Most of the discussion regarding outsourcing to the Philippines has revolved around the English-speaking skills of a college-educated workforce. The fact that they cost less to hire compared to American workers is also an often-touted reason why the country has been among the top outsourcing destinations in Asia.
But, these qualifications are just cherries on top for insurance companies and debt collection firms. There are deeper and less obvious reasons why these businesses have chosen to outsource to the Philippines.
#1 Filipinos are compassionate, which makes them ideal service reps for debt collection agencies.
In his article for CNN, Anthony Bourdain asked why Filipinos cared so much, even for complete strangers. This propensity for looking out for other people is also explored by Dr. Claro Ceniza in his lectures. According to Dr. Ceniza, the Filipino value system included pakikiramay (sympathy), pakikipagkapwa-tao (having good relations with others), and pakikisama (fellowship).
Growing up, Filipinos learn to think of others and empathize with others in their group. There's a focus on interacting with others on a more emotional level. This means relationships are central to the Filipino way of life. At their core, they're a collective society just like their Asian neighbors.
When calling up strangers to inform them of their unpaid debts, it's natural for Filipinos to speak in a calm and soothing voice, and to show patience and understanding towards the other person's plight. They can empathize with the other person because Filipinos also have problems with debt.
While most Filipinos don't have bank accounts and credit cards, many of them borrow money from relatives and friends, and pay them in installments. Many Filipinos also turn to Indian financiers who offer "five-six" lending services.
The common practice of five-six wherein the borrower is expected to pay the principal amount plus 20 percent more each month has been the bane of micro-enterprise owners in the Philippines. It's widely practiced although it's considered unethical and illegal. A study by Kyoto University researchers found out that this lending scheme could be of great help to Filipino entrepreneurs during an economic downturn.
...this study found that hosting Indian 5-6s with their different risk diversification strategies can be an asset for Filipino society, especially during economic downturns. The owners of micro-enterprises in a developing country are particularly vulnerable to the external shocks of globalization, and informal financing mechanisms with global funding sources, such as that of the Indian 5-6 lenders, may assist in alleviating such volatility.
#2 Filipino outsourcing staff can be trusted to keep confidential information.
In the workplace, Filipinos are highly capable of handling personally identifiable information and even financial data with integrity. Most of them are honest people who'd rather work hard to support their families than commit a crime. They certainly don't want to lose the confidence and trust of the company they work for and their clients. That's why reports of identity theft and fraud rarely come up in the Philippine outsourcing industry.
Proof of the trustworthiness of an offshore outsourcing staff is in the universal experience of overseas Filipino workers. Many families around the world entrusted the well-being and safety of their children and their sick and elderly relatives to Filipino caregivers, nannies, and nurses. Aside from their integrity, Filipinos are also loyal to their employers, and this motivates them to be honest at work.
#3 Filipino outsourcing staff who are assigned to accounts that handle sensitive information are well-trained and carefully vetted by HR personnel.
It's a given that all outsourcing companies provide training to their new recruits. Some companies provide several months of training in all aspects of the job while others only offer a week or two of training before pushing recruits to work on the floor (and try not to mess things up in the process).
Rest assured, Filipino outsourcing staff who work with insurance companies and debt collection agencies are not only trained in the technical aspects of their job, but also in handling the psychological parts. They're given a short course on managing the emotional and mental stress that customers experience because of their unpaid debts.
Plus, candidates who pass the vetting process are usually selected because they have a strong character reference, which is required by outsourcing companies. HR personnel also make use of personality tests to see which ones have the characteristics and values that fit the job.