All of us at Prialto were very excited to open the doors of our new service center in Manila earlier this month. Our entrance to the Filipino market is the culmination of much planning, backed by over 100,000 hours of administrative learning in our Guatemala facility over the last several years. But it has also been about the right timing.
The Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has undergone what the New York Times calls a “quiet revolution” in the last 5 years. The Philippines now ranks 1st in the world for voice BPO, shifting much of the front-line customer service work away from India. Most of the 30+ candidates we interviewed for our maiden Manila team had the urban sophistication associated with having worked at the cutting edge of an emerging global workforce. These are, after all, the young, skilled city dwellers who are leading the most promising Philippine growth period in decades. Typical candidates had worked for large multinationals like JPMorgan, Citibank, Dell computer, Capital One. But until now, their roles have been limited to confronting a continuous barrage of frustrated customer phone calls.
Prialto skipped the 2008-2012 BPO revolution mentioned in the Times because, frankly, it wasn’t that interesting. Our members sign up with us precisely due to the service that our offshore PAs provide, not just to have a voice on the other end of the line. In Guatemala, teams of Prialto PAs work directly with American CEOs and venture capitalists. Filipino youth are now also ready to step beyond the traditional voice role and into the service world. Prialto is leading this far more profound and compelling, but equally quiet, revolution in the BPO industry right along with them.
We started our interviews with these veteran BPO candidates by asking “Did JPMorgan or Dell ever put you on the front page of their web site?” We’d then show them our website’s homepage. The candidates were astounded to see authentic, full page photos of individual assistants in our Guatemala office on the screen.
Why was this so surprising? Dell sells computers and JPMorgan sells credit cards. Their customers rarely wanted to speak with the person in the call center or even hear their real name. Prialto is different. Our strength lies precisely in our people. We want to help these job candidates move beyond the basic customer service skills and highly scripted, regimented work of the first BPO wave to focus on true knowledge work instead. In short, Prialto gives its employees a sense of ownership. That, as one successful Manila job applicant put it, encourages them to “grow and improve as [they] learn to confidently take on…different and new scenarios/challenges.” That growth of skills and career is the new wave of Philippines BPO.
As the Times article explained, “Had [these BPO workers] been born a generation earlier, [they] would most likely have worked as low-income farmers or gone overseas to find work.” Back then, if you were an ambitious graduate, your only choice was to physically move to a more central part of the world economy. Their parents never had a shot at higher-wage office work. Even with the BPO revolution, these graduates only had access to answering complaints about an incorrect charge on a credit card bill. Today, graduates can affordably telecommute into any office in the world. Prialto optimizes the value of such telecommuting.
Prialto’s PAs deal directly with hard-charging U.S. executives, venture capitalists or successful sales professionals. Their context and understanding of the work done by such executives will radically change their views on professional ventures in the global marketplace. The Prialto members who work with our new PAs will also find their horizons broadened by the experience.
Changing lives – of our members, employees and industry leaders - is largely what motivates us here at Prialto. Opening new overseas facilities is helping us do just that across the world, from Guatemala City to Manila.