After the Pandemic: The Philippine BPO Industry

After the Pandemic: The Philippine BPO Industry

When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit the Philippines in March, many were uncertain what would become of the current normal and how it would impact many industries. It was understandable back then to have doubts if the economy would recover once the nationwide lockdown was over. Regardless of the several adverse effects in the Philippine BPO industry, it is all but certain to recover in the coming months.

Frontliners of the Economy

Empty streets of the business district of Makati city during the lockdown in Metro Manila. PHOTO:Reuters

A select number of industries operated during the first few weeks of the quarantine in Metro Manila. These were mostly private establishments that provided essential goods and services, especially to the frontliners tasked with curbing the virus. These establishments worked at a minimal capacity in Extended Community Quarantine (ECQ) areas and at full capacity in places with more relaxed restrictions.

In that time, BPO companies operated during the early stages of the quarantine period. However, they needed to either provide accommodation to their employees or transition into a Work-From-Home model.  Many industry players, including Diversify, quickly implemented their contingency plans to ensure continuity in their operations. At the same time, they did so without compromising the health and safety of all team members. After the Philippine government announced the nationwide lockdown, Diversify was able to transition into a work from home setup within 48hrs and thus able to continue operations while keeping any operational disruptions minimal.

The BPO Industry To Ease Unemployment Rates

As of this writing, many businesses globally are still affected by the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this has meant a surge of unemployment in different industries. The Philippines alone has seen at least 2.6 million displaced workers due to temporary closure of businesses in the nation’s capital. 

Despite this surge of unemployment rates, some positive projections seen came to light, particularly in the BPO Industry. The Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) predicted a fast recovery of the Industry, helping ease the country’s unemployment rate.  Labour secretary Silvestre Bello stated that BPO companies have already given notice for their requirements, with an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 vacant roles to be filled by September.

The Philippines as a Business Continuity Hub

The Philippines as a business continuity hub for many businesses.

Several global business owners took notice of the quick response from Philippine BPO companies. According to a recent report, British investors and other western businesses continue to see the opportunities in the BPO industry. Despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, businesses were still able to support their clients whilst having to lockdown onshore offices.

Road to Recovery

It has been months since COVID-19 first caused disruptions to many industries worldwide. Since then, business leaders were able to assess their current situations and respond accordingly through this health crisis. They strived to ensure the financial aspects of their business were sustainable enough to recover their losses. At the same time, they also prioritized the health and safety of their teams as they shifted to working remotely. Many saw the importance of regaining control and reimagining previous strategies and processes. They see these will overcome similar disruptions in the future. 

A major lesson taken from these uncertain times is that businesses must have a workforce strategy that guarantees continuity. Once stability is reached, business leaders will not only be more prepared for the next possible outbreak but will also be able to ensure continued success in the new normal.

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Three Trends of the BPO Industry to Watch Out for in 2020

Three Trends of the BPO Industry to Watch Out for in 2020

The BPO Industry is renowned for its flexibility and ability to reinvent itself. It is at the forefront of different business trends, often helping shape how other industries use all the latest technologies and staying a few steps ahead of the competition. In the last few years, a few emerging trends arose that look to redefine what the industry is going to be about. Each of them shows not only where the BPO industry is heading, but how others will eventually follow suit in some capacity. Let’s take a look at some of the major trends that will shape the BPO industry for years to come.

AI and Process Automation

It’s almost impossible to talk about the BPO industry without mentioning artificial intelligence. We’ve seen and heard different rumblings of AI being used in the BPO industry, even to the point of saying it could replace people completely. As technology continues to improve, the continued movement towards AI and automation seems inevitable. Analysts predict that within the next ten years, about 40% of jobs could be lost to automation in the United States alone. Indeed, the BPO Industry has prided itself at providing quality labour with reduced costs, and removing these people would be significant.

Despite this inevitability, human input and productivity is something that no machine can replicate. AI will be more likely to work alongside its human counterparts, doing the heavy lifting and tedious work for them so that humans can focus on what’s really important. People have innate creative abilities and decision-making skills that no machine can replicate. Even with the arrival of AI, companies will still need to add their touch to make this software useful. People will be managing AI and correcting it when the processes do not meet their standards. 

