PAMPANGA: A CALL CENTER SCHOOL

PAMPANGA, OCTOBER 20, 2003  (STAR) By Rose G. De La Cruz  - For Pampanga-based Cyber City Teleservices Ltd., the problem of getting enough qualified agents to man its call center operation was addressed in the most direct way possible. The company put up a school called CCIS Educational Foundation, Inc. four years ago.

Today, the foundation has spun off from CCT but continues to supply the company’s manpower requirements.

The one-month program concentrates on two aspects. One, is the getting the right American accent. Two, is understanding the American way of life and why American behave the way they do.

"To get in, the student must hold a four-year college degree and must be at least 25 years old regardless of civil status. Upon completion, the trainee could qualify as agent for the four to six call centers of CCT," said CCT executive director Wilfredo Tanagon.

Profile

The foundation trains an average of 200 students per month, with peak enrollments of between 400 and 500 students after graduation or from March to June. The current batch numbers 265.

"Our market is not the graduate from an exclusive school in Metro Manila. Our market are graduates from provincial colleges and universities who want to join the industry but who need some finishing off to qualify," said Tanagon.

Under the school set-up, the first two weeks of the program is spent in an accredited school nearest to the student’s home. The final two weeks of training is held at the Clark Special Economic Zone, where students who do not live nearby are housed in dormitories.

To ease the P6,500 burden of training, the school offers a study now, pay later plan, payable from their CCT pay slip.

"Many of our trainees stay employed with us long after they have paid off their tuition," said James Down, director for global call center education of CCIS. "At the entry level, they get a basic pay of P8,000 to P15,000, depending on their proficiency and performance, with the industry average pay of P12,000. They also are entitled to one free meal a day plus other incentives."

Demand

In 2004, the local call center industry is targeted to employ 20,000 agents. All transactions are US-based–orders are made by US-based individuals or companies for US-based manufacturers–but the calls are routed to the Philippines.

"This kind of service is just starting to be picked up by Philippine-based firms such as San Miguel Corp. The main users of such a service, however, are telecommunications companies for their customer services and catalog requirements," said Tanagon.

Despite the demand, there are only three institutions providing formal training specifically to meet this market demand. Aside from CCIS, these are the call center academy of Mapua IT and the Asia-Pacific College beside Magallanes Village. (AOL set up a training school in 1999 but this is for web page-based marketing).

"We are trying to develop a training module, which could be used by graduates to qualify for placements in any call center in the country. The module is being drafted in close collaboration with TESDA," said Tanagon.

Operation

CCT, a wholly-owned branch office of New Jersey-based Cyber City Teleservices, offers three kinds of services: catalog, customer service, and sales. The bulk of its calls are in actual sales.

"Our agents do not just accept orders from buyers, they also promote alternative products or services that present the buyers with other products or services available that offer promotional packages. In short, they also act as promoters and advertisers of other products in our menu," Down said.

Revenues CCT collect depend upon the duration and number of calls made, which is tucked into the price of the product to be delivered to the called by the US-based manufacturers.

"We generate sales for our customers amounting to $35 million a week," said CCT chairman George Sorio.

From just 20 agents four years ago, CCT currently has 1,800 to 1,900 agents. Each agent completes 40 or more calls per day, with those in the nigh shift handling more calls per day because of the time difference.

"This is hardly enough to meet the three-shifts-a-day requirement during the peak period of September to January," Down said.

In a sense, landing a job in such a call center is just like working abroad but under local settings. "It becomes an important stepping stone for jobs abroad," said Tanagon.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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