Visaya Knowledge Process Outsourcing Corporation is creating a buzzword in the BPO space. Butch Valenzuela, a Filipino-American who led a successful career in California chose to come to where he found a new calling: To create more jobs for Filipinos.From a branding perspective, this positioning could be just a marketing strategy, but to Butch, it is a mission.
Butch hails from Bacolod where he speaks the local dialect Ilonggo, a mixture of Cebuano and Tagalog with a distinct intonation. Cebuano is the most common dialect for the people who live in the Visayan region.”If one hails from the Visayas, he is called Visaya and these people do not even like to speak in Tagalog. They find it hard so their default language is English” says Butch.
Visaya is a Sanskrit word in India, it is a fantastic name to have when selling. It means local,” says Butch, who worked in ITT Industries in the US for 16 years where he started as an IT director and rose to the ranks as financial controller. ITT used to be global telecoms giant but it has now transformed into the fluid handling business and is now the world’s largest pump company.
Whatever other may say about Visaya KPO, Butch has only one reason that transcends all reasons. “It has only to do witch this – I am proud to be a Filipino, I am proud of my roots,” Butch sums it all up why he chose the name Visaya KPO Corp.
When Butch comes selling he is not selling Visayas, but the Philippines. Thus, while to some people the name is just a pure branding to Butch it is not even a strategy. It is more than that. I could even hear the unspoken in Butch’s voice.”There is Chinatown in LA, there is Little Saigon, but no true Filipino town,” says Butch. “But what is more important is we are proud to be Filipinos,” he would hasten to add.
“Back home, Filipinos are too regionalist, but when they go abroad they tend to assimilate easily largely because of their command on the English language,” says Butch finding something to justify the Filipino psyche.
When he came back eight years ago after spending 31 long years in California, Butch saw the promise of the call center industry. Butch decided to jump in the bandwagon. He went back to his family in the US only to declare he had started a contact center business in Manila.
After selling his house in the US, the entire family came back to the Philippines including his only son Julian Kyle and wife Maria Carmen Valenzuela.
The family-owned company is thriving with his son largely involved in the operations of the company while Butch does the marketing himself.
Believing in his new passion, he invested his earnings into this business. He refused though to say how much he had invested, but said that coming back to the Philippines and putting up a call center operation here is a lot of fun. Besides, he could come home to his hometown Bacolod anytime he wants to.
He co-founded Visaya Knowledge Process Outsourcing Corporation in 2006. It is a boutique contact center in Manila with its primary market being the small-to-medium sized companies in the United States.
His company is fully compliant with the standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It is a proud member of the Healthcare Information Management Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (HIMOAP) and the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP). It is also duly accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
Visaya KPO provides outsourced services or managed operations of its clients.To train its people, the company utilizes a range of instructional techniques to suit all learning styles which include standard lectures, small group sessions, multi-media learning, customer contact simulation exercises, live call observation, sideby-side coaching, knowledge tests, skill drilling and skills integration activity among others.
Visaya KPO monitors all transactions to ensure the quality of the calls and see where improvements can be made in areas such as Campaign processes, Training needs and “Soft skills” improvement.
It has also a Quality Assurance team that conducts audit service procedures and compliance by individuals within the account. This is to make sure that all employees follow proper procedures, policies, phone etiquette, among others.
Butch runs his company like any other American-owned firm. They have to meet quality standards and production output.
It has very unique logistics (3PL) and healthcare clients in the US. It is also engaged in getting people in the US enroll in schools for profit schools in the US. The idea is to get qualified Americans to enroll in this school.
This account has been with the company for eight years already, a proof to its good performance.
“Our business caters to the US, EU and Australian markets,” says Butch. At present, 90 percent of its market is the US.
“We would like to get more Australian clients where the time difference is not that big,” says Butch, who envisions of making a global footprint for his company.
Multinational BPOs are those with global footprint and that means they have footprints in more than one country. There are lots of global BPOs in the country that are owned by Indian firms.
True to his calling, Butch has established a rural BPO in Tanjay City, a virtually unknown city in this country until such time that Visaya KPO came into its midst. Tanjay is an Ilonggo speaking city in Negros Oriental.
The project is a partnership with Accenture, one of the country’s most viable call contact center companies.
“This is like our corporate social responsibility because not many can locate in a place like Tanjay. Accenture cannot go to Tanjay so they subcontract us to locate in the province,” says Butch.