Yes, artificial intelligence will indeed render a few current roles as inefficient, but that does not mean it should be wholly accepted. In fact, it may open the door to more jobs and opportunities that people can take advantage of. In doing so, automation can make way for more highly skilled employees joining different companies. In the Philippines, it is predicted that around 700,000 medium and high skill jobs will be available by 2022. Companies that refocus on assigning tasks and roles that no AI software can’t accomplish allows them to expand their services and offerings to various clients.

Social Media Management

It’s surprising to think that social media as a whole would be considered an emerging business trend. What was once seen as websites that help people connect with friends has since exploded into a multi-faceted platform that helps drive engagement and become a real game-changer for businesses. Focus on social media will only continue to grow as it is a trove of customer data and real-time feedback that helps companies determine upcoming trends and strategize innovation methods. 

 Most everyone you know is connected on at least one social media site, and businesses today see the value in using these platforms effectively. People are invested in social media, and it’s clear that companies today are (and should be) as well.

Social media will continue to be a driving force for consumers in the years to come.

A company’s social media presence is an extension of their image online. That is why social media management is a major responsibility that goes beyond the simple understanding of what it means. Great social media management involves creating engaging content and answering queries or concerns from visitors in a timely, positive and professional manner. A majority of consumers used to do this via calls to their customer service department and while this function still exists, they are now more likely to engage with social media for these concerns.

The Rise of Cloud Computing

In simple terms, you can think of cloud computing as having access to online storage space and systems. Having access to data storage and limitless information over the internet gives BPO companies offer better innovation and develop scalable business strategies. Not too long ago, businesses had to host their software by purchasing expensive servers and get in-house IT teams to ensure everything is running smoothly. Today’s companies are much efficient than ever before, and in 2020, it is most likely that we’ll see more companies embracing the benefits of different types of cloud services.

Adapting To The Trends

The BPO industry used to be all about call centres. Today, many in the industry understand the importance of looking beyond this traditional view and becoming more multi-functional in the current business landscape. They still provide consistent customer service, but it also means offering robust social media services, design work and IT assistance just to name a few. Overall, it means bringing innovation to existing clients by improving productivity and regaining a labour cost advantage.

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The Impact of AI in the Philippine BPO Industry

The Impact of AI in the Philippine BPO Industry

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the need for traditional approaches becomes less prevalent. Stories of the rise of artificial intelligence or AI in the workplace have become more and more prevalent. This is both an exciting and cautious time for the offshore outsourcing/Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. We previously predicted that it would be the trend to watch out for, together with the decline of the traditional call center. Though this does mean automating plenty of low, entry level functions, adapting automation puts businesses in the forefront of trends and ahead of their competition.

The Philippines, in particular, has been preparing for this major transition. After all, the BPO industry is poised to become the highest part of the country’s GDP within the next five years. We’re seeing different voices in favor of automation, while others see the future effects on the Filipino workforce. Let’s take a look at some of the insights presented.

The Rise of AI

Even on a surface level, most people are aware of what AI can do for any business. The successful implementation of AI in the BPO industry in particular would mean a massive increase in productivity. Menial and repetitive tasks such as administrative work can become automated, allowing for the allocation of resources in different areas of focus.

The Philippines remains cautiously optimistic with the implementation of AI. Lawmakers understand the concerns brought about the possible loss of jobs and how it will affect the overall business climate. They assure companies that AI would “compliment” current technologies rather than replace them outright. Furthermore, experts encourage further training and upskilling in special areas as these are areas that need to be strengthened. Experts in the Philippines also predict that automation will gain major traction in the next three to five years.

The Drawbacks To Come

Still, skepticism around fully automating functions in the BPO industry still remains. The concerns surrounding it are not unfounded either. The biggest issue being what it would mean for employment. While some see the implementation of AI as an opportunity, others see it as a threat to their livelihood. Despite the assurance from the government, fully automating processes with AI would mean losing over 1.3 million jobs in the Philippine BPO industry alone. If companies are not able to provide alternatives for their livelihood, it becomes detrimental to the industry and the Philippines as a whole.

