By Martin Conboy President Australian BPO Association
The hard lessons learned by Australian call centres in the last century have not carried across to call centre and BPO environments in the Philippines.
Staff turnover is a major challenge and no matter which way you dress it up, working in a call centre environment is not for everyone. There are two types of people that work in a call centre: one is stress hardy and the other is not.
People who are stress hardy are resilient and are less inclined to leave, whereas people who respond poorly to stress tend to leave as soon as they can. What some owners/managers of BPO call centres fail to realise is that their most is important assets are ‘soft’ assets, i.e. people. A new project comes in and they think that they just need to get people on the phones, and by and large anybody will do so long as they can speak English and navigate their way around a computer program. It never occurs to them that they have some of the brightest minds in their society and they are forcing them to do some of the dullest, soul-destroying stressful work imaginable. I am not suggesting that all BPO work is like that – it’s just to point out that a young mind that has been trained to think and challenge the status quo in a university environment needs to be stretched and challenged each and every day.
Those with robust and outgoing personalities will take to it like a duck takes to water and others will simply hate it and leave.
The Philippines BPO industry reports an annual loss of an estimated 85,000 workers from the sector; that’s a massive cost to the industry when one considers the real cost in terms of replacement, recruitment, training, management time and lost productivity until new agents get up to speed.
Some business leaders that I have met look out at the vast pool of willing knowledge workers in their respective countries and think that the well will never dry up. Boy, are they in for a rude awaking!
Let’s remember the types of people who work in these facilities: students, recent graduates, people looking for a second income, moms returning to the workforce after they have started their families and older workers.
For many, working in a BPO environment is a means to an end. Contrary to popular belief, working in a call centre is not all that it is cracked up to be. I have witnessed first-hand blatant abuse of staff with managers shouting and yelling at operators and reducing some to tears. It’s no wonder that so many resign from the industry.
Another area that can be fixed inexpensively that can have a major impact is the built environment. It’s amazing how a coat of paint and a few pot plants can brighten up a workplace. After all, who feels inspired to do one’s best when the work area is drab and one is stuck in a battery hen environment?
Business process outsourcing (BPO) companies must deal with the unsustainable outflow of workers or face a massive shortage of available workers in the near future.
Some of the resignations will simply be people moving to a different BPO business for a host of reasons and others will be leaving the industry forever.
A lot of this staff turnover could be addressed by selecting people who are suitable for the industry in the first place rather than the catch as catch can approach by many businesses.
You can have brilliant technology and terrible people and you will not have a good call centre, where as you can have good people and poor technology and your business will survive. It’s a people business; it’s all about people talking with people. Sounds simple; however, it’s amazing how this message gets lost on some.
There are psychological tests available that test an individual’s capacity and where with all to work in the sector, but many fail to use the tools, and wonder why their people are leaving.
Some of the better BPO companies go to a lot of effort to create a sense of Esprit de Corp that young impressionable minds buy into and you can bet that their staff turnover is less than industry averages.