The Philippines was recently hailed as the “Call Center Capital of the World” and with good reason. Due to our excellent command of English, great communication skills, and relatively young workforce, many Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centers around the world have decided to call the country home.
In fact, the latest data shows that their numbers will just keep growing. The BPO sector is expected to “generate $40 billion in revenues, 7.6 million direct and indirect jobs, 500,000 jobs outside of the National Capital Region, and cover 15% of the total global outsourcing market by the end of 2022.”
The industry is booming, and it is not stopping anytime soon.
However, when you run a BPO company, things can get very hectic. Aside from monitoring various time shifts in a day, you are also fielding thousands of calls from customers in not-so-great moods. When your callers hail from all over the world, there is also the challenge of crossing multiple cultural and communication barriers simultaneously.
With so many factors to consider, it is no wonder that call centers zero in on a key performance indicator (KPI): customer satisfaction. Once this metric is met, the rest of the business goals follow.
This is why many BPO leaders prioritize call center training for their agents above all. High-quality agents spell high satisfaction ratings. With new and unique cases happening every day, call center representatives must learn how to adapt to any situation. More than that, they must still maintain their professionalism, solve the customer’s problem, and end the call on a lighter note than when it started—all at the same time.
Given this, the important question we must ask then is: how does one keep up? When it comes to operating a BPO enterprise, how do you ensure that the constant learning these agents need happens on a wide scale, at an accelerating rate, on budget, and with consistent quality?
Practice makes perfect—among other things
Three top answers emerged when call center customers were asked what their expectations were during calls. First, they expect their problems to be attended to and solved quickly. Second, they prefer having a personal interaction with the agents they talk to. Lastly, they want assurance that these agents know what they are doing and are able to handle their concerns. In other words, clients value speed, empathy, and competency—three skills that call center representatives can only learn through continuous, hands-on practice.
However, studies show that consistent, hands-on practice is only part of the equation. After all, while the 10,000-hour rule—as popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers—still holds, the quality of the practice that one does is what truly affects the outcome.
It is not simply about doing the same work over and over again—it is also about getting better each time you do. Coined as “deliberate practice,” the goal to mastery (or even just to competency) for any individual involves challenging yourself to do better work each time.
There are many ways to facilitate this. One involves having a great mentor who can point out blind spots consistently, then challenge you to overcome them the next time around. This is great for individual learners. However, it is not exactly a cost- nor a time-efficient way to scale learning in an organization, especially not one as large as a call center enterprise.
Enter collaboration: a growing body of research has emerged illustrating the benefits of cooperative learning. In summary, having small teams that use a variety of activities to understand a subject together can be more effective than learning on your own. When you foster a supportive learning environment where each member is a) responsible both for learning the subject matter, and b) helping their peers learn the same, deeper learning emerges.
So when you are trying to execute deep learning on a wide scale, this strategy of utilizing social networks can be the more effective choice. After all, call centers are not even bound by location. Usually, to serve as many clients as possible, companies branch out to multiple locations—sometimes even in remote cities or countries. To achieve consistency in the quality of learning across all levels of the organization (and all locations too), one must utilize effective real-time collaboration tools that can empower employees instead of hinder them.
A concrete example of this is holding webinars launched from the head office. Cloud solutions such as G Suite or collaboration solutions such as Web Conferencing can enable best practices to be shared across multiple branches—all without paying for the cost of transportation or food, saving precious work hours in the process. This not only preserves the quality of learning, but it also displays how utilizing your own social network can make your unit smarter as a whole.
Another strategy can be the use of telepresence. Holding peer-to-peer study groups can help teams learn better, deeper. Qualified trainers can facilitate these learning sessions even when they are offsite or working in a remote office. Aside from incentives being given to teams for their customer satisfaction goals, new ones centered around learning milestones can also be put in place.
Learning beyond limitations
At the end of the day, the continued growth of the BPO industry spells only good things for the local economy and the business landscape. Empowering individuals to become better at their jobs will ultimately lead to the empowerment of organizations. Not only will customers be better off, but businesses will be, too. There is always room for learning, improvement, and growth—regardless of the size of your enterprise.
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Lee, Don. "The Philippines Has Become the Call-center Capital of the World." Los Angeles Times. Last modified February 01, 2015. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-philippines-economy-20150202-story.html.
Stillman, Jessica. "10,000 Hours Researcher: Actually, Tons of Practice Isn't Enough." Inc.com. Last modified June 23, 2016. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/10-000-hours-researcher-actually-tons-of-practice-isn-t-enough.html.