The Call Centre Year, Matt Wilkie's rip-off to Filipinos
We decided to setup a call centre when I returned from Oman. After
the time there I could see there was a gap for support services, I could
have done with 3 – 5 people myself just to help me with administration.
Over 4,000 miles away though I couldn’t train and teach people what I
needed and even side by side a lot of the work could be extremely
difficult if you didn’t understand Excel. But then I started looking at
other avenues and how things fit together and where we could actually
turn an idea into a business.
Eureka! Eureka Eureka! Genious Matt Wilkie!
Is a Piggery a viable business in the Philippines?
Depending on what your skills are. If you don't know anything else in life -professionally and intellectually speaking, and how desperately you need money to survive, it may help to provide your family with meat once in while instead of the daily salted fish menu.
One thing is for sure, no expat in the Philippines ever has made any money from it, Filipinos that tried their chance realized that at the end of the day the only beneficiary from this business is the company who sells you the feeding products promising you "high return on your investment."
Matt Wilkie is not an ordinary expat of course, he can even draw vinegar out of the body of a dead fly, so genius is the guy. Besides, he has his own way to discipline the pigs and forced them to gain weight fast, so fast, the meat is covered with 5 inches of fat, so when you make a lechon you get only half of the pig! His secret? "You fecking pigs you don't obey I'll report you to the PNP!" Interested of the story? Click here.
BPO 24hour.Catastrophe! by admin • October 17, 2013 • 0 Comments BPO 24hour.Catastrophe! Readers, clients and personnel of Matt willies' BPO 24hour business the headquarters of the IT center in Minglanila Cebu Philippines has just issued the following statement: Earthquake in Cebu rocks BPO24hour.com
The epicenter of the quake has been recorded in Karachi Pakistan and reportedly was initiated by Shawn Peterson to destroy Matt Wilkie because of a business dispute over payment of fees and commissions. The center of this dispute was Matt Wilkie was asking Shawn to pay for his agents but the latter refused saying that Matt was asking him payment for services he didn't provide.
On the return from Oman we spent P300,000 on an office on the side of our apartment. This new building was used over the Christmas period for family celebrations. But shortly after the dust settled of Christmas and New Year the business started to come together.
A new desk was built and we started to look at what we needed and how to take things from A to B. We are not from the call centre industry and have never claimed to be. But I am good at managing people and building businesses from the ground up, this is where I focused on developing things.
The call centre industry even though people don’t really talk about it (except for customers who are constantly complaining about “foreigners on the line they don’t understand) is saturated with Indian and Pakistani call centres. But more importantly a lot of brokers who originally worked in those call centres who promise the earth. Lie about ownership of businesses and outsource everything taking a cut along the way. Being the token white guy I had an advantage at day one as people no matter where they are from prefer to deal with people from they’re own country. The call centre industry is no exception, but also found several Pakistani guys pretending to be Americans to try and get into a market that doesn’t want them.
Folks, let me post what Evan is saying about this moron, the mother of all schizophrenics the Philippines have ever seen in the sexpat community. The guy is now in Worcester UK, starving, fled the Philippines just before the prosecutor get hold of him for salaries he owes, there is Estafa charges pending for ripping off employment seekers by promising them work after a paid training.
Many in the expat community have filed defamation charges, other chose to take the law on their own hands and "looking actively to locate him for a talk" , The Philippines Gov. Is looking to collect taxes and fines and has filled charges also of conducting business without registration.
I'll post some screen shots below with the links then I'll let you read his crap unedited. PM me if you find any sign of a call centre. He's a crazy man, dangerous and unpredictable. Have fun with the sick guy that spread defamation and dishonor to his family and friends.
"God bless Evan Iliadis who unmasked the animal and forced him out of the Philippines. He's now dreaming that is living in Spain! Has anyone seen him?"
So a desk in and a website up we started to look at how we could build the business and where to take it. I had a healthy bank balance from Oman so no rush but also had managed to secure some data entry work which paid for the first batch of PC’s. This got us our first 5 computers and server. Each PC costing around P15,000 and the server was also a cheap PC. to run 5 PC’s it didn’t need all the bells and whistles! In fact for the software used its recommended an older PC because of driver issues with new boards and technologies.
Our first call centre contract then came in for credit card processing services its where I started to realise that people just take anything they are given. $20 a lead for a saturated business that pays $150 a lead in the U.S. ? Guess this is where all the skimming goes on with multi tier people taking at every level. We started with this and as we had regular money coming in anyway it was a good starting ground for new trainees. Get them used to the telephone system, get them used to scripting, rebuttals, sales pitches. We did this for a month but I could see this contract was a worthless process at these rates but also getting the sales staff right was going to take some work. We hit it lucky by a veteran telesales agent being available and stopping a couple of weeks. In that time I could see the difference in quality and sales levels. I needed more experienced agents to get the trainees off the ground.
