Monday, 25 May 2009

No slowdown of call center work in the Philippines

Melvin G Calimag
Manila Bulletin

If New York is the city that never sleeps, the Philippine call center industry is an industry that never, well, shuts down.

US-based call center operator Sitel gave this analogy as it formally launched its latest facility — a hulking building with a total floor area of 3,000 square meters that is located along busy Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City.

It is the firm’s fourth site in Metro Manila, but sixth overall. It has two existing facilities in Baguio City, employing 2,600 agents, making it the biggest employer in the area. A third site in Baguio is currently being built and is expected to employ another 500 agents once it opens in July. The company’s total headcount is 11,000.

"Growth is coming from all over," said Steve Barker, chief operating officer for Asia Pacific at Sitel during a press briefing. The official said call center work has been originating not just from the US but from Europe as well.

The company stressed that in its 10 years of operation in the country, it has not lost any client due to performance issues. In 2008, it even secured seven new clients in the Philippines. Sitel said its organic growth is expected to continue this year after acquiring new lines of business from four clients.

"Business has been very healthy with each of our agents processing 1,000 transactions every day," Barker, whose jurisdiction covers Australia, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines.

Barker is currently overlooking the company’s local operations after Dan Reyes, its long-time country manager, resigned to take up a similar post at rival call center firm GenPact. Barker said Sitel has no immediate plans to appoint a local guy to Reyes’ former position.

The Julia Vargas site has actually been operational since late November 2007, but it was inaugurated only now after reaching its promise of operating in full capacity. As Sitel’s largest site in Metro Manila, it has the capacity of more than 2,000 seats.

The facility is also location of Sitel Pharmazone, the first and the only in-house pharmacy in the industry. Other resources in the building are: 24-hour clinic, two basketball courts, stand-alone cafeteria, male and female sleeping quarters, pantries for every floor, several employee lounges, Videoke area, nine training rooms for the whole facility, a mini-gym, shower rooms and boardrooms for every floor.

The opening ceremony was attended by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and US-based Sitel executives, Pasig City government officials, and Department of Trade and Industry officials.

In April 2007, the company launched the Sitel Academy, the industry’s first 30-day free call center training which aims to improve the near-hire’s skills to industry standards and help bridge the skill gap existing among the local labor pool with the company requirements.

The training includes English communication skills coaching, technical and call center skills workshop, and self-confidence building exercises.

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