Butch has 100 people in Tanjay and plans to double that by end this year doing both voice and non-voice. The goal is to grow the number of agents to as much as 500 in a couple of years.
Its Tanjay operation is just amazing. Butch has a ready supply of people coming from Tanjay itself. Only three of its staff come from Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental. When jobs are created in provinces like Tanjay, people don’t have to leave their families. It is creating reverse migration.
“In Tanjay, when we need 50 people 100 people will come lining up the following day and it is just through the word of mouth,” says Butch. All they need is give referral fees to its employees.
In Manila, the cost of recruitment is high, and the salary is also higher than in the province. Cost of recruitment is the cost to hire from the time of recruitment to the time when the person is given the job offer.
“In Manila, you have to advertise and that is not cheap, you have to pay for recruitment which we do by either outsourcing or in house,” says Butch.
Butch pointed out that this Tanjay project cannot be compared to the one time donation for disaster stricken areas because this is providing livelihood to people in a place where there is nothing.
“I am an advocate of teaching people how to fish rather than just giving them the fish. If we can only replicate our Tanjay project in other areas,” says Butch.
The BPO center in Tanjay is Accenture’s fourth location and its first in the Philippines, with the three others located in India. In the Philippines, Accenture has a workforce of more than 32,000 employees.
According to Accenture, the Rural BPO program in Tanjay has increased the average annual household income by 33 percent, from R139,600 to R186,000. All employees have been able to open a savings account. Employment opportunities that have opened up in Tanjay because of the program include jobs in data, tech support, analysts, and voice support.
The Tanjay project is a clear example of working towards achieving inclusive growth in the country.
To push for this inclusive growth, the program needs support from local government, connectivity, competitive talent pool, and a competent local partner.
Butch, a director of Contact Center Association of the Philippines, likened the BPO or the contact center industry to the manufacturing sector.
“Just like manufacturing, call center work is a process, the only difference is there is no tangible product, but our product is people. Just like manufacturing, we observe TQM, 6 Sigma and other manufacturing principles that can be applied in call center,” says Butch.
Just like manufacturing, Butch says, BPO creates a lot of employment opportunities and ancillary services for the industry.
Call center is also capital intensive. A R10 million in capital could be spent in just three months.
“Return on investments is normally within 3 to 5 years,” says Butch, a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science.
According to Butch, a call center business is a low profit margin so the trick there is to have volume, higher number of seats. For 20 seats, that can already serve two clients, but that is not sustainable.
“If you cannot scale up quickly, you will have a hard time recovering,” says Butch. So from 6 seats, he immediately scaled up to 300.
“I started with 6 seats then 14 and then go into two shifts with 300 people,” says Butch, who plans to also expand to Bacolod City.
But what is very much consoling with his job is being able to bond again with his son, whose law school has been sidelined for now, as he now largely manage the family’s business.
“The best thing is working with my son. I will always cherish the times working with him in providing employment to people,” says Butch.
Aside from ITT, Butch has held positions with Fortune 200 companies as Director of Management Information Systems for FMC Corporation’s Agricultural Chemicals Group Asian Regional Office in Manila.
He was also a Director of Information Systems and promoted to Financial Controller for Flojet Corporation in Irvine, California. Currently, he is also a management consultant for Providence Enterprises, Ltd., a contract manufacturer in Shenzhen, China.
His word of caution to would be entrepreneurs is to study the business that you want to enter into.
“Do not get into any business unless you have a really good business plan,” says Butch, who also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from The Grazadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
The business plan includes access to market. Butch does all the marketing himself and that brings him back to the US often to visit clients.
Investment is also a big consideration because it is difficult to get family investments because you need to scale up.
“I really hope government could be an enabler to help start-up companies,” says Butch.
In his company, Butch treats his people like family in the real sense of the word.
“There is a difference when people say they treat people like family to really doing it and treating them like family. In my business, we really treat our people like family after all we are a family-owned business,” says Butch.
In fact, Butch conducts a happiness survey to gauge if people still enjoy working with the company. His Manila operation has 32 percent attrition rate and 2 percent in Tanjay. The industry average is over 60 percent. That is happiness in action.
“I observe an open door policy,” says Butch, but he also stressed that business is business. His company exists to earn money.
Butch is open to all possibilities, whether there is an opportunity for joint venture or acquiring existing companies or be acquired by others.
Whatever it maybe, Butch is in this business for the long haul.
By: Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Source: Manila Bulletin February 11, 2015