Part of this was making sure the staff enjoyed the time at the centre. Free snacks, free coffee and a chilled atmosphere where people could have a laugh. Not a corporate stuffed office where you had to wear a suit and tie. Why would we want that we weren’t going door to door and its the tropics!
The more we did it the better we got and the bigger the call centre grew. The bigger it got the more experienced agents applied and as such our mix of trainees and veteran staff started to bond into all experienced agents. A trainee would get off the phone and say “this guy said XX” and the experienced agent would explain how to rebuttal that question or refusal. The team worked and played hard but as we expanded we hit another problem. The room was getting hot and it was also full. 16 PCs and my desk had already been removed and put in the other room so I could manage the server myself.
If something was going to burn money like no tomorrow it was a badly run server which is why I dealt with it myself. I picked the brains of IT supports where I could and quickly found in less than 2 months I knew more than most of the people around me. People started asking me questions instead of the other way round. I had pretty much cracked how to run the call centre software while others had overlooked where they wasted money. I could run my server on 1/3rd of the budget of others because I knew what to do and when to do it, even in a total failure I could rebuild the server in less than 2hrs from scratch. The call centre was taking shape but we were out of space!
We had also managed to get Aileen and Chee who had been quality controllers at another call centre that burned down. They had a lot of experience and spent all day on the previous job listening to hundreds of calls and correcting agents. We were now heading in the right direction to being a larger and more professional call centre. A point I want to add here as you may be wondering why we let staff sleep, why we didn’t run like a corporate business. Its very simple we got paid on commission from our customers how we run our business is our business but also they had no interest in it as long as the sales were good and there were no abusive calls. Our staff are the happiest guys you would meet but also the sleeping during the quiet periods meant they would catch U.S. customers just getting home later on in the shift but our guys weren’t worn out. They had woken up, had coffee and primed to get the last sales before home. We did more in 4 hours of sales than others normally do in 8 – 12 hours. 6 of our agents were out doing 30 call centre agents at another call centre on the same campaign.
So what do you do when you run out of space? We added another building although it wasn’t ideal it was literally opposite our house and a very capable place for another 10 agents. Another thing I forgot to mention is we had 15 old PC’s from our old internet cafe so these kept being brought in temporary to kickstart new agents. Use them for a week or two then start to phase them out with new PC’s. They were prone to hanging and heat issues so not perfect. But enough to get us through temporarily while we upgraded constantly.
Aprils father and cousin built the new cubicles for the second building. A small house and as you can see the white PC’s are our old units and the black ones are new computers being bought weekly. We stuck with the plastic chairs as one thing you do in the Philippines a lot is sweat. In the house it wasn’t ours so relied on installing lots of fans as it was a temporary stop until we moved again. Didn’t want to buy a window air conditioning unit when I want split units as they are much quieter. So we did what we needed to do temporary. The call centre was growing and we didn’t have any issues with our neighbours. In fact our neighbours kept the videoke nights down as they knew it affected the business. Although when fiesta hit I was in Qatar!
I enjoyed the call centre a lot mainly because of the positive attitudes of staff and that people didn’t complain just got on with it. When we could we had outings, to restaurants to resorts. Any good week resulted in something going on to thank the guys for a hard job being done well. Being given abuse on the phone all day long isn’t a job I would do and yet staff rarely complained about the abuse they got. In fact they were thankful that they had a call centre near home, they had a company that cared and regular pay. We paid at the end of every week even though we got paid in arrears. why? because its unfair on the staff to have to wait when they have children and families to support.
We didn’t have a business we had a very large family of people we enjoyed spending time with and even when there were family issues at home. People would sometimes come in early just to get the sanctuary of the office. If they wanted to do stuff online they could do the PC’s were free access to all staff 24/7. If they wanted to do online training we encourage it. There was no crab mentality in our business but simply support each other and prosper.
The hunt for new premises went on as we were expanding every week. We no longer were 5 staff but nearer 30 and another couple of contracts were coming online. Yet rentals seemed to not be worth the money people wanted to charge. The joke being if it was for a retail unit it may be P7,000 but you would often find “Call centre use” being P20,000 or more for the same sized space. We continued to look but also talked with the ISP’s in the area as one important thing never to overlook is the space on the telephone exchange. Many places didn’t have leased lines available so you could have the perfect building and no internet. We also didn’t want to move away from Minglanilla. We worked hard enough last thing I wanted was a long commute for me and the staff every night. Nothing ideal came up but we kept looking anyway. The business was still growing and at the same time making a steady profit we weren’t in a rush.
