Callbox: From Ilonggo start-up to global player

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Who would have thought that one of the world's largest and most recognized companies in the B2B (business to business) marketing industry traces its humble roots to Iloilo City?

In recent years, the concept of BPOs (business process outsourcing) and call centers have often been linked to large multinational companies from abroad seeking affordable and able workers within the Philippines. And that journey from a local company to international name is what makes Callbox Sales and Marketing Solutions special.

Callbox can trace its humble beginnings in 2004 when founders Rom Agustin and Glen Norris decided to take chances in Iloilo and started a call center business at an Internet cafe in La Paz district. At the dawn of the Philippines' involvement with the BPO industry, they were among the first to take part and within 3 years, became a highly sought after employer.

Now Callbox’s Chief Executive Officer, Agustin shared that one of the reasons that compelled them to start in Iloilo was the quality of manpower. He added that their choice was an accident, but a happy one.

"Our bread and butter is the staff," he said, noting that Ilonggos are some of the best employees.

Despite some utility issues like high electricity and water costs as well as occasional floods, Agustin shared their decision was worth it. They now have more than 800 employees in their Iloilo and Davao branches with an estimated 500 being Ilonggos.

"Callbox is symbolically tied to Iloilo," said Agustin. "Our staff is our treasure. Lose them and we lose customers and knowledge."

Currently, Callbox provides B2B multi-channel marketing services to Global 1000 companies from leading industries such as "software, information technology, financial, medical, and business services from its offices in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia and every major market worldwide."

Ten years later, they now face challenges with the arrival of other BPO companies in Iloilo. However, Agustin said that they welcome the competition. He explained that bulk of their budget goes to training and with more BPO companies locating in the city, there will be more trainings available to develop better and proficient workers.

While the industry has high turnover rates, many of Callbox's employees have stayed in the company for 8 to 10 years. Agustin shared the secret behind this: keeping the company dynamic.

"People want to be challenged a lot," he explained.

To keep the workplace interesting, employees usually rotate within 4 to 5 departments and choose a variety of jobs from research, human resources to marketing. In hiring, they value good communication skills and do not discriminate based on age or degree. What is important is they pass their employment tests, which include IQ tests.

"Our goal was not to be the largest or most profitable; it is to be the best employer," said Agustin who shuttles between Iloilo City and overseas to oversee the company’s operations.

He cited Google as his inspiration in creating a good environment for workers by providing competitive benefits and salaries.

"Our employees, within their own teams, do their work as though they are running their own big company," he said, citing that their revenue sharing program has been a very good incentive that empowered their employees.

Callbox has been awarded Top Outsourcer of Outbound Services by Contact Center World and as Leading Provider of Outsourced Sales and Marketing Services by Datamonitor. In the future, Callbox recognizes that call centers may no longer be as necessary to their clients as they have begun the transition to more knowledge intensive business services.

Callbox is preparing to take Iloilo’s banner further in the area of technology-driven marketing solutions as it looks forward to celebrating its next 10 years. –