With our Time Doctor team, we are completely remote. We have over 58 team members in 9 countries around the world.
For each position that we hire for, we develop a step-by-step procedure to follow which has been refined over many iterations of hiring.
This articles gives you the exact process that we use in our business to hire customer support people. This process comes from our experience hiring hundreds of remote team members over the past 9 years.
Why focus on the Philippines?
A significant proportion of the world’s biggest banks outsource to the Philippines, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Wells Fargo and Citibank. They choose to outsource to the Philippines because of the low cost, the large number of people who can speak English with little or no accent, and culture’s work ethic. Their customer service might not be perfect, but let’s face it – customer support based on-shore (in the US, Australia or UK for example) is also far from perfect.
So if you need to provide support for your customers and want to reduce your costs or can’t afford an onshore person, this is the way to do it.
In the Philippines there are tens of thousands of trained customer support people working for these banks or other organizations. Because most individuals work in Manila, where the traffic is as congested as the air is polluted, it’s little surprise that many workers in the Philippines welcome the opportunity to work from home. Also in more remote areas where the traffic is not so bad there are very few local jobs available. This means that sometimes the most talented and experienced customer support agents in the country are willing to work for your company, simply to get a job where they can work from home.
Comparing the cost of support in the Philippines versus a team in the US, Australia or UK
Let’s say you need 10 customer support agents. Let’s compare the costs for these three countries versus the Philippines. Remember that when you hire someone directly in the Philippines there are no additional costs (office, benefits etc).
|Additional costs (payroll and other taxes, holiday pay, etc.)||$7564||$10,565||$9,963||$0|
|Total cost for 10 agents annually||$419,480||$457,820||$348,700||$48,600|
Note: We’re assuming that you are hiring a contractor directly working from home in the Philippines. If you use a BPO or if you pay for an office, the costs will be significantly higher.
What type of support can you outsource to the Philippines?
It’s ideal if your customer support role involves email support or text chat support. This type of role can be performed by someone working from home in the Philippines. Additionally, they can make occasional outbound telephone calls to customers that have an issue that needs to be resolved over the phone.
When does it NOT make sense to outsource to the Philippines?
It might not make sense to outsource to the Philippines if:
- Your customer support people need to visit clients on site.
- Your customer support people also perform high-level sales. This is unlikely to work with Filipino staff.
- If your support involves answering inbound phone calls it is probably better to find a call center that has reliable Internet with a back up internet provider. This also is going to make more sense if you have the need for more than 3-4 agents, as there is a certain degree of training and backup required when answering inbound phone calls. If one person is sick who will cover for them.
Salaries in the Philippines
To understand the salary you should pay someone you should start by looking at how much customer support agents get paid for larger companies like the big banks. Here is the range of salaries you would see for customer support:
LocationLevel of agentSalary in PHP/monthSalary in USD/month
|Smaller cities||No experience||12,000 pesos||$270|
|Manila||No experience||16,000 pesos||$360|
|Smaller cities||1 year experience||15,000 pesos||$335|
|Manila||1 year experience||18,000 pesos||$400|
|Smaller cities||Lower level management||20,000 pesos||$450|
|Manila||Lower level management||30,000 pesos||$670|
|Smaller cities||Higher level management||30,000 pesos||$670|
|Manila||Higher level management||50,000 pesos plus||$1100 +|
All of these people, even those with no experience would have a college degree and would be competent in spoken and written English. My experience is that hiring someone with very good spoken English is relatively easy, but finding someone with very good written English is actually quite difficult and may require you to pay a bit more.
Remember that this is for the salary only. If you are paying an outsourcing company to manage the person or house them in an office you are going to need to pay an additional margin on top of this.
Because the salaries are significantly lower than you’d pay for a western employee,I recommend you target the most advanced person you can find.. A junior level employee will actually cost more money training and managing them. A more senior person will take a lot less effort on your side. If your business is so cash-strapped that you can’t afford $670 per month then you probably should re-consider your business model, or perhaps you don’t really need to hire a customer support agent.
Finally, we find it is better if you negotiate with your staff salaries in pesos. This is going to make sure that the person is thinking more in terms of local salaries. If they start thinking that they are paid in dollars they often will start to think that the salaries should go up accordingly.
