Multilingual call center outsourcing is a flourishing sector in the Philippines that owes much of its growth to the availability of language-proficient agents in the country. In Open Access BPO alone, the initial roster of foreign-language agents has doubled and joined by four new languages within less than a decade in operation. What makes the Philippine workforce ideal for multilingual call center work?
Ever since it displaced India as the leading premiere call center destination, the Philippines has been venturing into other areas of outsourcing to further cement its position in the global offshoring industry. Among the niches that the country aims to penetrate further is the multilingual customer support call center sector, a local segment that is budding to be the most lucrative in Asia.
It’s the country’s convenient geographic location that has been attracting foreign businesses to set up a central headquarters instead of distributing operations across multiple locations in the Asia-Pacific. But more than that, what makes the Philippines an ideal site for offshore multilingual call center operations is the availability of highly skilled agents who are fluent in foreign languages that most outsourcers demand.
The Filipino workforce owes much of its language proficiency to the government-mandated bilingual education that all of its citizens must undertake from their early school years, up to the tertiary level where foreign language education is required in some courses. Another factor is that the country’s official language, Tagalog, originates from Spanish and Bahasa, which makes it easy for Filipinos to immerse themselves in those foreign tongues.
According to the 2010 census, the Philippines is home to approximately 30,000 Americans and 29,000 Chinese Nationals, as well as to several other nationalities residing in the nation. The Japanese, Indians, and Canadians also make up a large portion of the foreign population living among Filipinos. For this, finding native speakers to attend to same-language customers is less of a challenge in the Philippines than in its less diverse neighbors.
A growing trend in the Philippine call center scene is the hiring of former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as foreign language specialists. Repatriated OFWs make use of their gained foreign language fluency by working as voice representatives for the customers from the countries they used to serve. These former OFWs’ lingual and cultural exposure gives them an edge over native-speakers, making them equally preferred candidates by most call center outsourcing firms.
Multilingual call centers are indeed rising to be one of the strongest sectors of the local outsourcing industry. Given that the Philippines is a melting pot of various nationalities, cultures, and languages, the multilingual voice service segment is not likely far from becoming another major growth driver of the Philippine economy.