Additionally, we are already seeing some of the problems that automation has brought to some major companies. YouTube, for instance, caused a stir among its most prolific users with the demonetization of different videos due in part to buggy automation. Facebook’s automation problems are also well documented, with some writers observing it as both a blessing and a curse. Few have observed that AI’s biggest flaw comes with being unable to properly address context with the content being produced. Errors as a result of automation, especially on a major scale, have had unintended consequences.

Finding The Balance

Human interaction is an indispensable asset to any business and in many ways, forms its heart. For all the convenience AI can bring, many people still prefer a “boots on the ground” approach. As Sudhir Agarwal, CEO of Everise, stated “people like talking to people, not machines.”

Genuine human interaction is something that people will always prefer over an artificial intelligence.

The BPO industry is never one to shy away from new technology, and AI is no different. If companies are able to take advantage and the quality of work that comes out of the Philippines, they will no doubt have an advantage in the coming years. Part of what makes it such a resilient industry is its ability to stay relevant together with emerging trends. The Philippine workforce has proven again and again it is able to overcome challenges in order to produce quality, world class work. Companies are now seeing both the importance of AI, and the significance of upskilling their workforce. Much like offshoring, the implementation of AI is set to create more jobs rather than decrease them. Slowly but surely, more companies are accepting the next step in a constantly changing business landscape. Those that recognize this are now finding the right balance with new technologies and the people behind it.

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Four Quotes About the BPO Industry That Will Make You Think Twice

Four Quotes About the BPO Industry That Will Make You Think Twice

Plenty has been said about the BPO industry over the years. It has opened more opportunities for businesses and the quality of work it produces. There are also comments on how it is detrimental to job creation or is just a passing fad.

We have previously dispelled some of the myths surrounding offshoring (and the BPO Industry as a whole). Nevertheless, it would be good to also look at and remember what some highly successful individuals have said about it.

Do what you do best. Outsource the rest

The reality of the BPO industry is that it does send functions to other countries like the Philippines. However, it does not necessarily mean a reduction in job creation and work quality.
By sending functions offshore, your local team can focus on priorities and opportunities to develop the business further. At the same time, your offshore team provides strong back office support that keeps your company competitive. In due time, your offshore team can start to include higher level functions that will aid your company’s growth.

Outsourcing is inevitable

A common criticism about the BPO Industry is how it acts like a revolving door for employees. They come and go at the drop of the hat with little to no career development, resulting in high staff turnover. However, companies are now seeing the importance of having long term staff and are making efforts to keep them.

We’ve discussed before how different offshoring is from outsourcing in the BPO industry. One of the biggest differences is how employees are seen in the long term rather than short. They are not easily replaced and have plenty to offer with their abilities. Additionally, companies train their employees to develop their skills and go beyond what they were first capable of. In essence, an offshore team is molded into becoming an essential part of the company, not just short term solutions.

You’re putting yourself out of business without outsourcing

The BPO industry is at the forefront of today’s business environment. With much of its activity happening online, it is in a constantly changing landscape that must be adapted to quickly. It shows the importance of future proofing your company as it prepares for any sudden shifts in the next few years.

Chances are, if you haven’t looked at offshoring to fill in roles for your company yet, your competitor might already be. With an offshoring strategy, companies stay relevant and adapt to the direction their respective industry is going. Offshoring itself is an emerging business trend that lets businesses stay ahead of the curve.

Outsourcing as a powerful tool for leverage

In today’s globalized society, plenty of traditional business approaches are not as effective as they used to be. The BPO industry helps businesses by providing support for a much broader audience than what was once capable.

Whether you are a medium, large or listed business, you can unlock your full potential with an offshore team. You will be able to find the right and qualified people that can work well with your local team. Together, you can up the quality of work produced and deliver your objectives on a regular basis. Most of all, it sets you up to have a prominent presence on the global stage. The best part? You can do all this without having the need to spend more.

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