We had also gathered the attention of other call centres and I started to work as a co-operative. This meant that weeding out the fake brokers became much easier as we could name and shame. Also meant call centres would identify for each other poor performing bad or useless contracts and tell each other. We were progressing, we had by now also dropped a false American who we originally worked with Verengo Solar via. Once I found out he was a Pakistani not only lying but skimming money on top of his percentage we left. Taking up new contracts we also later reconnected with Verengo Solar and on a rate of $70 per sale instead of $45 (which I argued up from the $35 some time ago). You could see our progress on $45 it was about to improve again. We were doing well and networking with other call centres paid off. The photo from below was a trip down from Luzon from another call centre coming to see why we were selling a lot more per agent. As yes we had an open door policy, there is no secrets I am a strong believer in you give and more shall be returned and I have always found it that way.
As business progressed we started to upgrade the servers, couldn’t get the rackmount units I wanted and the ones that were available were overpriced and second hand. So we went with the fastest technology we could find in a custom built machine that worked with the software. Being fussy on processor and other parts was crucial to making sure we didn’t buy a machine that had problems with software. We upgraded where it made the most difference, lots of memory, fast processor and solid state drives. Processor wise it rarely went over 4% with quad core machines.
We also started to see at certain times e.g. in the rain that kids got sick due to the weather in the Philippines, we would often slip extra pay into peoples pay packets to cover any medical costs the kids had. The same as one of our staff got burgled and his money was stolen for an operation. He found that we had put a fair chunk of change in his pay packet to get his savings going again. All I can say about this though is like I said we functioned as a large family not a business. The staff are the call centre without it you just have a pile of machines.
As time went on we had regular prizes and started to introduce a brand including uniforms. Although not compulsary the free uniforms people were excited to receive and I am glad we did it. As one of the things brought up was that people said they could now show they were going to work. Seems a little strange but some family members weren’t sure if they were working or not having a uniform the staff were very proud of being part of BPO 24 Hour Services.
The business was progressing well and although it meant working nights we also made sure we enjoyed ourselves when we could. This included heading off to a resort and having party days. Work hard and reward well its pretty much how we liked the business to be run as a lot of other businesses operate on “its all me” basis. Me I would rather make no money and employ 40 people who could support they’re families than be sat in an ivory castle looking down. Sharing in our success is a fundamental core of our business.
By now we had purchased the building next door a few months earlier which set us back a few pesos and started renovating the building. The construction and renovation work went on for ages as I wanted everything done properly. No expense spared do it right first time and it will last. Good quality bathrooms, take out the timber where it was prone to termites and replace with steel or concrete. The costs on the new building were running at over P20,000 a week and P1.2million for buying the building. But this was going to be our new base, we had now maxed out the house we rented as the rooms upstairs were also full of PC’s and starting to look forward to moving all the business into the new building we bought. I will do an article on the new building separate to this article.
Things were going well until the earthquake hit, didn’t stop the construction but it did take out our power and internet for a while, scared the hell out of people and in the Philippines people know natural disasters bring death. I suspended work for a week while the tremors still kept hitting regularly. I slept with one foot on the wall so I could feel if the whole building was shaking.
Not one computer remained on its station, although only lost one PC and one monitor. There was a lot of cosmetic damage and ports damaged on PC’s but we got off lightly. We also moved the PC’s to the ground to reduce risk and when we weren’t using the office the monitors were lay flat to stop them falling. Over a thousand tremors hit us afterwards on a regular basis and we ended up suspending work for 2 weeks.
We got started again after the break but then something even more unexpected and devastating happened we were hit with Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. We had shut the call centre down again prior to it hitting as some of the agents came up from the south I didn’t want anyone traveling or being stuck somewhere in bad weather.
Our power lines were down and internet down. Although we do have a generator and a Wi-Fi antenna so we had it for the house. But the call centre was down. The guys that turned up to find out what was happening or for work we ended up spending the day sat under the mango tree enjoying beer. There was nothing else to do and no point complaining, we had to wait for the repairs to be carried out before we could do anything. Even now though the internet hasn’t fully recovered in the Philippines and its not really discussed, although most people seem to be having some issues with internet when I speak to them. I ended up removing the Globe internet as it was faulty for 4 months already. But PLDT seem to be having some damage on the cables between the Philippines and outside world. May be wrong but even talking to guys at PLDT they are saying there is problems for the whole Philippines.
It was around this downtime in the call centre that I started to hear how bad others had faired. A group of our friends had also set off to Tacloban to try and locate a friend of ours and his family. He worked at the airport and lived on the coast. Two of the worst hit areas from the typhoon.
When they returned there was no news yet of our friend but they had changed from seeing the devastation. Bodies in the street, the whole area destroyed. They didn’t eat for a few days as what they seen affected them. It was during this time I had begun to think of what we should do. There was talk of aid and assistance but like anything political it takes time, badly organised and poorly thought out. We were on the ground, we had a few power lines down, broken internet but still even had cold beer. Others had lost everything including family members and it was when we decided to get motivated and do something for Cebu. We knew that Tacloban would shortly be awash with Aid relief but that is one location there are thousands of islands in the Philippines. We could start by helping the island we were on. We had a good business year and as such would be good to finish off by doing something that helped others, giving back. We decided to clip our Christmas budget and also use what we could spare in the bank to help fellow Cebuano’s. Set an example and hope others would follow suit in helping people around the Philippines.
