Largest BPO firm sets foot in M’nao

THE country’s biggest private employer is venturing into Mindanao, putting up its 22nd call center in Davao City with an initial 800 seats expected to be filled up by September.

In a briefing, Convergys Corp executives said the Davao facility may be followed by another site — possibly in Cagayan de Oro City — depending on how its first foray in Mindanao plays out.

Besides venturing into Mindanao, Convergys also lined up expansion plans for its existing sites: Alabang 2, Alabang 3, Bacolod3, Baguio, Cebu-TGU, Megamall, MDC-100 in Libis and Cebu 5.

Convergys president and chief executive Andrea Ayers said about 44 percent, or 35,900 of the company’s global workforce of 84,000 global, is in the Philippines. This makes the country the leading driver of the $2-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) firm’s growth.

Next to the US’ 30 sites, the Philippines has the most number of Convergys facilities outside the company’s home base. Ayers said this rapid expansion in the Philippines is driven by talent, more than anything else.

“The most important for us is access to talent, access to people. We also look for infrastructure, that’s important. Technology and focus on education is also important to us because that helps create our future employees,” said Ayers, who is in the country for the company’s 10th anniversary celebration.

The quality of work that Filipinos render is something that its executives are proud of, earnings letters of commendation from chief executives of top global companies.

“Steve Ballmer [of Microsoft] sent a letter of commendation to our agent in Cebu, for the excellent service he had on the phone,” said Marife Zamora, Convergys senior vice president and managing director for Asia Pacific and Europe.

Aside from talent, when the company sets up operations in the region, that means they are in the area for the long haul and become an important player in the space, Ayers said.

The Philippines has become a top destination for providing customer management services to Convergys clients in North America, UK and Australia. The local operation is providing support to all industries such as financial services, technology, cable satellite, telecommunications, automotive, retail and healthcare.

Ayers said support services ares shifting from the simple billing and collection back-office work to more complex call services.

Customers handle simpler transactions through self-service via the Internet, while customer service calls have become “more complex, which impacts the kind of talent that we need and the level of training we provide,” she said.

But similar to what other BPO firms experience, Convergys is also facing the challenge of recruiting the right people in this market. The Philippines is touted to be number one in the voice-based customer service globally, so the company needs to have a steady supply of talented, English-proficient workers.

“As part of our commitment to help improve employability of the talent pool, we have a free program called Near-Hire Training, which helps improve chances of success into getting hired for Convergys,” Ivic Mueco, Convergys Philippines Services Co vice president and country manager, said.

Launched in April, this program has already trained almost 700 individuals and hired 343 graduates. It has 17-TESDA certified trainers and is running nationwide in six locations: Baguio, Alabang, Insular Life Building in Makati, San Lazaro, Nuvali and Cebu.

Mueco said the company’s attrition rate has been going down every year and “don’t see it as a problem” any more. Convergy’s attrition rate is already at 50 percent, lower than the industry average of 70-80 percent.

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