Once deemed a dying industry in Australia as automation and offshoring flourished, call centres are now making a strong comeback to the business landscape.
Paul Smith and his wife Gordana are the owners of Citrus Group, a recruitment firm specialising in the placement of call centre staff. And business is booming.
“A lot of companies were offshoring due to costs. We’ve seen that trend slow down somewhat now, because companies that run call centres are now really looking at them as more customer retention centres,” he told My Business.
“I think that’s the key thing – obviously the number one priority with any business is its customers, and a lot of companies were offshoring to save money and looking at the costs rather than looking at the potential of losing customers by offshoring.”
According to Mr Smith, one large retail client had offshored their call centre for this exact reason, but the benefits of since returning it to Australia have far outweighed any labour cost savings of keeping it overseas.
“What a lot of companies do, they outsource to a third-party, and then the third-party has offices globally… This particular client had outsourced their call centre and then they decided to bring it back in-house, and there has been an enormous turnaround,” he said.
“Customer retention has increased, customer service… and they’ve also grown the business as well. When it was outsourced, it wasn’t being maximised as it is now with gaining new customers.”
Similarly, Mr Smith said that automation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and the introduction of chatbots have not had the intended improvements in customer service and engagement as had originally been believed.
“Going back many years ago when emails first came out, everybody said it’s going to reduce the amount of calls that are coming into call centres. It didn’t, it actually increased them,” said Mr Smith.
“I think the same is with chatbots. By having a chatbot, it will actually increase workflow… and then enable the call centre… to focus more on the quality customer service and the retention of customers.”
Adding weight to Mr Smith’s comments is research into Australian credit card usage, which found that cardholder interaction with call centres increased substantially in 2018 (39 per cent of card users had spoken with someone at a call centre this year, compared with 27 per cent last year).
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.