Posts Tagged ‘Call’

Transcosmos Expands Its “MCM Center Fukuoka” Call Center Base

December 26th, 2012

Transcosmos inc. (Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; President and COO: Masataka Okuda; TSE First Section: 9715; hereafter, transcosmos) has expanded its call center base “Marketing Chain Management Center Fukuoka” (hereafter, MCM Center Fukuoka) to meet expanding business needs. New operations will begin on December 17, 2012.

MCM Center Fukuoka opened in June of 2008. The city of Fukuoka is the largest city in the Kyushu region, and due to the fact that many major companies in industries such as finance, communications and manufacturing have moved into the city as a base for the Kyushu region, MCM Center Fukuoka has been providing a wide range of call center services focusing on services for the finance, communications, manufacturing and mail order industries. This includes various types of information such as that for products and campaigns, outbound calling operations such as collection calls, and technical support operations requiring high technology. Its operations have steadily expanded up until now, and 200 more work stations have been added to accommodate business expansion associated with the procurement of new projects.

Overview of MCM Center Fukuoka
Name:         Marketing Chain Management Center Fukuoka
Location:    Nishitetsu Tenjin Bldg., 1-13-6 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Total floor area:     3388.27m2 (expansion area is 534.72 m2)

transcosmos has the nation’s largest network of call centers including 23 bases and over 12,000 work stations, and with the current expansion, MCM Center Fukuoka has become the fifth largest center in the country. Future plans call for expanding business operations focusing on areas such as technical support and financial services, as well as the hiring of 300 new employees. In order to flexibly meet the various demands of client companies, transcosmos will continue striving to enhance facilities and services, while also contributing to the revitalization and development of local communities through job creation.

  • transcosmos is a registered trade name or trademark of transcosmos inc. in Japan and other countries.
  • Other company names and product or service names mentioned are registered trade names or trademarks of various other companies.


Call Center Outsourcing Opponents To Get Endorsement Of Communications Workers Union

August 15th, 2012

Citing the results of a new poll, the Communications Workers of America union said it intends to devote its resources to candidates who oppose the outsourcing of call centers.

According to a poll commissioned by the union, 78 percent of voters rank call centers negatively. Voters also overwhelmingly back anti-outsourcing proposals, such as allowing calls to be transferred to a domestic call operator, and preventing companies that outsource call centers from receiving grants or tax breaks.

“There are, frankly, very few polls that show this kind of unanimity, this kind of intensity in America today,” Celinda Lake, president of the polling firm Lake Research Partners, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. The firm primarily does polling related to organized labor and liberal causes.

With that polling evidently in mind, CWA announced it will back candidates — through radio advertisements and social media — who support legislation intended to prevent companies from outsourcing call centers. Ron Collins, the union’s chief of staff, told reporters that CWA would be rolling out radio ads this week for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), Wisconsin Senate candidate Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Those candidates all support a CWA-backed bill, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, which would make companies that outsource call centers ineligible for federal grants or guaranteed loans.

Collins also said the union will also launch a social media campaign to promote the issue and to support anti-outsourcing candidates, as well as using its legislative political action teams to lobby elected officials.

Companies in the telecommunications and banking industries have often outsourced call centers. Roughly 500,000 call center jobs were lost in the United States between 2006 and 2010, according to the union.


Call center agents fight stress with humor

April 11th, 2012

A day after the controversial Manny Pacquiao victory over Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12, 2011, a call center agent in Manila handling a foreign satellite television account got a call from someone he suspected to be Mexican.

The irate caller was complaining he had been unable to view the match because he couldn’t get a satellite signal, and demanded a refund.
Jep, the call center agent, knew that it would be difficult to verify the claim. He remembered receiving similar complaints a day after Pacquiao’s earlier fight with another Mexican boxer.

Conscious that the Mexican caller may have been devastated by Marquez’s defeat, Jep tried in the most polite way to tell the caller that a refund was out of the question. The Mexican, however, was adamant.

After almost an hour of a wearying exchange, Jep offered a compromise. He promised the customer a 10 percent rebate applicable if he purchases Pacquiao’s next pay-per-view match. The Mexican agreed.

