The End of Call Centres Will Devastate Manila and Philippines

1.2 million Filipinos work in call centres based in Manila and across the Philippines.  The BPO industry has been a blessing for the nation and has created a middle-class that was nearly non-existent before the late nineteen-nineties.  Trickle down businesses in the capital city have flourished over the last two decades and depend heavily on the disposable income of twenty-something call centre representatives (CSR) who, in many cases, have few bills to pay.  Whether you’re working in Ortigas, Eastwood or the BGC, you’ll find Karaoke bars that stay open 24 hours a day, and a multitude of coffee shops and fast food joints that also never close.  Since much of downtown Manila caters to the needs of call centre employees, I have to ask the following:  When one tech magazine after another report on the future automation of all call centres, why do local and federal authorities seem so nonplussed about the eventuality?

Eighty percent of all call centre jobs will disappear by 2025; please don’t doubt this.  With an average salary of $450 per month, that results in 5.2 Billion USD disappearing from the Philippine economy.  What industry will replace all these jobs?  Six percent of the Philippine GDP is from call centres and the elimination of these dollars will cause an economic fallout that the Philippines has never experienced before.  The 24-hour Karaoke bars will close down and the coffee shops will let employees go or just call it quits.  The employees who share nice downtown apartments with other CSRs will move back in with their parents and buildings will cut rents in half and still have no tenants.

Doom and gloom?  Well, yes, it is and Filipinos should start preparing for the inevitable.  They won’t…because Filipinos have a money in, money out mentality and that’s unfortunate.

If you are presently a call centre employee and have been for a while, I want you to ask yourself the following:  Has the software you’ve been working with changed in the last five to ten years?  Is it more efficient?  I was in the call centre/help desk business for a very long time, here in Canada.  I once worked in a bank call centre with one hundred and fifty employees.  There are less than forty now and it’s because of automation and more efficient software.  Five years from now, that same call centre will employ ten CSRs maximum.  I was told by an employee that although business has neither increased or decreased, at least one CSR is let go every month.

Celaton is a software company, headquartered in London, England.  They are one of several companies that have created, and are still perfecting, software that can mimic any call centre function other than upselling product.  Help desks, for instance, will be replaced by virtual bot assistants who can answer any question and understand any accent.  Chat box questions will be answered by virtual software that can decipher complex typos and bad grammar.  This is happening now; it is not a future development.  It is happening now!

Another factor to consider is the telecom infrastructure in Manila.  New technologies will require faster broadband capability and almost one hundred percent reliability.  The Philippines cannot handle such expectations, especially something that will require huge investment in infrastructure.  Who is going to pay for this knowing that automation will be crushing the industry? 

If you’re a CSR right now, ask yourself what you will do five years from now when that BPO company that has supplied you with a paycheque decides to move their call centre operations back home?  What are you going to do?

What’s scary is that there is no replacement industry and there is no plan to create a replacement industry.  The Philippines seems ambivalent when it comes to creating new industry and seemingly prefers to wait for foreigners, such as Japan, to offer big dollars to exploit resources and the workforce.  I hope that Filipinos take matters into their own hands and become independent.  As it stands now, when this economic retraction begins, Manila will be in chaos and an entire nation will suffer through a recession never experienced before.  

Stop kidding yourself, the demise of the call centre industry in the Philippines is going to happen.  Prepare now.

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  1. A friend of mine actually posted this on her Facebook Timeline, and tagged/mentioned me, asking for my response. Well, here they are:

    1. The human voice is spoken with empathy and emotions; virtual bot assistants can’t do that.

    2. Software with the sophistication of all the human voice mimicry you can imagine will be expensive. Hence, real-people call centers will still be cheaper on the fly, especially if the cost of the latter is paid monthly, compared to the one-time cost of purchasing the everything-on-it software.

    3. Human voice mimicry cannot copy the ad libs and millisecond responses of a real person. Not one software has passed the Turing Test. Artificial intelligence is still, today, a philosophy and a concept.

    4. Despite all the chat and text messaging channels to deliver customer care and support, including sound-alike human voice mimicry, it has not delivered near-perfect customer service. The real person still needs to intercede. Again, there is no empathy and emotion in any AI-oriented voice software.

