When many people talk about call centres in The Philippines, they often mean 'call centres in Manila'. However, the real growth for the call centre industry is actually happening outside of Metro Manila in the smaller towns and cities across the country.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Metro Manila or The National Capital Region of The Philippines, it is a large number of cities in a huge urban area. So, when people talk about Ortigas or Makati or Fort Bonifacio or Eastwood, they are actually talking about areas which fall into Metro Manila. These are the areas which constitute the vast majority of Philippine call centre agents but less than 20% of the total population of residents. Most international companies set themselves up in Manila because it's considered low risk and easy to sell to their clients. However, the sheer growth of call centres in Manila has caused its own problems.
When I set up a call centre in Manila (Makati City to be precise) in 2000, labour costs were low, attracting staff was easy, rent was cheap and staff attrition was almost non-existent. Fast forward to 2014 and the picture in Manila is the complete opposite. Rents have outstripped inflation, wages for good agents has soared and most importantly getting and keeping good agents is very difficult. Staff will leave call centres for a few extra pesos often to companies in the same road or even in the same building. I would also classify Cebu in exactly the same pot as Metro Manila. Wages have been rising and staff attrition has gone through the roof. I know see no advantages in outsourcing to Cebu over Manila.
The complete opposite is true in many of the smaller towns and cities where the picture is far more similar to that of Manila in 2000 than the current situation there. In the early days of the call centre boom, the young graduates of these cities flocked to Metro Manila to get jobs there. Now, the tide is changing with some of the larger call centres setting up across the country and a number of entrepreneurs also setting up call centres and other types of outsourcing companies.
There are very few people who are asked for recommendations about outsourcing to The Philippines than myself. Nowadays, I almost always recommend vendors outside of Manila. The advantages are clear; lower costs and more loyalty amongst the staff. I've been working on assignments where the client chooses vendors both within Manila and outside and the ones outside always end up being the preferred option.
The challenge outside of Manila is that many of the vendors are quite poor. The larger operators really don't understand the areas they are in and the small vendors don't fully understanding what it takes to excel in this challenging marketplace. However, they are improving and I've been lucky to work with some truly outstanding operators in these cities.