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BPO Workers Upskill as Automation Takes Over

by: Sidney Liquigan

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 | Outsourcing News |

According to Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia, the rise of automation and the use of artificial intelligence will hit BPOs harder in the next three to five years, as reported by ABS-CBN News.

The BPO industry has indeed started to feel the effects, as the Philippines' miscellaneous services contribution, which includes BPO, to the country's GDP slowed down to 9.2% from 2016 to 2017, compared to 19.8% from 2015 to 2016.

Pernia added that voice-based services, such as those offered by call centers, "is not going to be necessary anymore when you have machines to do it."

Socioeconomic Planning Usec. Rosemarie Edillon added that the BPO industry should look into diversifying and look for opportunities in big data analytics, software development, healthcare information management, and related fields.

IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) president Rey Untal encourages BPO workers to upskill, as IBPAP projected that 43,000 low-skilled workers would lose their jobs to automation, and at the same time, there will be 697,000 opportunities for middle- to high-skilled jobs.

"Contrary to popular belief, the automation of processes is not meant to replace people, it's supposed to help them," Untal said.

Untal points out that upskilling would open a lot of opportunities for Filipino BPO workers, qualifying them for new jobs that offer higher pay and more secure tenure. Upskilling would also give workers a competitive advantage over BPO workers in other countries.

BPO companies are already in collaboration with the government in providing opportunities for call center agents to upgrade their skills and qualify for higher value industries.

"For the contact center agents' part, taking a more proactive approach to self-improvement, education, and skills development could enable them to acquire up-to-date, industry-standard skills that will keep themselves competitive in the job market," Untal added.

On the other hand, Sitel COO Craig Raines believes that "human touch" will remain to be the added value that call center agents will bring as a supplement to customers' digital experience.

"Emotion will be the main added value. Human touch will be the main differentiator for any company. Based on the trends, we just don't believe that automation and robotics will eliminate human experience," Raines said.

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