**Update** Due to the number of requests for information I receive from small outsourcing operations, I'm working with a company who is looking to assist the setup of smaller 'sub-centers' who require 3 or more call center agents, data entry clerks, and etc. Basically your small office can be integrated into an existing larger center for greater savings and efficiency. This service is the hardest to find since most established call centers or consulting firms only work with large contracts with dozens or hundreds of seats required for their setup or management. Please e-mail me and I'll do my best to direct you to who can best help the goals of your operation.
Some more common questions I deal with in my e-mail are questions about customer service outsourcing and call centers in the Philippines. All of you Westerners are familiar with customer service call centers, whether you have worked in one or not. Basically anytime you have dialed a "1-800" number to chat live with customer service, you are speaking with a call center or customer care agent as we like to call them. What you probably don't know, however, is that you are often speaking to someone on the other side of the world in a country like the Philippines or India. The reasons for outsourcing like this are many. First, let's face it, customer service jobs suck and most people from the West would rather be doing anything than answering "stupid questions" (not really stupid, but you get cynical over time :-P) or making cold sales calls. But to us, Philippines call centers are some of the best employers around. Sure, we have to work in the middle of the night, but the knowledge we gain is tremendous and the pay is some of the best out of college. Now you might cringe to know that the average starting salary in Philippine call centers is about $200-275 per month and not much to live on. But compare that to most convenience or department store jobs that keep you at about $140 per month and you gain little applicable work experience and the choice is clear. Call center jobs in the Philippines are the way to go.
Let's say that you are a foreigner looking to setup a customer service call center in the Philippines for your outsourcing needs. Where do you begin? Well first, location is the first consideration. You can't just plop down a call center wherever you feel like placing one. While most Filipinos speak Americanized English and know American culture, (we spend lots of time online on Yahoo chat, MSN live, etc) very few do it with the kind of clarity that you will require. Remember that you need to "fool" your Western callers into believing that they are speaking to someone from your own country when speaking to your Philippines call center agents. It's kind of unsettling to know that the person giving you directions to the local Applebee's has never set foot on American soil...much less your city. Therefore your only choice is one of the two largest cities in the Philippines, Manila, or Cebu. Up until recently, bandwidth and connectivity problems kept most call centers out of Cebu, opting instead for Metro-Manila, more specifically Makati, Ortigas, and now Manila/Malate. Obviously you can't have a reliable voice-over IP connection if your bandwidth provider can't deliver. All of this has changed, and now companies are slowly expanding their call center offices to Cebu.
So let's say that you found a location for a call center somewhere in Metro-Manila. Before you sign the lease or purchase the office condo space to go live on your operation, be sure that it's accessible to the employees and provides them with some amenities. For me, I need a place to eat or cook my food. Furthermore, being a senior call center consultant, I need a place to relax, unwind, chat with my co-workers, etc. Basically all of the call centers here in the Philippines treat their employees very well seeing as that agents are not exactly a dime-a-dozen like you would find at the local SM Department Store. So as someone planning your future office, you should expect to provide a nap area of bunk beds or couches, video games, free coffee, and probably billiards. Furthermore, it's best to locate your office near a 24 hour convenience store like Ministop so your staff has a hang-out other than at work during break. Most Ministop stores would love to open near a call center. If there isn't a convenience store there near your prospective office yet, ask the landlord to call Robinsons Corporation and talk to the store planners.
Now that you have your call center location, now you need to deal with the permits. This is the tricky part. While the Philippine government encourages call centers to open for obvious reasons, you still need someone knowledgeable to do all of the legal paperwork and permits. I know a few people who operating centers or outsourcing programming offices. Never ever try to do it yourself, or send someone from the States to stumble through the process. Always get help from someone who has successfully completed the process.
Lastly, you need your VOIP and other technical aspects to be setup. Basically this can be done by any tech person knowledgeable in VOIP and networking. All you really need is a server, some workstations, and the broadband connection. Call center technical consultants will charge an arm and a leg since they are "specialized", but again, most technical consulting firms can do it as well.
Now you need to hire your call center agents. Here in the Philippines, most new graduates want an "elite" call center job. The problem is their English skills. Be prepared for the headache of sifting through a mountain of applicants who believe their English skills to be good enough. Most are not and need training. That's fine, since many English perfection schools are popping up everywhere. In addition, call center agents here in the Philippines need to perfect their American cultural knowledge as well. These schools teach this as well. In any event, call centers should be prepared to register their offices with all of the local job fairs to ensure maximum exposure to the best applicants.
So you have your call center agents now....what's next? You need to form your training and management team. These individuals should themselves be former or senior call center agents. Their job is to ensure quality control and ongoing training. Their salaries will be about 2-3 times the salary of the average agent. They will organize training workshops as well as listen in to calls live at random to ensure that agents are performing at their peak. Finally you will need an American consultant to stop in from time to time to make sure everything is being performed at a world-class level.
Call centers in the Philippines are a great opportunity for your business to maximize its efficiency abroad. While they are not as easy to setup as a business where you are from, once finished, they are very stable. There are many individuals out there ready to assist your outsourcing transition.
Roadblock alert to your questions: I only have experience with inbound centers and can refer you to those who can help you set one up, as well as investors. In contrast, I don't know much about the setup of outbound call centers, more commonly known as telemarketing and sales. All of the IT people I know who can set it up locally won't touch it with a 10 foot pole. I've tried to talk to them, but they say that it's just best to get a US consultant. Expensive, yes, but at least you have someone with the patience and experience.