Steps in the recruitment process
I will talk about exactly how to get great results for each of these steps further down in this article.
- First you need a list of applicants
- You need a process for selecting from your initial list (I would recommend a test, and in fact ideally a two stage test, more about this later)
- You need to have on-boarding and training process for your new hire
- You need a strategy for ongoing communication and remote management
- Paying your worker in the Philippines
Getting a list of initial applicants (where to post a job)
This is a critical step. If you only have 2 or 3 applicants you’re doing something wrong.. You should be able to find 20-40 qualified applicants minimum. Of course quality is more important than quantity, so it’s possible your first applicant is amazing but it’s usually better to have several applicants so you can pick and choose between them.
Here are some great ways to find people:
- Referrals – only works if you have an existing team in the Philippines. You will find that often the best people don’t apply for jobs. If you do have an existing team in the Philippines, asking them to refer their friends is a way to find great people. Of course you still need to put them through your evaluation process.
- Post a job – a list of places to post below
- Search on LinkedIn – you can do this either by contacting people directly, you’re not actually supposed to do that, or joining LinkedIN groups or
- Hire a recruiter – You can find a recruiter first (in the Philippines) who can help you to find the right person.
- Use a BPO – There are literally hundreds of BPOs (Business process outsourcing) companies in the Philippines. They will usually house the person in their office. They will also charge a margin on top of the salary and will charge for the office space etc. So you can expect to double the costs in many cases compared with the rates I outlined above. I would not choose this option as I believe that you can get a much better person if you double their salary, and 100% of the money you pay goes to the person doing the work. The additional costs of the office and money that goes to the BPO could go to your customer support person and this way you get a much higher quality person.
Where to post a job
There are a number of places that you can post
|Places to post||Details|
|BestJobs||Free to post|
|Craigslist Manila||Free to post|
|Upwork (formerly oDesk)||Charges 10% of the money paid to workers through their platform. Workers in the Philippines tend to over-inflate their salaries when posting in Upwork. It’s a good idea to negotiate down to the more normal rates for customer support agents. Also make sure that once the support agent is hired they are dedicated to working for you.|
|OnlineJobs||$49/month for access to the site and to post jobs. They have a large database of Filipino workers who want to work online|
|OLX||Free to post – formerly known as Sulit.com and AyosDito. I haven’t had great results from this site.|
How to write your job posting to attract the right applicants
You want to explain that it’s a 100% remote job . State the hours or shift they will need to work. If they are working US hours that’s the night shift in the Philippines and will restrict the number of people who will apply. If you’re posting in Upwork you might want to specify the salary in the ad to make sure you are setting the right kind of expectations.
Here’s an example job ad you can swipe immediately:
Customer support – Work from home, email and chat supportWe are looking for a full time customer support agent.This will involve answering support tickets for our company, and occasionally calling customers to give them technical support.
There will be a 1-month training period for the job where you will learn everything about how our product works and learn how to answer any questions customers have about our product.
You should have some kind of technical background, perhaps you did a computer science degree or you have done some basic programming yourself.
You must have:
- Perfect written and spoken English
- A college degree
- A private space to work from at home
- High speed internet and working computer to use for your work
- You must be internet savvy
To apply please send your resume to…
Note that I have asked for someone who has a technical background. This will vary depending on your type of product. Our product is software so it’s important that the person has the ability to solve technical problems.
So, while technical ability is a must, we do not want to hire a hardcore programmer because we know from experience that they won’t be happy with this job. Most programmers want to write code, not do customer support. This might not apply to your product however.
Developing a test to evaluate applicants (and some specific examples of tests we use at Time Doctor)
Now that you have a number of applicants with decent resumes, it’s time to determine if they are right for the job. The next step is to narrow down the list of applicants and assess their skills. The way I have done this at Time Doctor is to develop a test that will allow me to see how they can answer questions about the product, based on their own intuition and ability to act professionally.
We actually have a two stage testing process. The first stage is an unpaid test that should take them less than 1 hour to complete. If they pass the first stage then they progress to the second stage which is a paid 10 hour trial. During the 10 hour trial they will spend 8 hours reading through past support tickets and making sure that they understand the product. At the end of this they are given some questions that test them on their understanding of the product.
