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Philippine call centers escape wrath of Ondoy

Business Local Listings
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Philippines’ outsourcing industry emerged unscathed from the destruction inflicted by storm ‘Ondoy,’ industry executives said.

Only minimal effects were experienced by the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), the country’s biggest organization of call centers, said, citing stranded employees of three of its member-firms.

Companies such as TeleTech, ICT, and NCO said none of their equipment weredamaged since most their facilities were located in malls, CCAP executive director Jojo Uligan said in a phone interview.

ICT, which has a site in Riverbanks mall in Marikina City, was able to salvage its computers and networking gears by transporting them to the second floor of the building at the height of Ondoy’s downpour.

In the meantime, NCO also has a site in Marikina City but it occupied the second floor of Robinsons mall. It did not report any damages as well.

TeleTech, said to be the biggest call center operator in the country with 17,000 agents, reported two of its sites – in Robinsons malls in Cainta and Novaliches – were surrounded with water but the company said this resulted in “minimal disruption.”

The company’s “proprietary cloud-based delivery network minimized any business interruption to its clients through its highly reliable failover architecture and its ability to temporarily reroute its clients’ customer inquiries to other locations in TeleTech’s global delivery network,” the US-based call center operator said in a statement.

CCAP’s Uligan said call centers in other flood-hit areas such as Laguna were also not affected.

Big player Convergys, which has call center facilities in the province, did not report any disruption or damages.

“If there were some damages, I guess it’s just some tables and chairs,” Uligan said. “In terms of business loss, it was not that significant since the numbercalls just decreased by a few percentage.”

Those trapped inside the sites, Uligan said, were discouraged from going home and were given sleeping quarters and food.

TeleTech, for instance, doubled the pay of its agents who chose to work while waiting for the waters to subside.

In Libis, Quezon City where a number of call centers are located, agents were also asked to render overtime service since most of their colleagues were not able to report for work.

Uligan said CCAP’s board will soon meet to finalize a disaster mitigation plan which their members can adopt.

“Although each call center has its disaster plan, our strategy will also involve pooling our resources,” he said. “We’ve already drafted this a long time ago but Ondoy may have pushed us to finally finish it.”

In a way, the great deluge gave the outsourcing industry, particularly call centers, the opportunity to test the robustness of their IT infrastructure.

“One reason why the call center did not suffer very much from this calamity is the fact that they merely rerouted the traffic to other sites,” said Martin Crisostomo, executive director for external relations of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP).

BPAP, the umbrella group for all outsourcing firms in the country, counts CCAP as a member.

Crisostomo said it was actually the road network, rather than the country’s Internet infrastructure, which prevented call centers from operating in full capacity.

“The telecom infrastructure was not disrupted at all during the typhoon. And even if the power was cut off in the affected areas, the call centers had generator sets on hand,” Crisostomo said.

He said some call centers such as Sitel, whose site in Julia Vargas St. in Pasig City was not flooded but had a huge number of employees residing in nearby areas, have also released the 13th month pay for its employees.

TeleTech is among those which initiated fundraising efforts by tapping its worldwide employee base.

Crisostomo said a Makati-based legal outsourcing firm, DSM, has also donated outright cash of P50,000 to each of its employees affected by the flood.

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