First stop the supermarket one of the things that became apparent very quickly is shelves were being emptied. People were coming in and buying everything to send as aid. Water was going as quick as it was arriving, matches and candles were gone, we bought what we could then scrambled around Minglanilla finding the other things we needed.
The local candle makers wouldn’t budge on price but no harm in trying, I don’t know if there was much profit in candle making but I knew people who would appreciate whatever they received.
We bought rice from Aprils uncle and he said that he had already donated a lot of rice to the local mayor’s office for aid. When I visited the mayors office to try and get a vehicle I could see aid stacked everywhere but very little moving. Can’t be too critical as I wasn’t there long enough to see if it was a case of too much arriving and not enough vehicles or something else.
The local barangay loaned us a truck and driver, just had to cover the fuel and food for the driver. It took no time at all to get staff involved in wanting to help. We were bagging packing and loading and on our way in no time at all.
All goods were separated into family packs so it was quick to distribute. As things started to gain momentum friends and family also donated to help from overseas. We had also heard some of our friends were with another group heading North and we joined them to form a convoy heading to Tindog in Northern Cebu.
It was hot but everyone was in high spirits as we headed on the long journey that took hours. It was once we started to get out the other side of Cebu city and up the mountains that we started to see the scenery change from our usual trips.
Power and telegraph poles were pretty much wiped out the whole distance once we crossed the mountains and started coming down again.
People were along the roads with hands out wanting food and water this went on all the way to Tin Dog there were literally hundreds of people waiting all day for aid. Most buildings we passed were a wreck this also went on all the way to Tin Dog, a trip that was over a few hours to get there.
The destruction didn’t get any less but seemed to get worse the further North we went. Once we got to a central distribution point we were given several locations to do our drops. The government had some disaster coordinators directing the large amount of businesses and private individuals who had made the trip at the weekend. Something not covered in the media that a lot of aid was given and done by the people of the Philippines. Not governments, not officials but people and companies that like ants went to help others in need.
No arguing no pushing people just lined up to receive goods and our day of disaster relief had begun. Truck by truck things were emptied and everyone waited patiently for they’re turn to distribute goods. Everyone was also in high spirits although this was a humbling experience it was also a positive experience for everyone of doing something for others.
We went onto drop two and an entire village was waiting patiently for aid again. This time a list had been formed of those most in need of aid ahead of our arrival.
When we got to Tin Dog it was like a scene from a movie every building was severely damaged. We headed to the school in convoy and it was as we entered we seen the huge number of people that had gathered for aid in the middle of the sports area.
One thing is for sure none of the trucks were going to back full! As things got organised each truck would back up to steps into the sports area and give out aid one truck at a time.
What I hadn’t expected happened after people collected goods they thanked us as they walked past. All a bit sureal for me as I was expecting people to be a bit rundown with the experiences they just enjoured. But as usual Filipino smiles and gratitude was there in force as well as the positive thinking of being alive. No complaining about losing the house, the car, everything they have but looking on the positive side of surviving. But also that the aid today said your not alone, your not forgotten it gave hope.
So once the trucks were empty we took the long drive back into Cebu by the time we hit the city it was already late but I took the guys for dinner as a treat. Everyone spent the day on the back of an open truck in heavy rain showers, blistering sun and not one person complained about anything. All laughs and happy in knowing we were doing something that mattered.
The knowing that we gave up a lot of our Christmas funds for others and yet its one of the happiest Christmas’s we have had. The giving away of a lot of business financial budget and float to help others showed that money isn’t everything.
We did a lot in 2013 and it put us on a solid footing for 2014. The call centre can rebuild and has been rebuilding ever since. If people wondered why we stopped doing the telesales and marketing its down to several key things. I hated doing it as its demoralising for our staff and I seen very little value in it. My staff deserve better jobs than the junk nobody else wants to be doing. We gave all our money away to where it was needed and I have no regrets in doing so, I spoke to my wife in length that the fact is what takes us to recover in months will take others a decade in what they lost in the North. We survived the typhoon pretty much untouched but it was very close. We could have just as easily been wiped out completely as well. We have our building, we have our computers we have dedicated staff waiting for us to rise back up from the initial small acorns that makes BPO 24 Hours that little bit different.
But ultimately we are all happy in knowing we did something when and where it was needed. 2013 was an amazing year that went with a rollercoaster and although at the end wiped my bank out for our float.I really didn’t care. As we did what mattered and achieved so much in such a small period of time. From 5 PC’s and a server we did so much.