    5. That’s why the Philippines took over India as the call center capital of the world. It wasn’t diction nor was it intonation; it was culture. When a complaining American talks to an Indian, the latter sounds indifferent, sometimes defensive. But that’s not intentional; it’s culture. If they think they are right, they will tell you so. FIlipinos, on the other hand, are submissive by culture. If you tell a Filipino he or she is wrong, they answer back, “I’m sorry.” No defense mechanism in place. Even the intonation is so apologetic.

    5. And lastly, overall, I still believe the total cost of ownership (TCO) of leasing customer contact services from a call center far outweighs buying, installing, managing, maintaining and troubleshooting human voice mimicry software.

    This article is pure opinion. It has no references and factual basis to declare the doomsday scenario of the Philippine call center industry. Artificial intelligence in human voice mimicry and responses? Not yet. Not in the next 50 years. Or not until Star Trek literally exists.

    Addendum: I work in the telephony solutions market, the makers of the second most popular open-source telephony software in the world, used mostly by call centers. An AI module in the open-source market is available for integration, besides the non-voice components we have added to a growing software yet simplified many things to make it very easy for the user and the admin. But the AI module only mimics preprogrammed responses. Human logic isn’t there; intonation isn’t there; empathy isn’t there; nor is emotion. Simply put, I know where we are heading. If we knew of the doomsday scenario written above, then we should have started creating our exit strategy out of this industry. But we haven’t, because we know it may (not “it will”) happen by the time we’re all dead. Maybe.

    • The article and it’s topic is nothing short of a MYTH. Where did they get their sources to say that the end is 2025 when customers left and right are breathing a relieved sigh when they finally got a human operator after getting through the machine? Sure it is very possible that humans will get replaced but we will be lucky to even witnessed that within our lifetime. This article can be compared to people who was propagating that the end of the world last 2012. Full of fear, full of opinion zero facts.

      • Let me answer your question with some first hand knowledge. I lived in The Philippines for the past 14 years and just returned to the US in mid October and I will NEVER return to PI. I was hoping that after dealing with (edited) Filipinos who can’t even BEGIN to understand or speak proper English.

        Sure as anything, the first time I had a question about my internet/TV bill and called Customer Service, I got a (edited) Filipina in Manila. She was worse than useless and eventually I managed to get a person in America to assist me. That person was not very well educated either, but she at least understood my English, and me hers.

        When I eventually complained about being forced to speak to a Filipino first, she told me that within the year (possibly a bit longer) the company, Spectrum will return ALL call center positions to the US and that will eliminate a large number of Philippine call center positions. Here also is one reason why The Philippines will lose call center and internet dependent businesses. My internet speed is this, and I live in a very rural area. When I related this story to my agent in my phone company (AT & T) he told me that AT & T brought all their jobs back to the US more than a year ago. Anyone who thinks the call center business is not going to end is just hiding their head in the sand and those who think voice recognition and the like will never replace humans because of some “lack of empathy” or other idea is also refusing to accept reality. I would rather talk to a human than a machine, but machines are here and will replace humans soon. It doesn’t take much of a machine to (edited) than a Filipino, so just prepare if you are a Filipino working in the call center business or any peripheral business.

        (This is a site that caters to Filipinos. PLS be respectful. Admin Moderator)

        • If your profile is to be believed, then you are married to a Filipina. How ironic that you are married to someone whose race you hate so much?

          • I believe so, too. I pity the wife who had to cope with Jerry’s Lynch(ing) 24/7.

            Back to the topic. I share the points of Rafael. The business is primarily “customer service”, and the eventual AI is not the way to address it.
            Certain activities, though, could be relegated to AI, like technical issues where options are Yes/No, if Yes, this, if No, that.

          • Race? Really? Incompetent people are incompetent, regardless of ethnicity.

            We should learn to take criticism, we’re too onion skinned. I see no hate there, just frustration.

            And seriously, “This is a site that caters to Filipinos.” is unnecessary, are we so weak that we let words hurt us.

            “PLS be respectful.” – this should’ve been enough.

        • Your story is utter nonsense. Call centre reps are not savvy to the medium to long term strategic plans of the companies they work for.
          AT&T did not repatriate all jobs and if Spectrum are in that process you would not hear it from an agent on the phone. I am not sure whether you are naive enough to believe this nonsense or if you made it up and are naive enough to think we will believe it.
          If all call center jobs are disappearing then companies are hardly going to spend millions repatriating a job that won’t exist soon are they?