For the initial test they will not have a deep understanding of your product so the test cannot include questions that require a lot of product knowledge. Instead look for questions that can be answered if the person has good common sense. Also look for questions that evaluate the person’s ability to deal with an irate customer.
Here is an example of the initial 1 hour test that we use in our business. As you can see from the test it’s actually possible to answer these questions without knowing much about the product. However the questions are not particularly easy to answer.
In this test please answer these 2 questions from customers:First before answer the questions you should go to www.timedoctor.com, read the website a little and download the software and understand a little about how it works.Question 1: Question from a customer
What’s going on? The software is not working? I can’t get it to work at all. Please help!!!!!
Question 2: Question from an irate customer
I signed up for Time Doctor because I thought it was a tool that I can use. But it turns out to be difficult to use… I tried reading your articles but those were not helpful! I couldn’t even view your YouTube videos.. I mean what’s up with that?
I also found that my productivity graph is not being updated regularly. What kind of a service is this?
I know it’s free while in beta but if this is the kind of service that I’m going to get, then I’d rather take my business somewhere else unless you can dissuade me from doing so and someone better help me quick…
This better be good and worth my time.
Here are some answers we received to the test:
-This is a pretty useless answer as it did not address the next step to get the issue resolved. It’s good that they had empathy with the customer and apologized for it not working. However it’s strange to start the message with saying that they appreciate sharing their thoughts. If I was the customer and read that first sentence I would be wanting to share some more “thoughts” with them.
“Hi [customer name],Thank you for letting us know that you’re having issues with Time Doctor. I’m really sorry to hear that it’s not working when you use it. We’d be glad to investigate on this matter for you. I’ll make sure to look into this and would give you an update if there’s any issue with the software now.You may already know this, but Time Doctor desktop application runs smoothly on MAC OS, Linux, Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 & 8 operating systems. There is also a web component which works in all the latest browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome).”
-There are a lot of unnecessary sentences with errors in grammar which would annoy me as a customer, for example: “We’d be glad to investigate on this matter for you.” Also this reply goes on to state that the software works well when the customer just told them that the software is NOT working. This is not listening to the customer and not trying to address their needs.
Hello Jacob,I understand that you’re frustrated with the software and that I apologize.The Time Doctor is a great tool with features to help you manage your business including your productivity. Let me help you and walk you through with the software and answer your questions along the way.
We share screens so you can show me where you at and see what the problem is and resolve it quickly and easily?
This way, we can talk more about the software and answer your questions as we go over them.
Let me know when would be the best time so we can get started?
–This answer has some strengths, they have apologized which is good. They have offered to screen share which is not a bad idea, although just asking for a good time to get started is not adequate as it will probably lead to lots of back and forth emails trying to arrange a time. They would need a better and more specific process of getting in contact to arrange the screenshare. The main problem with this answer is that there are several grammar errors for example “and that I apologize” and “We share screens so you can”.
OS used:Time Doctor version (Trial or Pro):
What specific issues are being encountered (ex. error messages, unusual behaviors etc.):You may also visit our FAQ page at http://www.timedoctor.com/faq.html and our support page at http://support.timedoctor.com/hc/en-us for additional information on how to use our product.
I hope this has helped in your issue. If you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to write back.
–This answer could be better but I would rate it as OK as it empathizes with the customer, it asks for some specific information that could be useful and there are no major grammar errors.
Technical Support Specialist
–This was a great answer. Simple and to the point. They apologize for the problem and try to get some clarification of the issue without going into any unnecessary detail.
Being remote is not the problem, lack of communication IS the problem
There is a major issue that happens quite commonly for remote hires, and it’s this:
Most business owners do not have any systems and procedures for a successful employee onboarding experience. These business owners tend to, run their business from “bumping into each other”. They see the new hire sitting in front of them and they realize that this person needs some training and so they jump in and start training.
For remote hires this can be completely missed. In other words the person starts and … nothing happens. Just as you wouldn’t start with a local hire, sit them at their desk and not talk with them all day you can’t do the same with your remote workers.
So a very common problem with remote work is that there is far too little communication between team members. It’s so easy nowadays to communicate remotely. There are a lot of free tools for remote communication. However the communication often does not happen. The reason it doesn’t happen is simple. It’s because the person is not in front of you and so you forget about them. This means you need to compensate by over-communicating with the team:, including scheduling meetings, constantly checking in with the staff members, and encouraging them to check in with you.