Happy with what seemed like a good deal, the Mexican customer then asked, “When is the next fight of Pacquiao that I can watch?”
Jep replied, “That is still being negotiated, sir. Thank you and have a good day.”

Quick thinking, loads of patience, and an ample sense of humor are important coping mechanisms call center agents rely on in dealing with all sorts of unseen clients from different parts of the world with different cultures and accents.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) voice services such as call or contact centers make up 70 percent of the industry in the Philippines and employ about 350,000, according to 2010 statistics of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines. The BPO industry is expected to grow to 1.3 million jobs with $25 billion in revenue in the next couple of years.

The Philippines is the acknowledged global leader in the BPO industry, a fact attributed to Filipinos possessing the qualities needed to deal with a job as demanding as being a call center agent.

One way Filipinos maintain rapport with callers is by adopting neutral or “Americanized” names, especially for U.S. accounts. American callers are more comfortable addressing people by their first names.

Chris, a 30-year old quality analyst for a big call center in Ortigas, explains that this promotes easy rapport and a connection with customers that help both call center agent and caller be more comfortable conversing with each other.

Thus, call center agents in the Philippines have no problems assuming “Americanized” names—Pedro can be “Peter,” or Pablo “Paul.”
Manuel, a 33-year old call center agent in Makati handling a telecom account in the U.S., was put on the spot when one customer who wanted to commend him for a job well done asked for his real name. Manuel assumed the call name “Ben.” The foreign customer on the other line said, “Ben, you did such a good job handling my concern. Your boss ought to know. Please allow me to commend you. What’s your full name, Ben?”

Manuel didn’t see that coming, yet he wanted to sound natural and spontaneous, and at that moment only one person came to mind. He quickly replied. “Benigno.”

The customer went on to ask, “And your last name?” He could only think of one surname that matched that. He replied, “Aquino.”
“Benigno Aquino it is,” the caller conceded.

Confidentiality agreements between call centers and their clients or principals come in different forms. One example is the provision on non-disclosure of the call center agents’ locations. This works well in cases where callers exhibit racism, bias or discrimination towards certain countries or nationalities.

A call center agent from Iloilo City, in one of those night shifts, recalled how he survived an irate American customer. The customer, obviously a techie, was not satisfied with the preset and scripted troubleshooting guides the call center agent was reading out from a computer.
The customer demanded to know from which country the help desk was outsourced. This was in January 2010 and at that time one country had been hogging the headlines because of a catastrophic earthquake. The stressed-out call center agent blurted, “Haiti.”
The angry customer immediately dropped his pitch and became sympathetic. “Oh man, sorry to hear about your tragedy there. It was so bad, I heard. How are you guys coping there?” he asked. The caller did not press further for answers that the call center agent could not give.
Aside from a good command of the English language, call center agents should learn how to cope with the rigors of the job, from sleeplessness to exasperation.
Call center agents normally have three scheduled off-phone breaks. Some would have two 15-minute breaks and a lunch hour, or sometimes, a 15 to 30 to 45-minute off-phone schedule.
While most call center agents spend their 15-minute breaks smoking, some prefer sipping coffee in the pantry while others use them as an opportunity to take a snooze, also called “power nap.” They do this in their workstations without being too obvious as this, too, is not allowed. The sleepyheads, however, have developed different strategies to avoid getting caught sleeping on their desks.

Most common would be the “pseudo-praying” tactic. The agent would slump on the desk resting the forehead on the arm and doze off. When approached by the supervisor, often called TL for team leader or TC for team captain, the call center agent then immediately raises his or her head and blurts out an “Amen” in a firm modulated voice as though concluding a prayer, leaving the TL poker-faced.

Another style would be the “laglag barya gang (coin-drop gang).” These agents take the power nap position but when approached by their supervisors to call their attention, they would raise their heads, pull out a coin or some other object from their hands as if they were picking up something underneath their desks. These tactics work half the time, says one team leader.

