Human factor: key to success of first Iloilo BPO company

By Hazel P. Villa, VERA Files

ILOILO CITY-In the world of technology, the human factor is what makes the difference.

Filipino-American Rom Agustin, chief executive officer of Callbox Sales and Marketing Solutions, paid tribute to the people who compose the company as it celebrated its first 10 years by moving up from a call center to a technology marketing company doing business with major markets worldwide.

“We don’t hire factory workers, we hire people who can make an impact and change the company,” says Agustin, who co-founded with American Glen Norris Callbox the first business processes outsourcing (BPO) in Iloilo.

Callbox’s experience in Iloilo and Davao as far as personnel are concerned has been very good that they are not importing personnel from other places. “The locals there have seen Callbox through in the last 10 years and would most likely soar with it in the next 10,” said Agustin, recognized by the United States media as one of the original internet entrepreneurs and pioneers when the internet was still in its infancy in the mid ‘90s.

The number of reputable universities in those two cities assure Callbox of ample supply of manpower.

Callbox has approximately 500 employees in Iloilo and 300 in Davao, who all enjoy daily freshly cooked meals.

Callbox is one of the world’s largest and most recognized companies in the B2B (Business to Business) technology marketing. Not bad for a company that started at an internet café in this city’s La Paz district.

Agustin and Norris said Callbox had to transition from call center to B2B because they saw that what used to be a sunshine industry is experiencing a downturn.

B2B (Business to business) refers to business that is conducted between companies, rather than between a company and individual consumer.

Agustin said “the call center industry is transitioning to a knowledge industry and a non-voice one.”

Wherein most call centers then were into inbound calls, Callbox found its niche in the more rarefied and difficult outbound calls which recently moved up into a “multi-touch multi-channel web-based marketing automation tool that integrates call center power with lead management, campaign monitoring, and cross-channel marketing automation.”

Their team of software engineers who are natives of Iloilo City created Callbox Pipeline designed to handle the special requirements of an outsourced marketing campaign – a hugely popular platform among Callbox clients from around the globe.

Clients of Callbox include eBay, Acer, DHL, Forbes Asia, Microsoft, HP, Singapore Trade Ministry, Kodak, VeriSign, Lockton, Solar Winds, Grundfos, Dassault Systemes, Fujitsu, and Tata.

Callbox Pipeline has so increased productivity that Callbox was awarded “Top Outsourcer of outbound services” by industry authority Contact Center World in 2009 and in 2010, as “Leading Provider of Outsourced Sales and Marketing Services” by Datamonitor, a provider of premium global business information which monitors hundreds of top performing BPO organizations around the world.

“The driving force behind why we do well with outbound is that even though it is a tightrope, every businessman needs a lead. We want to make a name as a B2B generator, “says Joyce Gulmatico, Callbox finance manager who has been with the company since 2006.

While CEO Agustin believes that Callbox is ahead of its competitors for having transitioned to non-voice and knowledge-based BPO, its co-founder Glen Norris says that innovation will keep on coming as the market requires and there is no end to this.

“Every two to three years, the industry evolves and gets a new acronym. Cloud has been there since we opened an Internet café 20 years ago. It’s just a new name but if the market wants cloud services, then we will deliver that,” says Norris who built the first internet cafe in southern California together with some friends.

Cloud computing is storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive.

Even as Callbox has seen a 300 percent-plus hyper growth in previous years, the company is a bit conservative on the construction and expansion side, unlike its competitors.

“We adapt to changes and the economy, make wise decisions, and set aside a good amount of assets and profits,” says Bernadette Huele, Callbox’s sales manager for Asia and the Pacific where most revenue comes from especially Singapore and Australia which the company considers a “goldmine.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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