    • Very good reply Raffy. The author of this article is overreacting to this automation trend. Also he is not confident enough to put his/her real name on the article. As always your writing is exceptional. You should really consider making a book.

    • Amen to your 5 points Rafael Pekson II. While I agree to preparing employees to develop their skills and competencies as more is expected of them — i.e. a customer support staff who answers complaints or provides product info. is now expected to have technical skills, upsell while doing this through voice, chat or even through mail. Soon this same agent will get more premium if they can speak not just in English but also in Mandarin, Nihonggo, French, etc.

      AI is more applicable in animation, maybe medical transcription, legal research, engineering designs where software or algorithms takes precedence over spontaneous human responses and all the psychological dynamics that go with it.

      I have been the Head of Human Resources and Talent Acquisition in the top BPO companies for the last 15 years and I haven’t seen thousands of call center agents being laid off because of a groundbreaking software that takes their place. If there is any threat, its sometimes the propensity of agents to commit fraud in some financial institutions resulting to termination of the same.

      The sky is not falling . . .

    • You are right on the mark. There will always be a need for quality voice. Even into the foreseeable future, the Philippines culture, work ethic, quality and cost will keep them # 1 in this space


    1st to be affected are
    Call or Contact Centers – inbound/outbound services for sales, technical support, directory,etc.

    BPO consist of not only Call or Contact Centers. In the Philippines, the major component of BPO industry are Architecture, Engineering, Animation & I.T. intensive services, data Transcription, and the IPO or Industrial Process Outsourcing includes Ship building or Modular Buildings/Structures.

    The Philippines’ share of the global outsourcing pie, estimated to reach about $250 billion by 2022, is forecast by the industry to reach 15 percent by that year.

    To get there however, the Southeast Asian nation must prove to the world it has more to offer than just a pool of English-speaking talent. BPO executives said the country has to take on high-value outsourcing jobs in research and analytics and turn the headwinds from Artificial Intelligence into an opportunity.

    IBPAP has projected a rise in the number of mid- and high-skilled jobs or those that require abstract thinking and specialised expertise which should bring overall headcount in the BPO sector to 1.8 million by 2022.

    • The problem is that the Philippines is obssesed with voice services and asleep at the wheel when it comes to moving up the value chain and competing in non-voice BPO. I have heard IBPAP talk about this for years though nothing seems to be progressing.

      Have you ever tried to hire a software developer in Manila? Because of the lack of available skills, it can take up to 3 months to find someone and the expected wage can be over double a contact centre employee.

      If the Philippines is banking on mid to higher level skills to keep the economy afloat, better get a move on!

  3. There is a need to diversify, from Call Center business to other emerging markets. Call Center is just one of the option in Business Process Management (BPM) and we haven’t explored all other facets, namely: strategic alignment, governance, method, IT, people and culture. Call Center is just one line of business that we mastered, it is time to look at other opportunities. For instance, RPA (RoboticProcess Automation) will surely replace most (if not all) of the swivel-chair tasks that our BPO industry is currently enjoying and the sooner we get our feet wet with this technology, the sooner we transition to another source of revenue. Clearly, RPA is new but the adoption rate (e.g. Australia, US and UK) is already accelerating. It is not too late….but we need to act now!

  4. A big MYTH! As one of the big bosses of a big bpo company operating in PH said. There WILL be an end to call centers not just in PH but in the whole world but that is after they perfected the embryonic technology of AI technology they are developing. 2025?! Why even now automated system still needs to be man handled by stressed IT specialists?! Why almost every single time a customer will exclaim “FINALLY A HUMAN!”/”ARE YOU A ROBOT?”. Never did I received a call demanding the customer to be transferred to the AI/System? That alone will show that this article is nothing short of personal opinion and fear mongering without even giving conclusive facts and sources where the author got his/her info. I’d rather believe the bosses/owners of bpo companies than an article without factual basis. Again this article like its topic is nothing short of a MYTH!

  5. Good. Nakakahiya. Dapat manufacturing and engineering gaya nang sa tsina making products from 1st world countries like usa and japan. I tapon yang call center sa india. Kakahiya

  6. There is only one thing I absolutely hate even more than talking to a customer service representative, and that is listening to automated bots attempt to “help” me solve my problem. It’s frustrating. I cannot imagine bots successfully replacing a person and improving the service at the same time.

