Customer Service Filipino Style

Filipinos are very good English speakers. Any English-speaking tourist can take directions from a child on the streets here in English, there would be a lot of gesticulation but more often than not they'd make it to their destination. After being rescued from the Japs in the second world war, we have always looked up to the Americans. We housed their biggest overseas military bases for decades after the war ending only in the 1990s. English has been the medium of instruction from liberation onwards. In fact we were under American rule for four years before we gained real independence though it never looked that way (there was a struggle but very little was written about the pocket wars with the Americans in the countryside on any history book).

So its really no surprise that English is much more than a second language to us and in here, if your English is passable you are assured work in a call center or a business process outsourcing company. The industry started in the late 1980s and it has provided millions of work and, fed over triple that number of mouths. I'd say this industry is instrumental in keeping the economy afloat along with the domestic helpers and nurses that we export to all parts of the world. Now we're hearing that some sectors of the American society resent that these jobs are getting outsourced to India or Asia. We were told that its all a business thing, that it was just good business sense for companies to set up their customer support somewhere where labor is cheap. I doubt if workers in the U.S. would accept the wages we are getting paid in here. But for us here, call center work would be up there with bank jobs or office work in terms of pay, sometimes outsourcers pay even more. Plus we get all sorts of additional pay like the night differential, hazard pay, clothing allowance and a fairly good health plan, a lot of incentive programs and fun activities inside and outside of work.

Anyone from a high school graduate to a retiree, who can speak English and find their way around a computer and an Avaya phone can build a career in call centers. International companies favor the Philippines because of our natural flair for customer service. We are a polite people, very proper and very hospitable. These are traits we inherited from our Spanish conquistadores of three centuries.

The industry changed the way we live our lives, we didn't have a lot of companies that operate 24-7 and so most nights the streets of the central business district of Makati are quiet and still. The industry changed all that, now the streets are never empty. There would always be a cluster of call center reps either chatting or smoking outside of the office buildings at all hours. Fast food chains operated 24-7 as well and there are a number of bars that stay open until midday to cater to reps coming out of the graveyard shift. Time was when reps are trained to acquire and American accent and was strictly instructed never to mention that they are from the Philippines. Later on we'd be free to say we are in a satellite office in Asia. “Where in Asia...?” they'd ask, “Southeast Asia...” we'd answer, sometimes they would come back with “Where in Southeast Asia...?”, then we'd say ”the Philippines”. Oftentimes we'd get Filipino customers calling in and they'd ask if we could converse in Filipino, to which we'd reply that it is perfectly fine for them to speak Filipino but we're constrained to respond in English.

I never thought I could build a career in a call center. I've held five jobs since 1993 and in 2006 at 36 I applied for a call center as a customer service rep for an email account (i tried for a voice account – taking calls – but that didn't work out very well because I couldn't talk and click away on the computer at the same time, I suck at multi-tasking really...). I'm on my third year in the company now and I recently made shift supervisor overseeing 70 or so reps. A 37-year-old would be considered overt-the-hill in terms of careers here in the Philippines. In this industry however, the hits just keep on coming. I might just make junior executive yet, then I would be the oldest junior exec in our company hehehe this is like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button in reverseI! My favorite topic when I huddle the teams is how easy it really is to get ahead in the company if they work hard enough and that it could only be good for them because as one rises up the ladder, the work hours get better and the workload goes down as the pay goes up. Life is great these past months, I have more time in my hands than I know what to do with. Of course I still work like a horse but somehow early retirement is starting to look really attractive. I had this great idea of making tons of cash from home writing on the net, I haven't really planted the seeds for this idea yet, I'm just soaking it in.

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Comments 25 comments

needful things profile image

needful things 7 years ago from Poland

True... very true... my brother works in a call center and pinoys and pinay are much favored over other nationalities... Thumbs up


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

I guess one of our downside is that we're so shy to the point of being bashful. We sometimes have a difficult time accepting and enjoying compliments. Plus we're very careful about keeping the status quo even if it sucks. We need to more assertive and own the hard work that we do.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

good article


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

I have worked with a few Filipino writers and the standard of English is excellent.


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

Yep we do have a lot of good ones Sufidreamer, but lately Im afraid its deteriorating and it could be because of the declining quality of education or maybe the demand is just increasing.

Thanks for dropping by Lgali.


pgrundy 7 years ago

I'm glad for you. I spent four years in call centers and hated every second of it, but if you can do the work and like it, it certainly will support you and keep you working for as long as you wish to work. All the best to you!


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

I know the horror stories! The irate customers, the impossible shifts, the unreachable targets or metrics, but I guess that's more pronounced in voice support, whereas in email support its not real time (so you can get up and pee anytime), no interaction with members (only their emails) and the targets are more realistic. Thanks for dropping a line pgrundy!


