English Language Assessment for the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) Industry: Business Needs Meet Communication Needs

Jane Lockwood

Abstract


The ability to communicate well in English with native speaker customers on the phones, especially those from the USA, UK and Australia, is a much valued commodity in the newly established outsourced and off-shored (O & O) call centres in post - colonial Asian countries such as the Philippines and India. But how is this commodity sourced, developed and measured within the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry in Asia?

This article chronicles over a period of 5 years (2003-2008), the development of language measurement tools and processes for English communication in these O&O call centres. This narrative is told form an applied linguistic researcher/consultant stance and traces critical incidents and insights experienced by the researcher/consultant in different call centre worksites in the Philippines and India that led, over time, to the development of the Business Performance Language Assessment System (BUPLAS). It describes how business communication problems and stakeholder concerns in this industry became the starting point in crafting a measurement solution for the industry. What emerged in BUPLAS were very different assessment tools and processes from the traditional generic business English tests such as TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication - ETS English Testing Services USA) and BULATS (Business language Testing Service - Cambridge ESOL, UK) where external testing services merely provide a one point in time proficiency score as a per head cost. What seemed to be needed was something in-house; something owned and operated by the industry stakeholders themselves and something tailored to their business needs. This article provides an engaging account of the risks and rewards in crafting the BUPLAS solution that is becoming a popular communications assessment choice in the call centre industry in Asia.


Full Text: PDF DOI: 10.5539/ells.v2n4p22

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English Language and Literature Studies   ISSN 1925-4768 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4776 (Online)

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