  7. just like the factory they replace it with robotic arm’s, but still machine needs an operator. and some factors still offers manpower.

    call center could nor might be, replace with robots, bots, or autobots. hmmm answering almost all question ? hmmm they would need a “Ai” computer to do that.

  8. Exactly! Companies would still choose to pay less to real person bots will just plainly answer straight away.

  9. Philippines should invest more to this industry so critical to it’s economy. Look past being a help desk. Be more advisory.

  10. Hi,
    I don’t know anything about AI in call centers but I think the writer has the point because of the following and not “bots or whatever”.

    I never phone a contact center or call center as you call them. Ever. I can find anything I want on the company website. Maybe it’s different in other countries, but I work for a major credit card company and I can tell you that we have no new jobs for agents. None. We outsourced for awhile but I’m pretty sure that the overseas center has been culled to nearly nothing. My buddy Brett has been the call center guru for twenty years and in the heyday he used to interview twenty times a week, easily. Not anymore. Here’s why I think the industry is dead:

    1. First off, I read a comment about cost and it’s a good point but fifteen years ago I paid $2000 for a fifty inch TV and last year I bought a 4K 50 inch flat screen for four hundred dollars at Walmart. Cost is an irrelevant discussion point especially if several companies are vying for the same business.

    2. The world has changed, especially with anyone under thirty. Hell, even an older guy like me. I would rather text than talk and I sure as hell am not going to speak with a call center even if I’m looking for “empathy” (seriously? That is such a 1990’s comment, it’s laughable). No, I will search on Google or comb the company website to fix or complete a task. we have millions of customers in my organization and everything can be resolved via the website and/or email. We used to have a big three story building just for our agents but now they share one floor with the IT gang. There is a need for a call center, I believe, but only as part of the longer transition to newer technology.

    3. What modern business is going to spend thousands or millions of dollars on a call center unless it’s for selling stuff and even that is so annoying.

    4. The Trump effect. This could be a long shot but he is walking on water as far as the economy is concerned in the US and he doesn’t want it to stop. There is already talk of a special tax for outsourcing and I’m betting that it will be legislated next year before the 2018 mid-term elections. With lower business tax already becoming a reality, I can see a lot of stuff coming back stateside. Trump will shame any company that outsources.

    Someone asked what kind of business could replace call centers and based on this article I would say anything that has to do with Robotics or the environment.

  11. If you are interested to know about the effect of RPA to outsourcing, please read this research paper: “Robotic Process Automation at Telefonica O2”. This was published in 2016 and currently, there are various players in Australia offering RPA solutions to Big companies. It’s not too late, we can still do something about this. Source:

    • Agree…showed my wife an article celebrating the implementation of the first corn combine in the US….early 1900s. I have never seen a combine in the Philippines!!

  12. All wealthy countries in the world have something in common: all have strong manufacturing base. Production of goods has always been the backbone of wealth-creation. Walang problema sa service-oriented industries, but it’s time we shift to producing goods than just being consumers of goods exported to us.

  13. “Artificial intelligence is still, today, a philosophy and a concept.”

    No. Artificial intelligence is now a reality. It is no longer a fiction hollywood story. AI is already being used in medicine. If AI is already applied in human healthcare, then for sure, it is already used in telecommunications. Better be prepared than resist the reality.

  14. I was beginning to believe this article, untill I saw who the author was! He is well known in the ex-pat community here as A Filipino hater.

    • What author are you referring to? If you are referring to Mr. Lynch, he did not write the article and is unknown to this website. The article was written by me; someone who is very concerned for Filipinos and adores the country and is in the process of building a home for street children. I also have 20 years of call centre experience as a CSR, Supervisor, Manager and owner of call centers. Please be careful with your assumptions, but at the same time, I certainly appreciate your input. You are welcome to post at any time.
      p.s. I hope I am very, very wrong about the future of call centres and I apologize to my Filipino friends if I have upset you. That was not my intent.

      Robert J

  15. I don’t believe that the call center industry will disappear because of the simple fact that people will prefer to interact with humans. The least expensive call center agent is still better than the most expensive hi-tech AI currently available.
    The majority of people will prefer to interect with people and not simply tap links on their screen or google the information with pre-recorded answers. We are no-where close to mimicing human interaction, I mean we can’t even perfect self driving cars (Tesla isn’t yet safe to drive out of the highway) which I believe is less complicated than mimicing the genuine sound of a human voice.
    Humans will build majestic buildings, come up with complicated algorithms, and maybe discover new elements but we are not anywhere near to mimicing the way a human mind project it’s thoughts through a genuine human voice.

