A global business-English learning platform experiences success with multi-lingual Filipino talent
It’s 10pm in Manila and for the most part, the entire operations floor is quiet. Looking out the floor to ceiling glass windows, the sky is dark as the city falls asleep, but against this background the nocturnal frenzy of activity in the skyscrapers around the central business district is contrasted.
Rika, an Italian Learning Specialist, dials the number of a senior executive for a food corporation based in Milan. With the rise and fall of her Italian, she gently reminds the person on the other line about the proper channels by which he could access the most useful modules for his training. She asks him about the reason for having missed some online modules, and with soft taps on her keyboard she takes notes on the system database, which will get routed to Silicon Valley, where the language coaches and client management team is headquartered.
When the sun rises, her team mate Ronald begins his day with a call to a manufacturing manager in Shanghai. He speaks in confident Mandarin, trying to draw out insights as to what the learner’s main goals are, whether it’s to converse better verbally, or to improve his diction and pronunciation.
He ends the conversation with a reminder about how the learner can initiate contact anytime via email or chat, if he encounters any resistance at all to the success of his learning course.
Robust talent pool of experienced multilingual customer support agents
Both Rika and Ronald are Filpinos born abroad to expat parents, and eventually made their way back to the Philippines as grown-ups. With almost 10% of the population of the Philippines living and working abroad, theirs is a common story. Like many Filipinos, they can switch between English and Tagalog fluidly, but with an added third language fluency drawn from their family background. Other team members, meanwhile, are mixed race or foreign passport holders with permanent residency in the Philippines.
“As far as I can remember I have been speaking and thinking in Mandarin, having been educated in Beijing since I was 5 years old. When I went back to the Philippines, I realized there was such a demand for bi-lingual English-Mandarin Chinese speakers that I decided to try my luck in the outsourcing industry. This was way back in 2013.”
The next shifts through the day will see 15 more multilingual customer support agents coming in, and at its busiest time the floor hears a cacophony of languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, German, Spanish, French and Portuguese. You could swear you were in a UN convention if you closed your eyes.
Old business, new approach
Our client is no stranger to innovation. While the current operations setup hints at Silicon Valley startup agility, in actual fact the company is over 2 decades old. As the largest business English training firm globally, it has had its fair share of ups and downs, mergers and acquisitions, until ultimately it stabilized under the leadership of the current CEO who had the vision of centralizing delivery from a strong regional hub. This move is borne out of a desire to achieve organizational agility, crafting a response to changing customer demands, and carrying out strategy at scale.
Supporting operations and back-office functions
The client team is composed of 23 people, with profiles ranging from education support to back-office specialists in HR and finance. With a 24/6 shift, the team is responsible for delivering support to different regions, including Europe, the Americas, South and East Asia, and Southeast Asia.
With such a diverse group, the key to making offshore staffing work is in putting strong operational support in place.
As standard client onboarding procedure, Eastvantage assigns an Operations Business Partner to act as a conduit between the onshore and offshore teams. Charisse, a seasoned team manager has been tasked this role since the client partnered with Eastvantage in 2018.
“The most critical part of my role as an Operations Business Partner is to make the onshore client feel as if they’re within the same office as their offshore team. We need to remove the natural uncertainty our clients feel by having a highly visible operational support layer. This is an added value service that is pretty unique to Eastvantage in the outsourcing industry in the Philippines.”
With a big team operating in 3 shifts, it’s imperative to maintain standards across the key metrics of workforce management, attendance, performance, quality and employee retention.
Going beyond operations
95% of the pioneer team members from the first quarter of operations are still with Eastvantage. With such specialized profiles, it is important to keep the team engaged in the workplace.
“Apart from our work being quality and engaging, the reason why our attrition numbers are so low is that we feel valued and supported in the organization, both by our counterparts in the US and the management here in Eastvantage. There’s also so much opportunity to engage with our colleagues outside of the work we do,” Alvin, the Team Leader says, “I think that’s so important to teams to keep them working at their best.”
“Happy employees produce happy customers.”