Is Telstra killing off more Australian call centre jobs?

Updated 17:25, 20 October 2016

With a number of Outsourcers already heavily impacted by Telstra over the past few years (some terminally) there is news today that Telstra has recently cancelled its contract with Outsourcer Serco effective from 2017 to operate part of its Directory Assistance services in Bernie, Tasmania. This comes on the back of Telstra progressively moving thousands of jobs offshore to the Phillipines over the past few years, often much to the disgust of their Australian customers. However a Telstra spokesperson has claimed that no call centre jobs are being sent offshore as a result of this decision. Rather, “our customers are changing the way they source the information they need and are more likely to use digital channels such as smart phones, Internet search and other online solutions. This ongoing trend means we’re seeing around a 20% year-on-year decline for voice directory assistance services.

Telstra claim that the directory assistance work will be transitioned from Bernie, Tasmania to their Directory Services call centre in Maryborough, Queensland that is owned and operated by Telstra. When asked how many of the 63 local jobs being cut from Bernie will actually be transitioned to the QLD centre we were advised “We’ll manage the increase in traffic carefully, and increase resources as required.” Telstra claim that 100% of all Directory Assistance calls are answered in Australia by Australian resources.

Serco, who already employee 240 staff in the Burnie call centre, are committed to finding alternative work for the impacted employees and this is believed to be within their current contract with the Australian Taxation Office. A Serco spokesperson has suggested that by transitioning staff from the Telstra contract to their ATO one, the net job losses will hopefully be under 10 which is good news for the local community. So maybe the ATO aren’t the bad guys after all đŸ™‚

A 2014 payroll tax deal struck in 2014 with the Tasmanian State Government required Serco to guarantee it would keep at least 160 full-time jobs in Burnie for at least five years. Tasmania has been aggressively targeting the call centre industry for a number of years and back in 2009, then-Labor premier David Bartlett allocated $3.16 million to the operations, then run by Excelior.

Public sentiment about Telstra’s call centres continues to be poor with the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman report suggesting that whilst Telstra has seen an overall decrease of 4.3 percent in complaints throughout 2014/15, Vodafone (with Australian based call centres) experienced a 46.2 percent decrease over the same period. Whilst this cannot be solely attributed just to the location of the call centre, there is clearly a very different strategy between the two organisations with regards to how they manage their customer service. With the gap closing between the quality of the two networks, it will be intresting to see which strategy will ultimately pay off.

Despite a specific request, Telstra would not respond to requests for clarification on the number of call centre jobs conducted from Australia versus overseas.

Whilst Telstra pours millions of dollars into its new branding campaign, sadly that same investment does not appear to be extended to their customer service. I know where I would rather see the money invested.

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