MyHelpster goes Philippines: A bold diary about a bold trip
By Bjoern Wind On September 17, 2014
HOW WE CAME UP WITH THE IDEA TO GO TO THE PHILIPPINES
13 days Philippines; an adventure packed with lots of hopes, excitement and a little bit of fear. Fear of returning with the enlightenment that everything Felix and me, Bjoern, planned turning into unrealistic and euphemistic dreams. The dream to build a new form of IT-Support service; a service younger, fresher and different from everything people think about when you ask them about “IT-remote-support”.
Since most readers probably don’t know about MyHelpster and what we stand for, let me jump directly into this great adventure and how it all started:
Felix back in the days in his flat in Berlin “strategizing”
When I think back to the time when the idea of MyHelpster (end of 2013) was born and Felix and me started to think about a suitable way to find the most motivated and talented Helpsters to help our customers with their Microsoft Office problems. A way, which would give us not only the opportunity to deliver top notch support for a fair price, but which also represents the main objective and challenge, the guarantee of great working conditions for our future Helpsters. Concretely, we both agreed that one thing would be always priority in our search for a suitable contact center and part of our core values at once: The well being of each and everyone who interacts with MyHelpster – in any form.
Bottom line, the idea of MyHelpster is born founding in the core value and claims to be different from what a large share of the support industry is comprised. At this point let me briefly lunge and clarify what I mean with DIFFERENT. Different means: We do not want agents (in our case “Helpsters”) to be simple production factors you measure in their quantitative outputs. We do not want contact center facilities where thousands of agents are squeezed together, sitting in rooms and being constantly monitored by isle strolling “team leaders” whose only objective is to identify the weak sheep in the group. We do not want working space limited to 80 centimeters per agent where one can barely turn or spread his wings. We do not want a contact center system, which treats its employees like simple numbers without personality and being. We do not want a system, which changes its workers as I change my underwear.
What we want is simple. We want to be different and believe in the equation that “a happy team equals happy customers”.
With this aspiration in mind we started to look for suitable places for our own contact center. A place where MyHelpster’s doing could contribute its mission, but also guarantee that its service would be kept affordable. Why am I even mentioning this? I am writing this as I am not making a deal out of the fact that the Philippines are an interesting place due to lower wages compared to Europe or the United States. But this is not a contradiction and instead a fact. If we want to make a real difference in terms of team spirit, wages, incentives and bonuses but still be an affordable service, we have to look for a place beyond our usual border of imagination, in our concrete case: the Philippines. At this point let me say; We are convinced that our ambition to be different, could have an impact on the Contact Center Industry in the Philippines overall.
On my way to Frankfurt “fresh and fearless”
This is how everything started. After this decision was made everything went its way (quite fast). I got in touch with our supporter and mentor Klaus Preschle who worked several years in the Philippines as a representative of the German government. We agreed on a time to travel together to the Philippines (actually Klaus was already there waiting for me). I booked my flight and less than four weeks later I was at Frankfurt Airport.
Stepping into the plane to Vietnam (and from there to Manila), I encountered my first personal challenge for the next 12 hours. The challenge: Surviving a seat mate who had some kind of serious stomach problem (and bad manners), which expressed in regular emission and literally tortured me for exactly 12 hours till I landed in Vietnam were I had a 11 hours stop-by.
Stepping out of the plane, desperate for fresh air I found out that I did practically everything wrong with the booking of my Vietnam Visa. Desperately for a fresh air (and a cigarette) I talked to the boarder control who told me that I needed – in addition to my E-Visa – a picture, 50 Dollars in cash and a pre-filled form. Well, again, my instinct for survival helped me to convince the boarding control (for a small friendly tip of around 30$) to be able to go the an ATM machine outside of the airport (under personal guidance), to take a picture with an old camera from the boarder control and to fill out the formula right in the office of the chief. This cost me additional 2 hours, but bottom line; I got my Visa and had 6 hours left conquering Ho-Chi-Minh!
Ho-Chi-Minh Startbucks after 25 hours journey – TIRED (compare to previous)!
Ok, well, “conquering” was quite overestimated I realized soon. Stocked in the traffic it took me around 2 hours to get downtown. This meant I had exactly 4 hours left to explore the city and to get back to the airport, means there were actually only two ours left. Yes, two hours in an exciting dynamic and unknown city. I could have done so much. Instead I walked into the next Starbucks ordered a coffee and started surfing in the Internet. Yeah, and that’s practically it, two hours and three cold coffee (it is typical Vietnamese to drink coffee cold) later I got up, jumped in the next cap and drove back to the airport where I arrived around one hour early as the traffic was better then.
Within this hour I had enough time to think: Was it a mistake to travel to the Philippines on behalf of MyHelpster? Was it simply a waste of time? Was I the right guy for this mission? Could we have invested the money better elsewhere?
All these questions went through my mind and will be answered in my next posts. Let me just note: Overall the journey was a blast. I met amazingly interesting people, encountered major opportunities and challenges in regards of MyHelpster’s business and had an amazingly crazy night out in one of Manilas Clubs “Gramercy 71”.
I will write all about this in the next days and you can read it here. And not only about our trip, you will be able to follow everything about MyHelpster’s development, from our first steps in Accelerator Academy to accomplishments. Don’t miss anything.