Feb 2021


Overseas call centres returning to Australia: Lessons from the Telstra experience

By: Odyssey Outsourcing
Tags: accounting outsource, accounting outsourcing australia, accounting outsourcing Vietnam, Australian Accountant, australian tax return outsourcing vietnam, outsourced accounting firm, outsourcing services in australia, SMSF outsourcing

Recently Telstra CEO Andy Penn announced Telstra aims to bring all of its call centres back to Australia within the next 18 months and allow more employees to work from home.

Part of the reason for this is the declining call volumes: The number of calls Telstra receives has fallen from 50 million in 2016 to 15 million a year in 2020. The falling call volumes are partly due to technology resolving the problems rather than a fault being reported.

Eighty per cent of Telstra’s several thousand call centre workers in Australia already work from home and all of them have the option to do so, so Telstra is moving to call centre staff being ‘location agnostic’.  As Mr Penn says: “competition for talent is going to shift to the new era of remote and hybrid work because where an employee lives is no longer a limitation

The move overseas was originally driven by costs, with India being the go-to place, and also the Philippines.

Why aren’t they working?

One article suggested originally voice accent was an issue though this was eventually mainly resolved. There were lingering issues such as cultural differences. Then there were the issues with a heavy reliance on scripting and not listening to the customers’ complaints. On top of this, there was a lack of training, communication issues from Australia to the location, and distance from management input.

With the object more recently a focus more on the customer experience, and less on cost savings, there have still been issues with call centres based in the Philippines due to businesses making it difficult with restrictive scripts, and lack of access to the right systems.

Are the cost savings there with the offshore workers?

The cost savings aren’t as great as one would expect, and there are a number of hidden costs.  Training, turnover, travel of trainers and managers to the site, lost business as a result of poor customer experience, increased (Zoom) meetings required with a distributed workforce – often with cultural differences and lowered comprehension levels due to cultural differences (Australian slang is pervasive in many conversations) or an inability to fully understand native English speakers galloping along in English at a fair clip.

Often the cost savings drive down productivity. Company champions were required to ensure quality and output performance but balanced with cost savings. So in the pre-covid era, there were restrictions in visiting or sending sufficient training resources to make the cost-benefits work.

The impact of Covid on call centres, and lessons for Compliance offshoring

During Covid many offshore centres were closed or running at significantly reduced capacity due to lockdowns or distancing requirements. This forced the calls (and compliance work) to be diverted to the remaining staff in the onshore centres. At the same time, many Australian companies were suddenly scrambling to enable work-from-home options for their employees.

However, in order to make offshore employees work, you need to build culture, teamwork, good training and good management aligned with the company culture.

Learn more: The Essential Guide to Offshore Accounting for Australian Accounting Firms

Outsourcing comes to the fore in compliance work.

The other option is to hire an outsourcing company and pass the responsibility and risk to that firm. Where every job goes through a system, and any employee can work on any job, then the outsourcing provider can manage to make sure every job goes through the completion, with the minimum of interruptions.

Talk to Odyssey today about how we can help with your compliance work through our outsourcing services offering.

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