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

This a good one! Took me back to my days in a call center as a transcription editor though I never did calls - my excuse, it's real time! But before that, my work in another BPO company had me doing all sorts of conferences, mostly with American affiliates. Never heard a bad thing from them re my Filipino-style customer service (as you put it). :D


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

I myself have never worked closely with an American client. ours are mostly Irish (their EU division is in Dublin I think) and they've given us very high marks for client services for three years now. Nice seeing you around again Cris!


monicapeterson001 profile image

monicapeterson001 7 years ago

Nice hub, I discussed about how Outsourcing in your country could be beneficial to most companies but whooa I got pretty irate comments..LOL

Filipinos indeed are loyal working, determined and trustworthy. Keep it up! :)


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

thanks monica. yes we've been accused of grabbing work that should have stayed at home. with the economy in the US being as it is now, people would not appreciate the fact that the outsourcing industry in the philippines is thriving. good thing the client I work for is from Great Britain lol.


crinkle profile image

crinkle 7 years ago from Philippines

wonderful hub! :)

i already miss the call center life i left behind. hmmm...


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

How funny! I wouldn't have thought of this for a Hub topic, but now that you mention it, it's an awesome thing to write about, and so many can relate to it :)


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 7 years ago from manila, philippines Author

Cringle and Glassvisage, thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the hub!


liminal 6 years ago

God I hate call centres! I'm glad you enjoy it, but I hate it. Of course, there's a big difference between answering email and taking one call after another...


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 6 years ago from manila, philippines Author

yep liminal very different stress levels between emails and calls. that's why i feel very lucky that there's email customer support, and im right in the thick of it hehehe


teaspot 6 years ago

favor,can u give me a hint on how to deal with outbound calls. i need to advertise our company to other company. how will i deal with it. thanks,i'm working in an it firm. have a nice day. love your article..


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago

Thanks for the hub. I agree that Filipinos are excellent English speakers and that is why companies like Telus have Filipino call centers. I know the Philippines needs all the work it can get. I have always thought the Filipino people are a really great resource!

That aside:

I know my comment is off topic-ish but... Your first paragraph about the Americans rescuing the Philippines..I am grateful, but it didn't come fast enough (but it's not their fault of course). A lot of Filipinos died, including my grandfather's entire family when they were in search of him.

Anyways, great hub.


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 6 years ago from manila, philippines Author

Hey DebtFreedom! Thanks for your comment and I agree that the help did not come fast enough. My father, bless his soul, fought in the war and joined the Bataan Death March, where he was lucky enough to escape but nearly died of malaria.

What I'm not happy about is that after fighting with the Americans (he was a registered soldier of the US Army in the Far East or USAFE) the recognition came much too late. He died in 2003 of cancer and about a week later he got an invite from the US embassy for his interview. You see he applied for US citizenship in the 1990s when the benefits package included among other things, the privilege to live in the US.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago

I'm sorry about your father. I can't believe how long it took to process (I don't know if that's the right word to use) his application. It is really unfortunate. The things they went through are novels worthy of publishing.


Sherri Wright profile image

Sherri Wright 4 years ago

yeah its nice to work with Filipino telemarketers, the accent and the tone could deceive the foreigner listener as if they are in the same race and country,, Filipinos indeed do have a good communication skills, that,s why BPO companies are rampant in Philippines.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

We do have a distinction for having good English speaking skills in the Asia-Pacific. I've never tried the call center industry although I had some clients in the industry. I don't think night shift is for me. As for the customer service skills, Filipinos are generally patient. Go Pinoys and Pinays.


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 4 years ago from manila, philippines Author

Go indeed jpcmc!


Sam 4 years ago

Well, nice post. I am not from your country but I have my part of the story to share of how decent and patient Filipinos are. They are very peaceful and they communicate comfort and joy through their inimitable smile. Of all the expatriate communities in the country where I work, Filipinos are the least fussy and the most accommodating. They have their own country of the mind and live in a world whose rules and laws they solely set and determine. Again your copyrighted smile is just amazing and you don’t owe your good manners to any country. Had the Spanish conquistadores to whom you give credit been open and less bent on looting and destruction, they could have learned a lesson or two from your ancestors and somehow tons of the atrocities they committed in your country and the Americas could have been spared. Thank you for an excellent piece and keep up digging for Filipino personality treasures.

Sameh


buddygallagher profile image

buddygallagher 4 years ago from manila, philippines Author

Wow! Very kind words, thanks Sameh for taking the time to read this post. It is comments like yours that make bloggers feel they are doing something significant.

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