Talent, talent, talent



The contact center, a sub-sector of the entire IT-business process management (ITBPM) industry in the country, remains to be the biggest contributor in terms of revenues and jobs generation of this technology-driven sector.

Come hell or high waters, the contact center as represented by the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), has proven to be the most resilient in the ITBPM industry. But do not be misled by those notions that all they do is answer calls. No.

A contact center is a central point from which organizations manage all customer interactions across various channels. Their primary purpose is to offer customers efficient and effective technical support, customer service and sales assistance. Unlike a simple call center, a contact center offers customers multiple support channels, including phone, email, chat, messaging apps, social media, and self-service options.

Haidee Enriquez, director of CCAP, emphasized their role in terms of actual economic contribution — revenue and jobs or full-time employees (FTEs).

In terms of revenue, the contact center contributed 83 percent of the $35.5 billion revenue generated by the ITBPM industry in 2023. They also represent 89 percent of the industry’s 1.5 million FTEs. A World Bank study showed that for every one FTE created in the industry, about seven lives benefit economically.

In the ITBPM Roadmap 2028, the industry projected an additional 1.1 million more FTEs and $59 billion revenues by 2028. Still majority of those targets are expected to come from the contact center companies.

So, suffice it to say that almost all of the sub sectors in the ITBPM industry, the contact center is where the power really resides, both revenue and FTE.
The contact center has proven to be climate change proof, financial crisis proof, Covid proof, and government changes proof. Thus, regardless of anything and everything that has happened, the contact center has grown and remains bullish.

But the sector is not without challenges. The ITBPM Roadmap 2028 has identified four critical levers for success — policies and regulatory support, talent development, infrastructure development, marketing and brand positioning.

Of the four levers, the most critical is talent development. This is because of the changing demands of clients and the need to upskill workers. 

“You may have roads, bridges, hotels, Wi-Fi, power, if the balance is not there, who is going to take those calls, who's going to work on those panels?” Enriquez asked.
“So, the most critical lever of success is really talent,” Enriquez emphasized. That's why majority or 80 percent of the focus among contact center players are related to developing, sourcing, attracting, developing, and retaining talent. It's talent, talent, and more talent initiatives.

Historically, the call center sector has among the highest employee attrition rates in the country. About 60 percent to 70 percent of agents had been leaving their companies until 2016, when the rate began to slow below 50 percent.

One good news though is that the attrition rate or the number of agents resigning from a contact center company has been slowing down.

Results of the 145-member organization’s annual Attrition and Retention Survey conducted by data solutions firm Willis Towers Watson showed that voluntary attrition rate has slowed to 31 percent in 2022 from 36 percent in 2021. The rate further slowed down to 19 percent as of the first half of 2023.

The top three reasons of employee resignations are better pay (69 percent), better growth opportunity (68 percent), and health related reasons (46 percent).
In terms of involuntary attrition, the rate in 2022 was at 14.1 percent, while the rate of agents committing absence without leave (or unauthorized leave considered as work abandonment) was at 9.9 percent. About 1.9 percent of hired agents were “No Show” or did not report to work on Day 1.

Overall, the industry’s total voluntary and involuntary attrition rate in 2022 was 45 percent from a higher rate the previous year.

Enriquez attributed the decline in attrition rate to the implementation of work from home arrangements. Enriquez cited critical decision of the government  to allow work arrangement flexibility while protecting the businesses of their clients.

Both Enriquez and CCAP Corporate Secretary Jamea Garcia estimated unfilled industry jobs of between 100,000 and 150,000. For Enriquez, her company has 300 vacancy positions while Garcia said that they have 3,000 available jobs.

Some of the challenging roles to hire are positions for big data/data analytics/business intelligence, application development, accounting and finance, cyber security, and human resources. 

To ensure continued supply of talents, Enriquez said that CCAP has partnered with government agencies, particularly the Department of Information and Communications Technology. They have already completed the development of its own Philippine Skills Framework (PSF) specifically for Contact Center and Business Process (CCB). This is in line with the organization’s commitment to help the government, particularly the academic sector, in preparing students for more career options.

Talent is what runs a company, without it, there is no organization to speak of and be proud of.  And talent is not just a number in the payroll, it is a component that needs to be nurtured and developed in line with the organization’s objectives. The most successful companies are run by the best talents.

Despite the real challenges in terms of talent, Enriquez said that the industry has grown and their projection remains very bullish.

(Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat is the Business Editor of Manila Bulletin.)