  16. I agree on many things that are written in this article, except for the year as nobody really knows the exact year on when it will happen. It is already a fact that call centers or contact centers will replace by AI. Capitalists, technologists, and people who are working in AI development are aware of this. Forbes and The Economist even have articles about this. We don’t know when will PH be affected by this, but it will happen for sure. I believe the year 2025 is a (little) bit late. With the current pace of AI development, it could happen even before 2020.

    Lastly, Millennials are slowly replacing the previous generation as a dominant customers. The previous generation prefer calls and human-interaction but Millennials prefer email, self-service and chatbots as they grew with digital technology on their hands.

  17. just stop living in the old age of technology. I am a developer and I know the vast potential of AI overtaking most jobs that are manually done up to this date (not just a BPO Industry). Stop being ignorant about the technology trends. Adapt and survive. Learn something else and be prepared if your job goes to extinction in the future. This is why education and learning new things are important. The problem with some Filipinos especially those in the BPO Industry (not all) is that once they earned 40k up, they just stop learning. Come on! Let’s admit it the BPO Industry especially in the Philippines just caters desperate, drop-outs, and people who did not succeed in their career paths. What will you do now if the industry is gone? Sagot!

  18. I spent the last 20 mins reading through this article and all comments. Found everything very insightful.

    I’m an Indian, working in the call center industry and been in the Philippines for the last 5-6 years…(oh and I absolutely love it here).

    Trying to perhaps present my ‘fears’ if you will… it ain’t the demise of the call center industry that I’m worried about…everything will evolve…as some comments rightfully present it…as we progress in science and technology…things will improve and hence there probably will be alternates to calling a call center to get a query resolved…will it completely kill the call center industry in the Philippines…I don’t know if anyone can predict that…and by the way…if ever that happens (death of call centres)…it won’t be just in the Philippines….it will be everywhere…so if ever…this will be a ‘Global’ problem not a ‘Philippines’ problem.

    But I personally feel we have bigger things to worry/think/ponder about when it comes to enhanced techonological advancements (some call it Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Neural Networking or the most popular one Block Chain). The concept of ‘Value’ is changing fast…real fast…for the longest time…the world ‘Valued’ everything in terms of Dollars…it is fast moving into things like ‘Cryptocurrencies’ like Bitcoins…where 1 bitcoin is worth several thousands of dollars and that is unregulated currency, totally controlled by machines! So if you have a six figure salary…in times to come…it perhaps may turn into a 2 figure salary…

    Yes technological advancements are becoming real…are they a threat…dont know.

    Are call centres in the Philippines about to die…don’t know.

    Are we moving towards a New World Order…perhaps YES…really fast.

  19. THIS IS TRUE. And most are in denial.
    The fact is, left brain jobs will always be replaceable. CSR and TSR have left brain functions. Therefore, it’s very quantitave and finite result-oriented. Sure, there’s a human interaction but at the end of the day, they called not to talk to a human but to get their problems solved. So the latter is still more important.

    However, for every jobs lost, there are replacements. Bad example is that if we are going to have driverless cars 10 years from now, all drivers will lose their job but it will create a new one — could be emergency response team or traffic dispatchers.

    It’s been predicted a looooong time ago.

    The truth is the only jobs that cannot be replaced are right brained jobs. Something that is related to the arts. Because they create these ideas and technologies. Creative endeavors, Sports, Medicine, Education are some few careers that will never be repalced.

  20. I’m not IT expert nor have I any call-center experience in my whole life. My experience is more on the overseas employment industry, sending Filipino workers to every receiving country that needs them. But in my lifetime, I have seen how the computer, IT industry, and the internet developed and evolved, and true enough, some of the manual or menial jobs were overtaken by technology. 30~40 years ago, there were talks about this, and one thing I have noticed, people may evolved into keyboard conversationalists through their PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones, but they still need people to converse to and I am not sure how that can be replaced by a machine, intelligent or not. Psychologically, humans basically wanted people (not machines) to relate their feelings to. I don’t see how SIRI can replace a shoulder to cry on, or someone that can really react at your anger or pleasure.

