Iloilo-based BPO rises to become among world’s best
ILOILO CITY—A Filipino-American systems engineer visited a relative here in July 2004 and chanced upon an Internet cafe in La Paz district.
Little did Rom Agustin know that the fateful visit to the cafe would lead him to establish Iloilo City’s first and largest homegrown business process outsourcing (BPO) marketing company, providing business-to-business (B2B) multi-channel marketing services to a number of leading multinational companies in industries such as software development, information technology and financial, medical and business services.
Callbox Sales and Marketing Solutions marked its 10th year here on July 4 and celebrated how it overcame the many challenges it faced in an industry dominated by inbound call centers that continues to grapple with the shifting tides of the international economy.
Agustin and his college friend, Glen Norris, originally wanted a virtual answering company—hence the name Callbox—but saw that manpower was more affordable in the Philippines compared to the United States where they had prior business experience.
With the majority of BPOs here handling inbound calls, Callbox decided to venture into the more difficult service of outbound calls such as making appointments for sales representatives and qualifying prospective customers for a product or service. This work is done according to a script and information on rebuttals to negative responses.
“If there are companies who want lead generation, the first name they think of is Callbox. We are now a household name in Singapore and Australia,” said Ian Van Cubing, Callbox’s IT manager.
The job of lead generation companies such as Callbox is to look for potential buyers of their clients’ products and services and qualify them through phone calls or through an “intelligent” online system. The names of potential buyers are then sent to clients who, in turn, are free to “chase” them and make a sale.
On the other hand, B2B is a service or product not sold directly to the consumer but to another business.
One such service is selling IT networking products for another company.
Considering the cost and the decision-making process involved, B2B services and products are not purchased on the spot.
Rather, they are “considered purchases,” thus, the need for a pipeline through which client and buyer information is generated so that decision makers can make informed choices.
According to Van Cubing, Ilonggo software developers were able to develop a unique pipeline that helped boost Callbox’s productivity.
“It used to be that an agent can manage an account that earns $200 to $300 a month in 2005. But now, an agent has been earning $2,000 a month for the company since 2013 because the pipeline is very targeted,” said Van Cubing, an electrical engineering graduate of Central Philippine University whom Norris immediately hired as IT manager in 2005.
Callbox’s operations started with only two Ilonggos hired in 2004 and by 2005, three more joined the team that worked on basic search tools and basic controls for telephone systems.
The systems became more complex as the business grew.
“We made the pipeline from the ground up and made software for each feature, with Rom giving us the ideas and the IT team working on the tools,” said Van Cubing.
“As a lead generation company, we give our clients an online system where they can get the information, which in turn comes from our existing database that is constantly updated. If the client says, ‘I’d like to contact a thousand IT managers,’ we could do that,” said Van Cubing.
He added that companies approach Callbox just to buy its targeted and updated information from the pipeline that Ilonggos were able to build.
The pipeline of information is a major revenue earner for Callbox that now has 800 employees in its Iloilo and Davao offices.
It also has 20 software developers seeking to further finetune the company’s pipeline.
Callbox chief executive officer Agustin, whose family comes from Pangasinan, said that when he set up the company’s first office in Iloilo City, he wanted Callbox to be known as a Philippine-born company that is globally competitive.
His goal has been achieved.
Callbox is now one of the world’s largest and most recognized companies in the B2B marketing industry.
It was awarded Top Outsourcer of outbound services by industry authority Contact Center World in 2009 and in 2010 and named Leading Provider of Outsourced Sales and Marketing Services by Datamonitor, which investigates hundreds of top performing BPO organizations around the world in an independent survey.
“Companies don’t hire us because we are cheap, but because we are good,” said Agustin.
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