But there are times when sleeplessness gets the better of the call center agent, who dozes off while talking to a costumer.
It happened to one agent who was talking to a customer asking for a cancellation of his mobile phone’s voicemail subscription. The call center agent tried to be perky when she opened the call. As the conversation progressed, the call center agent fell into sleep mode. While talking to the customer, her eyelids began to close, her head swayed lightly forward, and her voice started to fade. Then she fell asleep. She drifted into dreamland and started talking gibberish.

It must have been puzzling to the customer because he asked, “Huh?!…I’m sorry, what? Hello?”

The “Hello” woke up the sleeping agent.
Slip-ups can be forgiven. But what call center agents cannot get away with is arrogance or disrespect toward customers. Call center agents are not allowed to be sarcastic even to the most unreasonable client.
Take the case of this call center agent from Ortigas who had been on the line for over an hour with a very dissatisfied customer. The customer demanded to speak to the agent’s supervisor or manager or whoever could take her complaint about how her call was being handled. The customer said, “I’d like to speak to the highest ranking person in your company.”
Matching anger with acid, the agent replied, “You want to speak to God?”


Wellness wake-up call for ‘sleepless’ BPO agents

March 31st, 2012

Despite aggressive health and wellness campaigns by their employers, two out of three workers in business process outsourcing (BPO) companies continue to live unhealthy lifestyles, with chain smoking and heavy drinking listed as the major vices among the more than 600,000 workers in the industry.

Many of the industry’s workers, whose average age range from 26 to 28, shun regular exercise and the proper diet, Jojo Uligan, executive director of the Call Centers Association of the Philippines (CCAP), said on Friday during the launch of “Call Center Olympics,” an event meant to promote health and wellness among BPO employees.
“I would be very happy if 80 percent of our employees participated in health and wellness programs,” Uligan said. “Unfortunately, the sad fact is only 20 to 30 percent of our workers exercise and have healthy diets.”

Uligan said that while smoking, drinking and excessive eating was in no way unique to the BPO sector, the health of its employees has a more significant effect on the way outsourcing companies make money. More than in any other industry, BPO companies have to adhere to strict performance and productivity metrics that, if not met, could mean the loss of valuable accounts to competitors.

“If people are not fit, productivity goes down and companies are penalized by their clients. What happens is that (BPO) companies don’t get enough revenues,” Uligan said. The lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, made worse by unusual hours and other work-related hazards, may undermine efforts to improve the country’s competitiveness as an outsourcing destination, he added.

2nd-largest forex source

The country’s BPO industry, dominated by call centers, employed more than 630,000 workers and contributed more than $11 billion in direct revenues to domestic output in 2011. This makes the BPO industry the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange next to remittances from overseas Filipino workers.

In 2010, the CCAP hailed the country as the “call center of the world” with around 350,000 Filipinos working in the industry as against erstwhile world leader India’s 330,000-strong BPO workforce. Various reports have pointed to the Philippines’ huge English-speaking workforce as the driving force behind this boom.

According to industry estimates, global demand for outsourcing services would triple to a range of about $250 billion to $256 billion by 2016, with the workforce expected to expand to 900,000 employees.

Uligan said maintaining the health of employees, not just physically but mentally and psychologically, has been a key priority among BPO companies in the Philippines. “It’s in our interest to keep employees physically fit,” Uligan said, adding that BPO companies spend large amounts of money to make sure that their workers stay fit. “Unfortunately, we can’t force everyone to join (our wellness programs),” he said.

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor and Employement (DoLE) issued a reminder to BPO companies to adhere to special guidelines designed specifically to promote the health of its workers.

High turnover rate

The CCAP has pegged the turnover rate in call centers at 60 percent to 80 percent, the highest in the world. In some companies, it can go as high as 100 percent annually. A full-time call center agent stays in a contact center for an average of 22 months, while part-time agents stay for an even shorter period of 10 months.
The high turnover rate may be attributed primarily to health concerns. According to the International Labor Organization, 42.6 percent of Filipino call center agents suffer from sleep disorders, fatigue, eye strain, neck, shoulder and back pains and voice problems. Other reports cite odd hours, irate clients, heavy workloads and other demands as driving BPO workers to early burnout.

