Monday, February 19, 2007

Philippines 2.0

Lately I've been thinking about Social Networks, Web 2.0, and all that stuff. One of Wikipedia's (many) entries on the topic describes the phenomenon as "... embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and 'the market as a conversation." Indeed the trend seems to be shaping up into something of a bubble in itself with the profusion of redundant and/or pointless 2.0 networking sites clogging our mailboxes with invitations from people who we don't know.

Why am I interested in this well-trod topic? Because I'm keen to use some of these tools in the interest of attracting and educating call center agents — I'm a big advocate of self-service solutions as the talent market becomes increasingly competitive. Moreover, I believe there are contextual factors that make Web 2.0 a part of life in the Philippines like few places in the world — of the top fifteen popular sites in the Philippines as rated by Alexa. Eight of those site fall under the Web 2.0 moniker.

Social networks, cyber or not, are a fundamental part of life here as anyone who spent time in country will attest. In an excellent survey, A Short History of South East Asia, edited by Peter Church and published under the auspices of the Asean Focus Group; an anonymous Filipino business man is quoted observing, "We have no institutional loyalty, only personal loyalty." In the context of the Philippines this bias toward personal relationships is extended to encompass online relationships.

Like the Philippines' "natural" language advantage in call center services and BPO delivery, the capability to deliver content within what is becoming understood as the Web 2.0 is of significant interest to potential BPO operations in the web marketing arena. From another angle, there is a great deal to be gained by developing social networks in the pervasive recruiting project. A blog that comments on the life of an agent just starting out, for example, might be a great way to simultaneously elaborate upon and personalize the experience of the people coming to work at our call center. Perhaps a networking site that lets agents network their friends into position for evaluation and screening would be worthwhile since staff referrals provide the balance of quality agents for any center.

More broadly, this trend opens up opportunities for enterprising types (read BPOpreneurs) to develop services and support functions riding existing 2.0 services or using the underlying tools such as Ruby on Rails. If the world has moved to a relentlessly networked world of interactions fostered through shared interest, nationality, desire, or profession; then those that can fluently navigate (as a majority in the Philippines can) these spaces are the site of new services like high-trust marketing through blogging and social seeding much as many organizations are using YouTube to accomplish.

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