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Neutral accents: Key to Philippine dominance in the call center sector

Neutral accents: Key to Philippine dominance in the call center sector

When you find yourself on the phone speaking to a customer service representative, there is a high chance that you are speaking with an employee based thousands of miles away, either in India or the Philippines.

Often the accent is a dead giveaway.
India is losing as large as 70 percent of its call center industry to the Philippines
Rising costs have led many large US-based organizations to rely on outsourcing companies to handle their customer service requirements. These businesses have generally been located in two countries, namely India and the Philippines.

Now, however, there is an increasing preference for Filipino call center workers over their India-based counterparts.

According to industry estimates, India is losing as large as 70 percent of its call center industry to the Philippines. This can account for roughly $30 billion in losses in foreign exchange earnings this decade.

The main culprit for this turn of events is, apparently, the unmistakeable Indian accent.

Even India industry leaders concede this point.

“Employees in Philippines call centers speak English fluently with a neutral accent, which is what customers look for and that is something missing in Indian accents. That is a prime reason why [call center] business is thriving in that country.”

D.S. Rawat, secretary general of India’s Associated Chamber of Commerce.

On the other hand, industry experts have said that the Filipino accent is largely easier to understand.

Gillian Virata, senior executive director of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines says that accent plays a huge role in the marked preference for Filipino call center providers.

“We have a ‘neutral’ accent and we don’t speak fast. Some Indians do because their dialect affects the way they speak English,”

Gillain Virata, Senior Executive Director of the ITBPAP

This neutral accent can be attributed to the almost half a century of American colonial rule in the Philippines. American influence on Filipino cultural life is pervasive; most Filipinos love boxing and basketball, which are also popular sports in the US. They enjoy American food such as hamburgers, fries and milkshakes. They follow the latest movies, TV shows and gossip on US celebrities.

Philippine contact center sector continued to grow between 15 and 17 percentIn a way, fifty years of colonization has allowed the Filipino to get accustomed to the American way of life. Through this, Filipinos find it easier to relate with Americans, thus making them perfect candidates for providing customer service for their US clients.

Proof of this is that the Philippine contact center sector continued to grow between 15 and 17 percent, as part of the $18.4 billion revenue gained from the entire IT-BPO sector last year.

While there may be a host of other factors involved in the equation, it is interesting to note that accent has played a huge role in the success and continued preference for Philippine call centers over their Indian counterparts.

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