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5 Brutal misconceptions in the Philippine BPO industry

The Business Process Outsourcing industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the Philippines. With over a million Filipinos working in the BPO, the Philippine government has advised that “The BPO industry is regarded as a priority by the Philippines Development Plan as essential to the country’s ten high priority development areas.”

This did not happen overnight. This is a lot of hard work from a million people striving every day to make the industry grow exponentially in varied ways.

And so with the growth spurt that the BPO has had for the past 10 years, BPO employees have been the subject of intense scrutiny and sometimes overzealous bullying from people who have resigned themselves in disliking the BPO and the people working in the BPO no matter what.

Let’s go through the 5 Brutal Misconceptions in the Philippine BPO Industry

1. A lot of the BPO employees did not finish college.

I hear this often and this is coming from the fact that the BPO is a results-oriented industry. It doesn’t matter if you are a graduate of the top universities or did not finish college.

As long as you are reliable, take the job seriously and become successful in your role, it won’t matter that you didn’t finish college. It’s the skill and proficiency that matters the most if you want to have a career in the BPO.

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I’ve had the privilege of working with and for successful leaders in the BPO who have not finished college and I am very proud of having that opportunity to lead teams with them and for them. There is a different sense of drive and motivation that makes them truly results-oriented and successful in the BPO.

A lot of the BPO employees did not finish college.
A lot of the BPO employees did not finish college.

2. The job is so easy, why do they get paid a lot?

This is one of those brutal misconceptions because while it’s true that employees in the BPO get paid a lot higher than regular day jobs, there is no truth to the perception that the “job is easy”.

I’ve handled teams in varied service delivery models – voice, chat, back office and not one of the accounts that I’ve handled are even close to being categorized as “easy”. They required a lot of skills and most of the time companies even had to invest hours of training that cost thousands of dollars to make sure that the teams have a chance for success.

While being on the phone seems “easy” to some because “call center people only have to say hello and goodbye”, that is far from reality.

Having started my career as an agent for a travel account 15 years ago, I can still remember how frustrating, stressful and in some days depressing it is to be yelled at by someone across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away and make them realize that the refund policy does not apply to their case. This is after you have advised them in your most calm voice about the policy 5 times!

Not to mention those days that you have to get your supervisor involved because the customer said, “I’d like to talk to your manager”.

You not only need to have great communication skills, but you also have to have a higher sense of EQ – Emotional Quotient to get through the tough days… and sometimes tough months.

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So yes, the pay is definitely higher than in some industries but it has a reason why. The job is not as easy as you think.

It’s actually very challenging and requires skills that most regular folks do not have. These skills are critical for their success in the BPO and such need to be compensated accordingly.

3. Working in the BPO is a dead-end job

I’ve been in the BPO for 15 years, yes that’s 15 and I am proud to debunk this misconception because I am living proof that it’s not a dead-end job.

And the wonderful thing is, I am not alone.

There are hundreds of leaders in the BPO that has a similar story like mine. I started as an agent rose from the ranks and now leading an Operations team.

With over a million Filipinos working for the BPO since the BPO started in 1992 and growth that compares to OFW remittances for 2016, I think it’s safe to say that this is not a dead-end job.

On the contrary, it’s the industry that Filipinos need to take seriously.

4. Job security is an issue. Redundancy is rampant.

Redundancy happens when the employer has exhausted all possible scenarios in endorsing employees to accounts that have resource needs. Let me be clear that this is the last resort of BPO companies. This is not the immediate action plan.

I’ve seen this happen and while it happens, it’s not as “rampant” as the misconceptions seem to insinuate. I’ve experienced ramping down an account with hundreds of people in it.

My company then absorbed EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

BPO companies know the cost of hiring and retaining employees is exorbitant. They would rather keep existing staff and redeploy to accounts vs. having to hire a newbie.

Job security is a priority for the BPO because the cost to hire, train and retain employees is usually triple the amount of a redundancy package.

Also, our clients know that seasoned employees even coming from another account within the company ramp faster and have better engagement than newbies.  This is a win-win situation for the client, the company and for the employee.

Job security is an issue. Redundancy is rampant.
Job security is an issue. Redundancy is rampant.

5. Work in the BPO is very toxic. Employees do not have a work-life balance since they all work at night.

Tied to this misconception is the schedules of BPO employees. While the majority of accounts in the BPO is at night (US Days), there are BPO companies wherein the work needs to be done in the morning (US Nights). This is especially true for healthcare-related accounts and game developers.

Not all BPO employees work at night. The schedules will depend on a variety of reasons. But mostly it will be driven by the client agreement and the hours of operations optimized to achieve performance.

In the toxic work environment, the work can get stressful at times like in any job but work-life balance is actually achievable.

Behind every successful BPO employee is a support system that allows them to thrive and be great at what they do. I am in awe of families and friends who are completely understanding and supportive of a BPO professional.

They make adjustments and sacrifices to accommodate their loved ones working in the BPO. They reschedule lunch plans for dinner plans to allow their loved ones to get some rest due to the night shift.

This is one of many instances that support the BPO professional and how work-life balance is attainable.

Sure there are days that it gets toxic but I think it’s just part of the ebb and flow of working like in any industry.

These 5 Brutal Misconceptions plague BPO employees maybe a lot more than other industries. But despite these opinions, the BPO is thriving and on the right track for growth in the next 5 years.

The Business Process Outsourcing industry is here to stay and not only will it thrive, but it will also fuel the Philippine economy as a key source of employment.

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Outsource Accelerator is the trusted source of independent information, advisory and expert implementation of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

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About Derek Gallimore

Derek Gallimore has been in business for 20 years, outsourcing for over eight years, and has been living in Manila (the heart of global outsourcing) since 2014. Derek is the founder and CEO of Outsource Accelerator, and is regarded as a leading expert on all things outsourcing.