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Do Telstra’s call centre cuts add up?

Analyst says web self-service doesn’t always mean fewer calls

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Telstra has announced it will close call centres in Lismore and downsize another in Townsville, and cut other jobs around the nation.

The carrier has said the call centre jobs will go because call volumes have fallen 20% in the last 12 months. 30 per cent of customers, the company says, now use online customer service facilities, up from eight per cent in 2010.

But that explanation doesn’t chime with the recent Contact Centre Benchmarking report and study for Australia and New Zealand conducted by specialist contact centre and customer service research house Fifth Quadrant. The study is compiled using self-reported data gathered from contact centres.

Chris Kirby, the firm’s Head of Research, told El Reg that report found the average cost of handling a voice interaction with a customer is $14.58. A web-only, self-service, transaction costs an average of $3.80.

The difference in cost between the two customer service channels sees many organisations encourage their customers to do more online.

But Kirby said more online interaction does not always mean fewer calls to a contact centre.

“Customers might go online to read FAQs and do their research, and then go to voice channel,” he suggested. Once those customers do pick up the phone, they are more educated and have more complex queries That can mean longer, more costly, calls.

Where does that leave Telstra? The Reg can only assume that it is not telling porkies in public and that call volumes really are down, making the redundancies a sad but necessary business decision.

But we can also report, after recently acquiring a Telstra wireless broadband product that utterly failed to work, that the carrier’s website was of absolutely no use and its call centre had only a rudimentary and ultimately useless understanding of how to troubleshoot the issue. ®

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