    True, there are people who hated this country and its people for many, horribly many, reasons. I have heard and read in my lifetime stories of how they’ve been duped by my fellow-Filipinos. Well, let me know which county that doesn’t have this same embarrassing story to tell and I’ll tell you how lucky you are. Been around to also hear and read the same stories, some even worser than the next. But let’s not dwell so much into that, shall we?

    Back to the real issue here. Nope, I personally do not think it will happen in my lifetime. Unless you can achieve the technology of singularity sooner, then making use of humans will stay. One thing is very sure, if Filipinos become so expensive to maintain, then that will surely make the owners move some place else. You see, it all boils down to profits and money. Simply put, it’s just business, nothing personal. Then again, what would a senior citizen know about these things?

  21. has automated system changed in the last 10-15 years? barely , there hasn’t must change in it that could replace a real person on the other line. so have anyone noticed the ads on this website? this post or whatever you call it is just a click bait, as we all know , majority of people who are always online are working in the BPO industry, hanapbuhay pre? lol

  22. Take the precautionary principle, you have all to gain and nothing to loose if we prepare for the eventuality, we have everything to loose and nothing to gain if we don’t. So choose Philippines!

  23. If automation will succeed in all industries, it will not only eliminate outsourced jobs (offshore), but it will eliminate the jobs (onshore) also, if we’re talking about these types of jobs that would be replaced by automation.. in general.

    Additionally, if AI (artificial intelligence) would reach to the point of not only mimicking, but also surpassing the ability of a human being to empathize and provide genuine concern to resolve a customers concern, then perhaps.. AI would finally reach the point that it will become self-aware (i.e. Terminator doomsday scenario).

    But until then, certainly.. change is always constant, the strive for automation would always be there, but not to the point that it will fully replace the type of jobs that only a real human being can do instead. Because once it really happens, definitely.. the “end is nigh” not just for “jobs” (offshore or onshore), but life in general as we currently know it as well.

    Just my few cents on the matter.

  24. Filipinos are ambivalent when it comes to creating new industries is a very good behavioral analysis. We are rich in so many aspect from human to natural resources. I have witness losing competitiveness of Phil. business to other ASEAN countries Like furniture, shell craft, basket weaving, fisheries, marine resources and even ni rice and corn technology and production. We used to pioneer this area. We basically fail to improved and go global. With the second largest shoreline in the world we lost our marine resources to our neighboring countries. In other countries like US, middle east and other European cities, some marine products particularly fish are coming from China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. Baskets in other countries are now coming from China and Vietnam. Ang ka lo-oy sa tanan, Coconuts, coconut milk and coconut water are coming from Thailand when we the Philippines is the second largest producer of coconuts.
    There is always an end to everything. “GO GLOBAL” We must learn to evolve and recreate or be a donkey wondering why he lost to a four wheel contraption.

  25. I think the concern raised by the author is ultimately the concern of the government as a whole. The government should take an active role in developing the country to become an attractive investment destination in order to create diversified industries where its citizens can work and thrive other than BPO. Those employees in the BPO don’t have any other alternative industries to work to anyway even if they seriously consider the threat in their current jobs. Having said that, I strongly encourage everyone to be prudent in managing their income to prepare somehow in whatever eventualities both in the immediate or in the distant future.

  26. I’ve been living in Manila over a year and visiting for business for 5 years+

    While I don’t completely believe the doom and gloom aspects of the article, and especially don’t agree with some of the very negative comments, that doesn’t mean that the industry and country should sit idle and let new technologies reduce the value proposition of the BPO industry.

    AI is clearly improving and comments suggesting that it would be too costly to implement is simply not true. Organisations like Drift and even Facebook has created great platforms that are cost-effective to use or integrate with.

    Like life, business is not usually black and white; where there is change, there is also opportunity and this is no different. There is opportunity to grow and become a fundamental part of global business but it needs business and government working together to realise and leverage off of it.


  27. This article may be opinionated in context but it should send a signal to leaders and drivers in the industry to formulate a pivot strategy that would create more value for their respective businesses and the industry as a whole

  28. For what it’s worth, I plan on building a client contact centre in the Philippines in 2018. The biggest asset I will have is a well-trained, Filipino, customer service agent with feelings and empathy for solving my clients issues. It’s not all about the all-mighty dollar, I want to provide jobs, give opportunities and help people.

