Are Asian Call Center Reps Better ?
The simple answer is unequivocally ... yes, they are.
I am being asked all the time why I prefer Asian and in particular Philippines Call Center Reps over their Indian peers.
In a blog post dated the 30th of March, 2016 I talked about the fact that the Philippines are now the undisputed call center capital of the world, with the total number of call center reps now higher than the number of reps in India. Considering that India had completely dominated this industry just a few years back (who had heard of an Asian call center rep in the late 1990'ies) the feat is remarkable, albeit not really surprising to the insiders.
The population of the Philippines is only about 1/8 th of that of India...so the question why this happened deserves to be looked at.
To start out with it makes sense to look at the effort it takes to get an Indian call center rep comfortable communicating with the typical American consumer/client.
It is well understood that the India accent is not pleasing to the American ear. The hard pronunciations on certain vowels has led quite a few callers feeling their blood temperature boil.
Since the voice is the primary (and typically only) means to communicate with the service or sales rep the importance of an appealing and attractive voice cannot be overstated. Independent testing has demonstrated that American and native English speakers prefer an Asian / Philippine accent by a huge margin over an Indian accent.
The problem is compounded by the issue of culture. India's understanding of the Western culture is rather limited. Typically the understanding of a different culture is shaped by the influence the movie industry has over a country.
India's movie industry is for the most part homegrown, (there are about 6 iterations of Bollywood which generate a constant stream of Indian movies, series and soaps). Therefor there is a lack of a homegrown avenue to familiarize the average Indian rep with a Western culture. As a matter of fact, to this day it is rather common that the management of an Indian call centers make their reps watch US TV shows to get them acquainted with the US culture.
Furthermore, about 80 % of the Indian population is Hindu with a further 14 % of Islamic background,,,once again, little commonality with the average American.
Combine that with the perhaps the most bureaucratic country (tales of Indian bureaucracy are legendary) among established democracies and you occasionally have a recipe for disaster.
The call center rep you are talking to is hard to understand, might have an accent which makes your blood boil, he does not get "you" due to a lack of cultural understanding and he is really "good" sticking to the script despite your pleadings.
This all brings us to the call center reps which I prefer in almost every single case.
In my opinion the Philippines have been the leader in quality call center reps for a long time. They now are also the leader in quantity, formally overtaking India in 2015.(see blog post 3/30/2016)
To understand why this is the case one has to consider their natural language abilities.
The English language ability of the Philippine call center rep if far superior to the English the average Indian speaks. As a matter of fact..the Philippines are actually the highest rated nation in terms of Business English Proficiency (even outdoing the US!). The "Business English Index" rates the Philippines consistently the best English speaking country globally. (for non native English countries). The 2014 Index reading gave the Philippines about a 7.8 (with greater 8 indicating proficiency approaching that of a native speaker). India, by comparison receives only a 5.5.
Even more important, the Filipino will lack the hard pronunciations of vowels (no hard "R") making their accent inherently pleasing to the American ear.
English is one of the two official languages in the Philippines. As such it is taught and used from a very young age on. The native English language abilities combined with the more pleasing accent makes the Philippine call center rep right away the better choice.
Another distinct advantage the Philippines have over other nations is that it is a highly westernized culture. One can always argue if American TV is a good thing...but in the case of the Philippines it truly is. Philippians grow up watching American TV (mostly not translated)...as such they have a very good understanding of the American culture and even pick up a good American accent on the way.
Filipino's simply get certain cultural references other nations will not be able to comprehend. They are also predominately roman catholic (86 %) which makes them much more culturally aligned with Western nations.
Lastly, Filipino's are inherently friendly and accommodating. Traits which go a very long way in the business of helping customers.
In combination the Philippine call center representatives is the better choice for almost any business considering the outsourcing of sales, customer service or order fulfillment.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am representing a company with call center operations in the Philippines. I also have multiple clients who have chosen our services over Indian providers and/or have moved call center operations from India to us. As such my opinion is obviously based upon my personal experiences and beliefs. (as they usually are...)