On-boarding and training your new hire
If you’re hiring just one agent you can probably get away with personally training them..
But if you’re hiring several agents you need to develop a training process. The easiest way to do this is to share your screen with the first agent that goes through the process, record the training, and then distribute it to every new agent that joins your business.. You can do this with Skype and a recording tool such as Camtasia, Screenflow or Snagit.
There are a number of communication tools you can use when working remotely. Here are some of the ones we use at Time Doctor:
- Skype – great way to text chat, share screens or video chat with your team.
- Google Hangouts – another option for video chat and better for a video chat with a larger group of people.
- Sococo – we don’t use this but it’s a great set up for create “virtual” offices and communicating with voice or screenshare.
- Hipchat – mostly for text chat.
Tracking attendance and productivity
The reason that we created our software, TimeDoctor, is because we saw a need to track agent attendance and productivity. Business owners needed a way to determine the productivity level of their employees working on the other side of the world. People that you have never met in person. Time Doctor helps to improve productivity in these situations.
How to pay someone in the Philippines
We created a whole article comparing the different methods to pay someone in the Philippines, you can see it here.
Get your systems and processes in order
Make sure that you have your support processes humming before you hire someone. In order to function optimally, using HR software may help your team streamline and improve HR operations and processes. Check out this ultimate list of HR software solutions.
If you hand your new hire a complete mess of unanswered tickets with no documentation, then you’re setting them up to fail. You need to have your support in some kind of order before you take on your first hire.
The most common way for your new hire to track and manage your customer support process is through a ticketing system.
That’s it …
There are a lot of standard customer support best practices missing in this article. The article is about hiring a customer support person remotely in the Philippines. There are some unique challenges if you decide to do this, however you will still face all the regular challenges and issues in building any customer support team anywhere.
Hiring a great customer support person in the Philippines is not easy. But let’s face it, it’s also not easy to hire someone great in the US, Australia or UK or other western countries! Best of luck and leave any comments below on your experiences in hiring a customer support person in the Philippines.
Addendum: Why I almost did not publish this blog article
So after writing this article and thinking that I really know how to do this, I was going through the effort of trying to find a new support agent for our business. I followed the processes in the article and with a lot of effort found 3 people who seemed to pass the tests and seemed to be a good fit. However after an initial training period it became apparent they all 3 of them were not going to be successful in the role.
One of the candidates in the trial period had perfect spoken English and very good quality written English. However they did not seem to have a good technical understanding. They would probably be a perfect person to work at a call center in the Philippines but they were not able to understand and resolve more complicated or technical issues. A second candidate seemed great initially, but their Internet quality was terrible and when we were on a group voice call, using Skype, their Internet kept cutting out. They promised to fix the Internet but did not do so. The third person pulled out because they had small children and “could not find a helper”.
So I was getting a bit desperate at that point and thinking how can I possibly publish an article about this when I’m having so much trouble hiring someone. However I persisted and in the end found someone great, who is actually from the US originally however has moved to the Philippines. They are on a higher salary but they seem to be a great fit for the role.
So can it really be done? Perhaps, is there a better way to do it? I don’t know if there is a better way, because this is the best system that I have found to hire someone working from home. It’s very very difficult. Another option that we did not explore in the article is hiring with a BPO (Business process outsourcing) company. If you take this option it’s going to cost you 70-100% more. These additional costs include: the costs of the office, payroll taxes, the margin of the BPO etc.
Also even if you use a BPO I would still recommend a selection process that you design yourself or modify from the one we created in this article. If you’re a serious business and less concerned about the costs, then using an outsourcing company is something that you can consider. I don’t have any specific recommendations of BPO companies but I do recommend Mike’s Manila’s Tours who provide tours of BPO companies in the Philippines and are impartial (they don’t take commissions).
So this process is difficult, but in my view it’s absolutely worth it to find great people for your business, that you are really happy with and you can afford to keep your business going, and you can afford to pay their salaries. I’m not saying that everyone should try and hire a customer support person in the Philippines, it’s a very hard process, but it has been worth it for our business
Rob Rawson is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.