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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Filipino Managers See Rewarding Career with StarTek

StarTek Culture, Work Environment Offer Personal, Professional Growth

StarTek chose the Philippines as the location for an offshore facility for a number of reasons: The large talent pool of highly literate, college-educated English speakers; reliable communications infrastructure providing dedicated connectivity to the U.S. and ensuring high voice quality; and a cost-effective operating environment.

Among these motivations, according to a senior company executive, people and the Filipino talent for sincerely and credibly engaging customers deserve special mention. “Filipinos are genuinely interested in solving customer’s problems,” said Susan Padley, StarTek general manager and vice president. Padley leads the pioneer team based in the StarTek Philippines facility located on Jupiter Street in Makati City.

StarTek began operations in its Makati City facility in October. In the months before the opening, Padley recruited a team of Filipino managers with extensive experience in contact center operations. “We initially hired coaches, team leaders, and operations managers to put a leadership team in place along with IT and human resources (HR) professionals,” Padley said.

The company’s strategy for successfully launching its Philippines facility is anchored on that pioneer management team, which numbers about 20 individuals who Padley says view the industry as a career.

A former barista at a popular international coffee shop, Francis Fuentes, 31, spent his first five years in the industry with two other major call centers. Fuentes had no plans of working in a call center when he spent his days serving coffee back in 2002.

“No one knew about call centers then,” Fuentes said. “But eventually, I began to suspect that this new industry would become something big someday so I tried applying and the rest is history.”

Fuentes first handled inbound and outbound sales for a variety of accounts as a customer service representative. “This opened a lot of opportunities for me. My call center experience allowed me to better engage with customers and other individuals,” he said. His hard work paid off when Fuentes was promoted to team leader and he began learning the ropes of effective management. “It was a difficult but rewarding experience. I learned to manage people not only to produce results but to make life better for them.”

As a pioneer Team Leader at StarTek, Fuentes has big plans for his team of 18 agents. “We’re a start-up, and StarTek has a lot of room for growth,” he said. “I want to support my agents so that they are successful and achieve early regularization and begin mapping out their own career development plans.”

Ted Melendres, 29, also wants the best for her “power team” of agents. A pioneer Team Leader like Fuentes, Melendres is also keen on motivating her team and honing their skills through specialized training and development opportunities. She says that as pioneer leaders and agents, she and her team envision a bright future in StarTek.

“There are tremendous opportunities for growth when you’re part of the pioneer group. Contact centers pay a lot of attention to the pioneer agents because they know they are so critical to the start-up facility’s success,” said Melendres, who was also part of a pioneer group in her previous company.

An avid scuba diver and yoga enthusiast, Melendres used the discipline she developed pursuing those pastimes to excel as an agent. In her new role as a StarTek Team Leader, Melendres is eyeing a similar development path for her team. “I want to mold agents to become ‘star advisors’ for the company,” Melendres said.

That’s also true for StarTek’s pioneer Recruitment Supervisor, Kooky Luis, 29, an ex-band member who values the opportunity to develop other people’s skills. Before joining the call center industry, Luis served as a teacher in the Sacred School Jesuit pre-school for three years after graduating with a degree in BS Psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu in 2000.

“After teaching, I wanted to expand my horizons,” Luis said. “This is what call centers gave me—an opportunity to reach out to more people and improve their knowledge and skills. I really saw a future in it.”

Luis served in call centers in Cebu, Bacolod, and Roxas City, where she gained valuable experience in HR management, and moved up the corporate ladder from recruitment specialist to HR officer. She has worked in five call centers and has been consistently recognized for excellent customer service. As Recruitment Supervisor for StarTek, Luis is developing policies and programs to support the individual needs of agents.

“I want them to grow with us and share in our success,” Luis said. “StarTek has been around for 21 years and they’ve established 22 sites including the Philippines, which is very impressive for a contact center,” Luis said. “It speaks of excellent performance and stability as a company.”

According to Padley, people who join StarTek typically find a life-long career with the company. “This is the pattern for achievers in this company. We have been in the industry for 21 years and just that record ensures our employees a future.”

“The main reason employees stay with StarTek is the culture,” Padley adds. StarTek’s culture values the contribution of individual employees to the organization and provides programs and benefits for personal and professional growth.

Melendres concurs. “StarTek is big on recognizing agents as front-liners because they spearhead the company’s success. That’s exactly what I want in a workplace. This is one of the reasons why I joined the company.”

StarTek’s open-door policy is a visible example of the highly interactive culture in the company, and the high regard employees at all levels have for others. Luis says this is why StarTek stands out among other call centers. “What struck me the most about StarTek is that our superiors allow us to voice our concerns and ideas. This is one big factor why I joined the company.”

In the months following the soft opening of the StarTek Makati facility, the pioneer management team has focused on making StarTek a positive and healthy work environment. As operations ramp up, their focus will be on sustaining and leveraging that culture to deliver the superior customer experiences StarTek is known for, said Padley.

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