Telstra is set to permanently change the way it provides customer service post-COVID, with an aim to route all inbound voice calls through Australian call centres by sometime in 2022.
The telco - like most others - lost capacity in its offshore centres in India and the Philippines when COVID-related lockdowns in those countries took effect.
It has also tried to route more customer service inquiries through its digital channels and apps.
CEO Andy Penn told a Trans Tasman Business Circle event Thursday that operations in India and the Philippines are “still not fully recovered”.
But more importantly for Telstra, and for its offshore operations, it now expects some of the changes made during COVID to become permanent, instead of being a stopgap while waiting for capacity to recover.
“Whilst we have managed to move large amounts of this work online, and to Australia, we are very conscious of the impact that it's had and is still having on some of our customers as they tried to contact us over a voice call,” Penn said.
“In fact, some of you in the audience today may have also been affected, and I therefore wanted to apologise for the delays and thank everybody for your patience.
“For us though there is no doubt, therefore, that this is the right time for us to continue and again think differently about our customer service in the future.
“Of the things that we have implemented on a temporary basis to help us through this time, which of those can we make permanent?”
Penn said that while Telstra would continue to invest in its digital channels, it still needed to maintain inbound calling capacity “for customers who want to call us for more complex support, and also for those Australians who are not as comfortable using digital tools”.
“What it will also mean is that over time, we will need a smaller call centre workforce for our consumer and small business customers,” he said.
“In fact, our aspiration is that by the end of our T22 [transformation] program, all inbound calls from these customers will be answered in Australia.
“Then, what will happen is that this, in turn, will enable our teams in the Philippines and India to continue to support our digital experiences.”
He added: “The majority of our interactions will occur digitally and we will be able to continue to use our capabilities in places like the Philippines and India to do that.”
A Telstra spokesperson confirmed the intent of Penn’s commentary and the proposed timeline of sometime in FY22.