The use of advanced technologies will help automate tasks, cut costs, and improve efficiencies.
Concentrix, one of the largest IT-BPO employers in the Philippines, has started reskilling its staff. The US-headquartered back-office firm wants its people to gear up for the future where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will play a prominent role. And this is especially relevant at a time when AI/ML have made their way into the BPO industry.
AI, in particular, is being used to automate routine and repetitive tasks. This means that the productive time of the workers can instead be used for operational activity. ML, on the other hand, is used to automate document processing, including customer claims and invoices. In addition, AI/ML can also detect security breaches on time and aid customer queries speedily and cost-effectively.
BPO providers are embracing AI/ML to improve customer service and customer experience. With the Philippines being considered the call centre capital of the world, with over $32 billion in annual revenues, the inclusion of technology into BPO service offerings is inevitable.
THE AI/ML SWITCH TO EFFICIENCY
The Philippines is the preferred BPO destination for global brands such as Amazon, Google, and Zoom due to the affordable costs and English proficiency among workers. In fact, despite the global slowdown, the Philippine call centres beat revenue and hiring targets last year and expect similar growth in 2023.
The BPO industry revenues increased 10.3% year-on-year to $32.5 billion and the employee figures rose by 8.4% to 1.57 million in 2022, according to the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP).
At the same time, there is a growing call to improve operational efficiency through automation. Evolving workforce skills alongside the deployment of AI/ML is seen as an alternative. To complement the existing staff, call centres are adding AI support via chatbots. This facilitates 24/7 customer support to users across the globe. In addition, it can also offer insights about the customer in advance. For example, when a customer calls, AI/ML can skim through the database and ascertain the individual’s purchase history and service requests. This information can be put to use by the call centre staff to be prepared for handling complaints and service requests with ease.
Making use of AI/ML can also improve customer satisfaction by resolving complaints during the first call itself. Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of outsourcing provider PITON-Global, explained that AI can identify the roadblocks in query resolution and provide solutions to quicken the process. For instance, if customers drop off due to long hold times, AI can initiate an automatic call-back service.
The average duration of a customer call is six minutes. Eventually, AI/ML can lower the time taken to resolve each complaint over a call, which, in turn, will enable workers to attend to more requests.
It is imperative to complement call centre services with AI/ML, given the labour force shortages in the Philippines. Estimates suggest that the country has a shortage of between 15,000 and 25,000 call centre workers. This is where AI can act as the bridge by building a self-operating service model for customer queries.
ARE JOBS AT RISK?
The rise of AI/ML has increased fears of jobs being replaced by technology. A report by Gartner predicts that one in 10 (or 10%) agent interactions will be automated by 2026. At present, AI/ML automates only 1.6% of such interactions.
To prevent mass job losses, AI must be used solely to enhance BPOs and not as an instrument to replace workers. Government officials such as Senator Risa Hontiveros have urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to protect BPO workers from AI-led retrenchment.
Having said that, AI is a necessary tool to improve the service quality of BPOs. The IBPAP’s Roadmap 2028 aims to transform Filipino BPOs into a $59 billion industry employing 2.5 million workers. Responsible use of AI will strengthen these efforts.
Candice is a Sales Manager at ASEAN Business Partners. She has extensive relationship/account management experience in the Philippines.
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