By Krista Angela M. Montealegre,
National Correspondent

EVERISE Holdings, Inc. downplayed fears of massive job losses in the Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) sector as the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) to operations gain ground, stressing that new technology can augment human strengths and allow the industry to thrive.

The BPO sector is one of the key pillars of the Philippine economy, employing approximately 1.15 million people and projected to generate close to $40 billion in revenues by 2022. Advancements in AI, automation and other technologies have fuelled concerns of job losses.

Sudhir Agarwal, Everise chief executive officer, said in a recent phone interview it is inevitable that BPO companies will adopt AI and emerging technologies in their operations, as clients demand efficiency in their businesses.

“I don’t think technology will replace people but I think people will have to up-skill themselves. People have to embrace technology to become more efficient and do work faster,” Mr. Agarwal said.

“The ability of using your brain and making a decision should still be done by people. At the end of the day when it comes to problem solving, people like to talk to people, not machines,” he added.

Everise partnered with Microsoft to develop and roll out an AI platform that will offer omni-channel customer service solutions targeting voice, video and text interactions, and deliver an unprecedented intelligent, customer-centric experience.

Leveraging on Microsoft’s AI capabilities, Everise can introduce AI tools and chatbots to existing capabilities such as speech recognition, sentiment analysis and image recognition, eventually translating to a more personalized customer experience.

“Human empathy and human emotions are two of the biggest factors that pretty much suggest that human beings will not be taken over by technology,” Mr. Agarwal said.

Everise operates a C3 Lab, which has been incubating a variety of tools focused on transforming the customer experience by marrying Microsoft technologies with domain knowledge from C3’s customer innovations teams.

C3 Lab is in Las Vegas through BPO firm CustomerContactChannels, with locations opening in Manila and Malaysia.

The BPO company specializes in customer relationship management in numerous industries such as health care, financial services, travel and retail.

Even Everise sees no letup in the expansion of its work force in the Philippines, which has increased to 3,500 people from 2,500 when it acquired the business in December 2016.

“Over the next two to three years our target is to at least double in size in the Philippines. There is still a lot of opportunities to grow in the Philippines,” Mr. Agarwal said.