million IT jobs will go offshore by 2005. A recent Forrester Research study, on the other hand, predicted that 3.3 million U.S. service jobs and US$134 billion in wages would move offshore by 2015. The Philippine call centre industry is seeking to bag a sizeable share of these jobs.

TDS recently established a local office to help address the needs of the Philippines in its bid to become Asia’s call centre hub. The company offers call center consulting, recruiting, training and outsourced program and product management services. Its roster of clients includes eTelecare, Ambergris Solutions, Vision X, Influent and APACand TeleConnect.

TDS has also collaborated with the De La Salle University-Graduate School of Business, through its Professional Development Center, in offering certification programs for call centre professionals. Training classes will start on April 19.