Telecom New Zealand announced that following trials the company proposes to retain its largest contact centre operations, 123 and *123, in New Zealand, predominantly in Hamilton, while transitioning a total of approximately 250 positions from a range of other contact centres from New Zealand to its international partners in Manila over an 18-month period.
The move follows almost a year of trials and research which looked at the impact on customers’ experiences from offshoring several Telecom contact centres, including 123 and several back office functions.
“We always said we would not make proposals until after the exhaustive trials were complete, and we’ve stuck to that promise,” said Alan Gourdie, CEO Telecom Retail.
“Put simply, if the customer experience offshore could not be proven to match the experience provided by New Zealand-based call centres, we did not proceed.
“In the case of 123 and *123 the trial data did not show us the consistent performance we needed to see in order to be comfortable with a large-scale offshoring of that operation, in which a detailed knowledge of an extremely varied set of products and services is all-important.
“If confirmed, today’s proposals would therefore retain the vast majority of our 123 and *123 contact centre positions in Hamilton.
“In other areas, where specific, technical knowledge was particularly important, offshore staff have delivered strong results for the New Zealand customers they dealt with.”
Mr Gourdie said the results of the trials have now been announced to staff, with Telecom proposing to restructure of six of its contact centre operations. This would see a total of approximately 250 positions transitioned from New Zealand to Manila over an 18-month period from a range of contact centres.
“When the migration of these roles is complete, Telecom will have around 1600 contact centre positions in New Zealand, and 700 positions outsourced in Manila.
“This proposal will see the further migration of our broadband support helpdesk to our outsourced partners over the next 18 months, where we have found it easy to recruit technically-skilled staff. Our customer research has shown very strong performance in this area, so we are comfortable in changing the mix of onshore and offshore within that function.
“In fact, the offshore operation recorded our highest ever level of customer satisfaction for broadband support in December.
“With the trials complete, we will strike a strong balance between offshore and New Zealand call centre positions that will deliver great customer service, and achieve the cost savings necessary at a time of challenging economic conditions.
“Today’s proposals will not change the fact that Telecom still has more contact centre reps in New Zealand, answering more calls from more New Zealanders, than any of our competitors. It gives us a good blend of domestic and offshore coverage, assisting our 1.4 million customers with a range of often complex product and service inquiries,” Mr Gourdie said.
“If the proposal is confirmed, this re-balancing of contact centre positions will be carefully managed to ensure our people are treated fairly and wherever possible given other opportunities within Telecom, along with maintaining the customer experience in those impacted areas.”
Mr Gourdie acknowledged that the past year had been a time of uncertainty for staff in our New Zealand-based call centres, particularly those at the company’s Hamilton operation.
“We have communicated openly and regularly with staff throughout the trials. Feedback on the proposed structure will now be sought over the next two weeks, with a final contact centre structure to be confirmed by early March.”
Mr Gourdie said if the proposed model were confirmed then Telecom would work hard to ensure affected staff would be redeployed within the company or offered support to find other roles, with redundancies to be kept to a minimum.
“Due to the long timeframe for the migration, we expect the total number of redundancies to be very limited,” Mr Gourdie said.
After the proposed move Telecom contact centres will have 1610 people in New Zealand and 700 people offshore.