As both a recruiter and trainer-consultant for several different call centers, I agree that the language pro/deficiency problem is getting more and more evident. With a saturated job market, recruitment teams at this point are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and agents are hopping from one employer to another, just watching out for the next good signing bonus. And I’m the guy who has to screen and train them.
For a country that benefits so much from the call center industry, the Philippine government has done shockingly little towards the long-term development of the industry, ie improving the educational system that is the first real training that call center employees get towards better communication skills.
This also solves the critical thinking and analysis problem that so many call center agents have. In a recent trip to the US, I asked Americans who have come across Filipino agents about their experiences. General consensus is that Filipinos are relatively good at accents that most customers can be comfortable with, but the moment the problem is non-standard, or the agent has to start working off the script, communication breaks down.
For the sake of not just the call center, but the Philippine workforce in general, we need to start building an educational system *and a culture* that teaches not only proper English, but also critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, and initiative– not the rote memorization of facts and figures to regurgitate in exams (read: “Sir, kasama ba yan sa test?”), not the passive absorption of information (“nakita ko sa Facebook”), but questioning thinkers that will TRY to figure out the problem, not just consult their tools for the next set of instructions to parrot back at their customers.