Vodafone axe Hobart call centre jobs

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Vodafone axe Hobart call centre jobs

After investing over $200 million in their Hobart call centre since 2013 today Vodafone’s Chief Strategy Officer Dan Lloyd announced that they will be offering voluntary redundancies to Hobart call centre staff.

Mr Lloyd claims that there have been two driving factors behind the need to downsize their call centre:

  1. The customer’s preferences to use online self-service has lead to a dramatic reduction in call volumes.
  2. As a result of Vodafone’s network, product and service improvements, they are receiving significantly fewer complaints and calls from customers.

At a press conference this morning the Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said it was a “terrible blow for the people concerned. I can imagine that they will be devastated, their families extremely concerned, so we will do what we can to ensure that we support those people.”

I can understand the Premier being disappointed – 100 jobs are not easy to replace and after Vodafone received both state and federal funding to set up in Tasmania (including payroll relief and a $3.2 million grant since promising to double its workforce) you can understand why the Government might be a little disappointed.

At its peak in 2016 the call centre employed 850 people. 7SD have reported that the following 92 jobs will be cut from the call centre:

  • 8 Social Media
  • 12 Web Chat
  • 51 Business Care
  • 13 Support roles
  • 8 Team Leaders

Mr Lloyd said the company no longer received any form of federal or state government funding for the Hobart centre.

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It’s the end of call centres!!!

Former Telstra CEO David Thodey claimed in 2014 that call centres jobs will disappear in five years. Now I’m sure Mr Thodey is a pretty smart guy however given that’s next year I’m feeling pretty confident that he got that horribly wrong. Of course, like any industry, the contact centre industry continues to evolve and I discussed some of those changes with the ABC recently. A quick summary of how call centres have changed includes:

  • The functions of the call centre are changing. No longer is it just phone calls. The modern contact centre (as they are now known) not only handles phone calls but typically they now also handle live chat, social media, emails and even video chat. This is driving a change in the skill sets required of call centre agents with flow-on effects to recruitment, training and support systems.
  • The complexity of call centre work is increasing. The traditional ‘simple’ enquiries are now increasingly being handled through self-service technology (e.g. searching the internet for answers, via an app or ‘talking’ to a chatbot) meaning the complexity of calls that do come into the call centre are becoming increasingly complex.  For example, you can now get your bank balance, make payments, change your withdrawal limits etc all through an app which previously would have required a phone call. Now when you have to make contact with the bank via the call centre it’s normally because the app has failed or its because you are unable to resolve your issue via self-service.
  • Talk times are increasing. As the complexity of the phone calls is increasing, so with it are the talk times (times spent on the phone call to the customer).  Its because of this that staffing levels in the call centre are not actually declining even though the call volumes themselves may have declined.
  • The call centre is often the only point of contact. There are more and more businesses that don’t have a retail front so the entire customer contact is handled through the contact centre. From big companies like Amazon and Uber through to millions of SMEs, the customer experience is defined by what happens on the other end of the call, email, tweet etc.

Is Vodafone really the bad guy?

Whilst its easy to get caught up in the hysteria of jobs being lost, Vodafone is continuing to operate a call centre in Tasmania and aren’t simply moving the jobs offshore in an effort cut costs. Like any business, you need to align your workforce to meet demand – too few and its a poor customer experience and too many and you carry unnecessary costs that eat away at profit.

Of course, it’s disappointing when anyone loses their jobs but based on Vodafone’s statement, they are offering voluntary (not forced) redundancies so hopefully its a nice little bonus for people looking to change careers or retire.

And let’s not forget years ago Vodafone was getting smashed for a poor customer experience and if we are lead to believe what they are saying, the millions they have invested in their network to increase stability and network coverage have resulted in fewer complaints. Surely that’s a good thing?

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Justin Tippett - The CX Judge
Chief Editor & Founder | CX Central
After first stumbling into a call centre at 18, I'm eternally grateful for the opportunities and experiences that working in the CX/call centre industry has provided me.

My passion is now helping individuals and businesses on their CX journey whether its to learn more, optimise operations, shape the strategy or just to get inspired with new and alternative ways to deliver a great CX.

My CX ecosystem consists of a range of businesses including CX Connect - helping businesses with call centre outsourcing, CX Consult - specialist call centre and CX consulting and ItsMyCall - Australia's CX & Contact Centre jobs website launching in August 2018.

In my spare time, I squeeze in some sport and I love to create videos that no one watches.