    By concentrating on these things the business in time will build a brand, a positive reputation and success will naturally follow. Technology is a great thing, it can help with call center management and efficiency but Robots are not customer friendly.

    Merry Christmas & happy new year….from a real person.

    S. Karls

  29. My nephew owns a local call center that serves AT&T San Francisco for the past 5 years and he believes that the division will continue to give them more business. My wife works for Optum Global that now has 11,000 BPO and KPO employees in QC and Taguig. This year they are opening a third center in Muntinlupa and will hire 1,000 employees there. I own a mobile app dev company and just last month met a developer of chatbots who demonstrated his platform used by Capital One. I don’t think these systems are ready to replace humans any time soon- at least not for another 10 years.

    • I have been following this thread for quite some time now to get a sense and temperature check on the BPO community’s disposition towards the automation and AI disruption. And I must ask: Why are we violently rejecting a highly-plausible scenario when all that is being proposed is to consider and initiate proactive mitigating actions? Because it is not a question of if, but when.

      Don’t we feel the need to protect the 1.15 M workers that are threatened by automation and AI? Even the drivers of your industry have hired a consulting firm to help frame and roll out a comprehensive growth plan:

      Please read the comprehensive report before you form such an emotional and militant opinion. How much more proof do you need? Two weeks ago even Finance Sec. Dominguez stated on national television that AI caused the plateau of the industry. This was reinforced by NEDA Dir. Gen Pernia while being interviewed on ANC. I was an attendee at the 2017 IT-BPM International Conference and all they could talk about was the impact of Automation and AI on your industry. The net takeout was, there is a huge impetus to upskill and reskill the workers to keep the Philippines relevant and competitive.

      I am taking my Master’s in Digital Management and my thesis is about Unlocking the Future of the Filipino BPO Agent in the 4th Industrial Revolution, and I am about to hand it in. As part of my research, I have amassed academic and empirical data, and should anyone want a copy in order to have an unbiased and informed view about the future of your industry, I am reachable at the email provided.

      I do not believe you would trust the fate of your industry or your job to hearsay and/or heckling. Obviously, the drivers of your industry don’t. Read their 5-year growth plan. BTW, if on this thread, there are low-skilled workers (Tier 1 workers) who according to the report make up 27% of BPO workers, please note the absence of plans for you. There’s an infographic within the report. To secure your relevance, please upskill or reskill today. Learning a new skill never had a downside.

      I have no vested interest in your industry. My advocacy is inclusive growth. Your industry together with the OFW’s was responsible for growing the middle class of the Philippines. The low-skilled, low-educated Filipinos have found jobs and have become productive because of your industry. If that isn’t that enough reason to prepare for and subvert the foreseeable disruption, I do not know what is.

      Thank very much for your invaluable time, attention and reading this far.


  30. I have a cousin who has been in the call center industry for more than 10 years now. We had a conversation and I asked him if he is being threatened by the news of AI taking over the customer support industry. My cousin said not at all. He told me that there are things that only humans can do and building an AI that can adjust to different needs and concerns of customer might be more expensive than training a human. Surprisingly, he said that he believes that one day, AI might be their competitor in the industry but he believes that it is not happening soon. Humans will still prefer humans.

  31. Came across this article purely by chance but found the content very interesting. I work for a major player in the UK Telecoms Industry, we are the first response for customers problems on behalf of pretty much all the UK ISP’s. We have recently seen many call centres returning to the UK, usually “in house”, ie BT, EE, etc handling more “fault” reporting themselves. I have to say, as an engineer who needs to talk regularly to these agents, that this has been a blessing. One major UK ISP still maintains a call centre service in the Philippines and, whilst the agents are very polite, they have little or no technical “savvy” when we call to request that the fault be “escalated” to the network operator (BT Openreach). They read from a script which most times is irrelevant to the problem in hand and the call can easily last for 30 minutes (v’s 5 minutes when calling a UK call centre) This is undoubtedly down to training and product knowledge, however, at the end of the day, it affects our ability to complete our daily workload in a timely manner. We now have a question section on our lob forms for the agents name and the quality of the response, it’s got that bad. Whilst the agents are always polite and well meaning, we engineers now shudder at the prospect of having to call in to the Philippines. Again, this is undoubtedly down to training and product knowledge which is sadly lacking. This, in my honest opinion, is why, at least in this case, call centre jobs will be moving away from third party suppliers.

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