I was listening to this August 14 episode of the Chris Pirillo show during my train ride home last Thursday. Chris and his S.O., Ponzi, were just talking about telemarketers calling in during live airings (or streamings) of the show when a telemarketer selling cable subscription called in.
I almost laughed out loud with what I heard.
And it wasn’t due to the fact that a telemarketer was calling in on a live internet-radio show. What hit me was how Chris was messing with the poor guy, asking impossible-to-answer questions and posing out-of-this-world client requirements.
It was apparent that the telemarketer was calling from India, judging from his accent and diction. And it seemed he didn’t know what he was talking about in the first place! Making sales calls over the phone is difficult enough, and it is more so if you don’t have a clue about the culture and needs of your client.
The telemarketer was calling Chris Pirillo, a well-known media personality in geek and even non-geek circles, who claimed he does not, and could not have internet access from where he lived. And the telemarketer believed–he offered a dialup Earthlink subscription for US$ 20 (which is considered expensive already even for broadband). All this time, Chris was airing the audio-cast live over the ‘net at the time of the call (presumably over a super-fast broadband connection).
So much for no internet access, huh?
That makes me think about India’s dominance in the offshoring industry, as opposed to what is still an emerging industry in the Philippines. Yes, they have brilliant Programmers and analysts over at Mumbai or Chennai. But still when it comes to communication skills, I would tend to believe Filipinos learn better and more easily in terms of accent neutralization and cultural familiarization. You’d be surprised how Pinoys sound as American as Americans themselves.
After all, the Philippines was colonized by the U.S. for about half a century. Many would argue that colonial mentality here would render us still a de-facto colony many years after the Amercan occupation. So maybe when it comes to offshoring by American firms, I’d say we’re the best to turn to.
In this July 4, 2005 article on Time Magazine, William Green describes how he invested in a company that operates a small call center in Manila, and he was very satisfied with how the center’s agents spoke:
Most spoke with an uncanny approximation of an Indiana accent. He captured the essence of the call center industry here in two sentences:
Filipinos are not famed for their brilliance at telemarketing, which requires pushiness, but they are prized when it comes to the gentler art of customer service. The nation’s other outsourcing edge is more basic: it has a large population of English speakers who will work for relatively meager salaries.
A crucial lifeline, Green calls the Philippine call center industry. For in difficult times, Filipinos are turning to working for offshored operations because it’s practically the only means to earn good money nowadays that will not always require having an college/undergraduate or post-grad degree. Many have the skills and the learning ability. And it’s a good stepping-stone to careers elsewhere that require good communication skills.
And the English? I’d bet it’s our competitive edge. And this is why we have to focus well on improving education especially in this area.