Why Aussie brands are bringing contact centre jobs back home, and why it’s the smart thing to do.
The COVID pandemic looks to have had a bigger impact on Australia’s economy than the global financial crisis (GFC) ever did.
The lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, and border closures have all affected jobs and businesses.
It is partly in response to these economic conditions that lots of big Aussie brands – such as Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and Alinta Energy – are keen to bring back many of the contact centre jobs that have been going offshore in the last decade.
Telstra has stated publicly all of its call centres will be in Australia within 18 months, with up to 80% of those jobs being work from home jobs.
For TSA Group, this strategy makes sense for three main reasons, but first, it’s important to understand why these big brands went offshore in the first place.
Decades of increasing globalisation leading up to the global financial crisis showed western companies that things could be done a lot more cheaply offshore.
After the GFC, the increased need to ‘do more with less’ drove the offshoring phenomenon.
The thinking was that performance levels over time would replicate that of an onshore delivery.
Even if it was a more cookie-cutter type of customer experience, it would be acceptable to customers as long as it remained fast, easy-to-use, and convenient.
What the company saved in labour and real estate costs more than compensated for any small drop in quality of service, and anyway, those cost savings could also be passed on to customers by keeping prices low.
What’s behind the move back to onshore, more than anything else, is that those conditions no longer apply.
3 reasons why Australian Brands are embracing onshore call centres
1. Keeping the lights on
The first rule of business is to keep going; after all, you can’t make a sale or resolve a customer’s enquiry if you’re not open.
So, a big reason for the move to offshore was business continuity and redundancy.
If something happened to the onshore contact centre, so the reasoning went, the offshore one could take over.
Unfortunately, during the first wave of the pandemic, quite the opposite thing happened.
Due to the particularly bad wave of initial cases in popular offshore destinations such as India and the Philippines, many contact centres had to close.
The poor quality of telecoms infrastructure outside of the major business hubs in those countries meant that working from home could not be implemented quickly or securely enough to meet the demand.
Australian companies that had come to rely on that offshore capacity suddenly had it taken away and realised that they themselves could no longer operate.
And all this just as they were experiencing significantly higher call volumes due to Australia’s own lockdown.
Many had to spin up capacity in their onshore contact centres, deploy hundreds of new Australian homeworkers, or turn to call centre outsourcing partners based in Australia such as TSA Group.
For example, TSA Group recruited over 500 homeworkers for just one of our major clients, training and deploying them within a two-week period.
While most offshore operators have since got their operations running on an even keel – although India is suffering badly again – their Australian (and US, and European) clients now realise that their business continuity plans were overly-reliant on this offshore capacity.
As a result, many are now bringing those jobs back home, or at the very least, ensuring they have more onshore capacity available as a back up.
At TSA Group we call it a “smart-shoring” strategy, and we believe it’s the right way to go for companies that don’t want to reshore absolutely everything.
An outsourcing partner like TSA Group, which is scaled and operates both onshore and offshore centres, can help companies that don’t wish to build and run their own facilities for business continuity.
There is also the not inconsiderable concern of how you can manage an offshore partner properly during a time of international travel restrictions.
To get an offshore brand working for you from a cultural and brand perspective requires an almost permanent mid-to-senior-level management presence.
With significant restrictions on movement and travel around the globe that’s impossible to do right now and is likely to be difficult for years to come.
2. It’s the economy
The Australian economy, along with the rest of the world, has taken a huge hit.
Jobs have plummeted and people are suffering from financial hardship.
Indicators like mortgage stress are through the roof as lots of small businesses went to the wall or were forced to temporarily close.
Brands understand that it doesn’t play well with a customer who may have just lost her job to have someone from overseas call them about an unpaid bill.
“That’s a job I or another unemployed Australian could be doing,” they could all too easily think.
The Australian ethos is based on notions of “a fair go” and “we’re all in this together”.
Successful brands are not only very aware of this, they actively play to it.
This only becomes important in the current economic and global climate, in which national resilience – a country’s ability to support itself and have the infrastructure and means to do so – has been shown during pandemic to be crucial.
There is kudos to be earned with customers for brands that are seen to be putting the country first.
It’s certainly all too easy to get negative publicity for not doing that, which no brand wants. Bringing jobs back onshore is therefore a great PR call.
3. A self-defeating proposition
The final reason for bringing jobs back to Australia is that it just makes business sense as well.
That equation no longer balances.
Customers, as a rule, expect to receive a better customer experience these days.
They place more value on it and base purchasing decisions on it.
Reducing costs, if it does lead to a reduced quality of service, can be self-defeating as it inevitably comes with a commensurate downslide in sales and repeat business.
Recently, other ways have opened up to reduce costs without necessarily compromising on the quality of service.
Automation technology and AI can be used to handle routine customer queries more cheaply and actually more quickly and efficiently, which boosts customer satisfaction while lowering costs.
It’s also possible to access cost arbitrage opportunities within Australia itself, with homeworkers and contact centres in regional cities – where rents and other costs are lower – becoming more popular.
The calculation these days is not just based on costs.
The increased cost of an Australian operation should be offset by the improvement in CX, customer satisfaction, and sales performance that an onshore operation can deliver versus an offshore one.
A higher-performing onshore operation, even if it has a higher cost base, is actually more cost-effective in terms of bang per buck.
So, not only is bringing contact centre jobs back home a smart PR move and good for Australian jobs, it’s also the smartest business decision.
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