Saturday, 17 July 2010

The business that Typhoon ‘Basyang’ just couldn’t beat

Written by Max V. de Leon
Business Mirror

While Typhoon Basyang (international name Conson) was battering Metro Manila and nearby provinces around midnight Wednesday, and with power supply from the grid already cut, it was still “business-as-usual” for the contact centers in the country’s metropolitan capital.

More than 200,000 agents spread in about 180 call centers in Metro Manila continued to attend to the concerns of their customers in various countries, as howling winds with gusts of 120 kilometers an hour were wreaking havoc outside their buildings.

“There were no reports of interruptions [in the operations] and there were no complaints from our customers. Our call centers are well-prepared for situations like this,” Jojo Uligan, Contact Center Association of Philippines executive director, told the BusinessMirror.

Uligan said Manila’s call centers have already gone through worse typhoons before, such as Milenyo and Ondoy so from then on, officers made it a point to revisit their contingency plans every now and then, in case of a repeat. The plans usually include backup generators, double-redundancy in communication lines, and even transportation and temporary quarters for the agents.

Uligan said he was confident that with all these plans, call centers are prepared for the worst, even if the weather bureau again errs in its forecasts, just like it did in Basyang’s case; reports say Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration failed to give the public accurate reports on the typhoon.

He said call centers maintain their own standby generators to back up the generators of the buildings where they are located.

He recalled that in the wake of Typhoon Milenyo in Metro Manila in 2006, some call centers maintained operations for seven days or more just using generators. The industry also did not experience a downtime, and this established the reliability of Philippine call centers among their international clients.

“The shifting of power sources is seamless the moment a power interruption takes place, from the UPS [uninterrupted power supply] to the generators,” he said.

Most of the agents, he said, were already in their offices at about 7 p.m., hours before Basyang intensified, so there was no problem with the attendance.

Uligan said the country currently has about 300,000 call-center agents; more than 200,000 of them are in Metro Manila.

The number of contact centers in the entire Philippines, meanwhile, is around 230; about 150 to 180 are located in Metro Manila.

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