In March 2010, a call center worker shared his HIV story on television, prompting concerns that night workers such as call center agents tend to adopt dangerous habits like drinking, illegal drugs use to stimulate themselves and risky sexual activities after work.

DoLE guidelines

The DoLE guidelines, designed to address “recognized health and safety issues associated with call center work,” include the establishment of occupational safety and health programs and the formation of a health and safety committee in each company.

BPO employers are also required to maintain an in-house medical staff composed of at least one safety officer, an occupational health nurse and an occupational health physician. Employers should also look after the special needs of pregnant or lactating women as well as the young, older and disabled workers on their staff.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has cited the industry’s “peculiar” working conditions that could lead to occupational hazards and health risks unique to BPO companies.

But Uligan said that based on CCAP’s own internal data, there was “no difference,” no discernible pattern in the illnesses that BPO employees suffer when compared to other sectors. “We compared our own data and the statistics from our HMOs health maintenance organizations] and (found that) the top 10 illnesses for BPO employees was the same (as) the top 10 for employees in other industries.”

Nonetheless, Uligan said, all CCAP members were required to adhere to government standards for employee wellness.

“But at the end of the day, we can only do so much. If the workers don’t want to take care of themselves, we can’t do anything about it,” he said.


Can an Egyptian Virtual Call Center Outprice India?

January 28th, 2012

As local small businesses in Egypt suffer, due to reduced consumer spending during the country’s economic crisis, one entrepreneur is plotting to build a virtual call center that will hedge against the risk of being a local or national company. Karim Sameh is building CloudCenter, a cloud-based operation designed to undercut competitors’ prices by employing freelancers around the globe.

The model is simple: agents will answer calls from anywhere, including Egypt, Kenya, or a small village in South America. A bidding system will determine prices, with each call going to the employee bidding the lower per-minute price that moment.

“This way we guarantee that the customer is always paying the lowest rate,” says Sameh, who has 20 years of experience in IT and five years of experience working in IT outsourcing in Egypt. With employees in time zones around the world, CloudCenter would also provide clients with agents working during day hours, removing the need for clients to pay a premium for night shifts.

Sameh plans to reduce rates even further using freelancers who undergo local training and certification, rather than full-time employees “We are averaging 25% of the cost of a traditional call center business,” he notes. While a customer in the US would typically pay $2000 a month for cell center services, he plans to offer services for $500.

Yet to ensure quality and ensure competition doesn’t drive agents’ prices too low, Sameh plans to take advantage of local pockets of expertise. “Resources in Kenya speak better English than those in India, while resources in Rwanda, for instance, have very good French. Each resource will only be allowed to answer within one vertical,” he explains.

A history of good customer feedback will also move agents up the call-allocation list, incentivizing good performance. And when it comes to call quality, “we have an algorithm that will not route a call unless the internet connection is of a specific quality,” Sameh points out.

While CloudCenter plans to have a few revenue streams, including commissions, consultation for clients, and allowing customers to retain specific agents for a fee, the challenges of such a model are not insignificant. It can take around 12 weeks to train a call center employee in a transitioning economy, according to the The Global Call Center Report 2007.

Turnover also may be a killer. Call centers in developing countries with fulltime employees who don’t have union coverage typically have around 24% annual turnover, and replacing one fully trained call center worker costs between three and four months of a typical worker’s pay. While CloudCenter would not have to worry about replacing fulltime workers, freelancer turnover could be much higher.

While local call centers will likely provide stiff competition in local emerging markets, when it comes to becoming a dominant global service, CloudCenter will compete against the mere 14% of call centers that are global in scope, mostly in countries like India and the Philippines.

If the startup can carve out even a small slice of the pie, it’s a lucrative market. In the Philippines alone, which is now the leading global location for call centers, the industry will generate an estimated $12 billion in 2012, and up to $100 billion by 2020, according to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

Currently CloudCenter, which won first place in the Ideathon at Arabnet Cairo this past November and was listed as a finalist in Google’s Ebda2 startup initiative this December, is looking to partner with international development agencies in order to finance its training, and potentially looking to Google to leverage its VOIP infrastructure.

While the company is still considering several incubators willing to invest in its virtual model, Sameh is focusing on finding partners that can add the most value. “It’s not just about getting investment,” he says. “There is plenty of money in the region. It’s about having the dot com skills sets to develop a business in this environment.”


BPO industry unfazed by new US Call Centre Bill

December 21st, 2011

The Indian offshore industry on Tuesday termed as “protectionist” a new US Bill that attempts to make American companies moving call centre jobs overseas, ineligible for Federal loans or grants for five years.

Apart from blocking Federal grants and loan guarantees to such companies, the proposed legislation also stipulates that offshore call centre employees will have to disclose their location to American callers. Moreover, callers will have the option of asking the call centre agents to transfer them back to a US call centre.

But BPO industry veteran and non-executive Vice-Chairman of Genpact, Mr Pramod Bhasin, said he was not overtly worried as such Bills come up all the time and many are not passed. “I would not worry too much because with the US elections around the corner, there will be a lot of noise,” he said.

The US Call Centre and Consumer Protection Bill, if enacted, could cripple the call centre model in low-cost offshore locations such as India and the Philippines. But, the Indian outsourcing industry maintains that umpteen such Bills are introduced in the US but not eventually passed. Even where they are, it is only after a lengthy passage through the House of Representatives and the Senate.

According to the reports emanating from the US, the Bill also requires the list of companies that offshore call centre work to be made available to the public. It also requires notification to Secretary of Labour 120 days before any offshore move is made.

“The provisions are fairly protectionist. But it has just been introduced and there is still a long time for it to become a law, if it becomes a law….Many Bills are introduced in the House and the Senate but only a small percentage of them actually sail through,” said the Nasscom Vice-President, Mr Ameet Nivsarkar.

The Bill was recently introduced by Rep Tim Bishop and Rep David McKinley in the House of Representatives and has a strong backing from the Communications Workers of America – a union which represents 1,50,000 call centre workers in the US.

“We have no problem disclosing the location…in fact most agents do it even today when asked. But the provision on call transfer (back to the US) is a red herring…The question is whether or not American companies are willing to pay extra, for transfer of calls to US locations,” Mr Bhasin said. India’s IT and BPO export revenue is estimated to grow 16 to 18 per cent in 2011-2012 to $68-70 billion.


Call Center Outsourcing Company in the Philippines Reveals New Hiring Plans

November 14th, 2011

A business product outsourcing (BPO) company that also serves call centers in Davao City, which is located in the Philippines will be hiring approximately 200 workers in 2012 to met increasing demands from clients.

A recent article revealed that May Marie Silva-Feria, administration manager of Callbox, commented that since 2008, this hiring spree is the first time the firm has expanded in its search for new employees.

Silva- Feria claimed that one of the reasons the business is doing so well within Davao City is largely due to the well-educated citizens that are located in the region, as well as the fact that the cost of living in the city is much less than other cities in the country.

“Callbox as a BPO is not just a call center but a sales and marketing firm. We provide valuable sales insight by developing a selling process, implementing the strategies and managing a dedicated sales team. With minimal upfront investment, our clients can benefit from years of management experience, proven processes and industry expertise which range across multiple markets, including IT and software, finance, medical products and services and telecommunications,” Silva-Feria said in a statement.

Some of the positions the organization is looking to fill include outbound call center agents; software and web developers; web and graphics designers; web content writers; SEO specialists; recruitment experts; production team leaders; account managers; and operations managers.

The company hopes to find the perfect candidates and have them ready to roll by May 2012.
In related industry news, TMCnet has reported that Sitel, another call center outsourcing provider, recently began the process of recruiting 125 work-at-home customer sales associates and leadership roles in the Omaha, Nebraska area.

The company decided to add the 125 work-at-home employees in Nebraska at this time due to the fact that a leading national telecommunications client was looking to expand their customer service partnership with Sitel and broaden their online engagement with customers.


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