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Telstra pulls out of Philippines; Telecom stays in

Telstra has reignited the offshoring debate with its announcement that it is closing a Philippines-based help service, about six months after it began.

"The change is being made because our customers asked for it," Telstra spokesman Rod Bruem told The Australian.

The move back to Australian staff followed complains from corporate customers, and from small business customers who said poor language skills undermined the Memo service, which saw Filipino staff act as virtual secretaries.

Telecom has outsourced around 700 call centre and back-office jobs to Manila - including a recent tranche of 250 - in an effort to save around $7.5 million in annual salary costs.

But unlike Telstra, our national carrier has no plans to pull any services back home.

Chief financial officer Russ Houlden has previously said that Filipino staff cost less than half their Kiwi counterparts, but perform just as well.

Today, Telecom corporate spokesman Ian Bonnar reiterated the telco’s position, telling NBR:

“We are very happy with the service provided by our outsourced contact centre partners.

“We have been careful to ensure that any contact centres that we outsource at least match the service provided by onshore contact centres. As such have been very selective in which functions we outsource, and insisted on very high levels of performance from our outsource partners.

“We have no plans to review our current outsourcing arrangements.”

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

Telecom has it's arrogant head in the clouds again.From my experience dealing with people in the Phillipines about "xtra" problems is a nightmare as their language skills are deficient and having to repeat queries or talk simplistically is exasperating. Often the query is referred back to NZ for sorting out anyway. Ridiculous.

please try to read the manual first before you call us.. i mean we want to help you guys badly..


A phrase from a certain site:

"That is quite offensive.
Why does their nationality make them unable to service you? There are just as many bad Australian call centre workers as there are bad international call centre workers.
Racist much?"

I have used both the Telstra and Telecom versions of Asian Call centres. Essentially the service level is the same. The difference is that the Telstra service doesnt offer much in the way of service ( poor connectivity to servers, info etc ) whereas the NZ one relys on the caller being better than School C woodwork in Technology. Aussies arent the flashest on Technology and althought they are multicultural they have no patience anything less than obvious... KISS is the national ethos.

if you have a commercial relationship with Telecom, you're a fool. This company must be one of the most dysfunctional firms in the world.

My phone no work, no can talkie-talkie. You help me now ok?

Sharon, sweetie...
we Asians don't talk that way.
but that's just your opinion, and you have every right to it.
Thank you for letting us know what kind of person you are.

Surely, customer service comes first, on technical issues that most customers have. I have found the offshore staff very polite and obliging, but sometimes lacking in technical expertise. In the end it all comes down to training. If the staff are trained to help you on the phone - and can do that - then I really don't care where they are located. I would rather have a good offshore experience (as I did today) than a bad onshore experience (as I have had in the past). We kiwis have to get off the grass, and face the future in terms of job competituion. Asia is where it is at, and we have to compete.

hi..i have problem to my mobile i use my phone not using USIM??to OTher network??

In reference to the comment about "poor language skills" about Filipino call center employee's English skills, I think the characterization is more to do with the fact that Filipinos relate more to American English than Australian English. At least they weren't sent to Mumbai. :-P

yah that's true australians have different accent. phone 018 and ask for numbers in Manila?

Yesterday I called 018 for the number of an excellent Auckland wine shop. After spelling the name of the store three times I was told that there was no such company. I could barely understand the operator.
perhaps Telecom could offer free Phillipino language courses to subscribers so we can get our problems fixed?

There's a great difference in the spelling of "Filipino" and "Philippines".

018 is controlled by Yellow Pages Group and not Telecom

I am terminating Telecom.
Language difficulties.
Plus Telecom is taking employment away for NZers

If it saves the company $7.5 million, fine by me. let the sacked staff find a more productive job rather that sitting their ass off for 8 hours doing nothing but talk. they could at least pick a shovel and dig.

Kiwis talk lazily, omitting letters as ca for car, etc. They have different accents, as agayn for again, sivin for seven, simitry for cemetery, etc. Filipinos do not omit letters and pronounce words according to pronunciation in the dictionary. They have to learn the accent, as I did, if they want to understand and to be understood by the kiwis.

They should have left the call centre there.

After 6 weeks of poor service I would much rather speak to someone with english as a second language who could help me than any of their current staff..... I've now moved my phone and broadband to Vodafone.

Telstra have put up a smokescreen. With one hand they are saying we're pulling out.... meanwhile Inbound for business has secretly moved O/S. Start digging.

I will be cancelling Telstra forever - the obnoxoius way in which they derive obscene profits and reward overseas Axemen yet have the audacity to compare costs savings from third world workers with unemployed Australians or New Zealanders makes me wretch
to the core of my being.

On calling the Bill enquiries number on their Payment invoice a Filipino Customer Service person handling the account with pretend American accent was offhand and difficult - and perfectly patronising. What a disgusting company - with unnatural powers.

WTF mate.. my wife is a filipina, and she speak english fluently and with neutral american accent, filipino contact agents are better than any other asian associates. they have slips though, but understandable..

You know Leon, not all Filipino contact centers have the same issue. The real issue is with customers like you who does not know how to read the manuals and create problems of your own and then you will say that it is the company's problem. What an A**

Yellow should be paying us to pilot it it’s NOT a service. It's worse than calling 018 in another language. Here is the yellow pages translation guide: YES means - I DON’T UNDERSTAND, HERE IS YOUR NUMER means HERE IS ANY NUMBER and when you finally say CAN I PLEASE SPEAK TO SOMEONE MORE SENIER means YOU WILL GET A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOG HOLD TO NO WHERE. I’ve patiently tried to use 018 in the last three weeks...i've been unsuccessfully in every interaction, I’ve now given up.

Any business in Australia that still uses Telstra as its telco operator is
lazy and stupid. Telstra is an arrogant and inefficient and deeply dishonest company.

Additionally, customers DO NOT WANT their personal details to be sent offshore to foreign countries, there is a genuine security risk in doing so.

One day I was watching a spelling bee contest in the US where around 20 kids from different nations were competing. It was so amusing watching the American judges having difficulty trying to understand the Kiwi and Scottish contestant that they eventually had to ask for assistance from the coaches. I would dare say that even the best British grammar teachers would've had the same problem if they were in their shoes. Maybe it's time to upgrade the Kiwi educational system so their schools can teach proper pronunciation.

we dont care about bad comments from our aussie long as we are doing our job and not all filipinos cannot speak good english...ALMOST all filipinos speaks good english....and thats the truth..well we basically have an american accent...thats the reason why aussies are having a hard time understanding us...but its ok we do understand...:)

ive been working for the call center in the philippines for about 3 yrs ive been with an airline before and it was based in the us i have no problem with the them .. but when i was with australian account they have a diff pronounciation of words thats really not in dictionary..
and most of all filipinos are more grammatical experts that other english speaking countries..

i would agree that Filipinos are more inclined to American English rather than Australian English. First, because of their influence and second, because it was taught in school. Australian English uses different terms that is unknown to everyone, if not properly studied. it is rather hard to understand plus the accent is different. i can compare both because i have worked in an American account before and now with an Australian account.yes, Australia and America are both English speaking countries, but if we study the construction of their sentence, most of them are grammatically wrong.
but anyway, thanks to them, we have jobs...

im very thankful to the aussies, because of them, we have a job, and its dayshift..We can live a normal life with that..

Closing a call center company because of the poor language skills? How did they reach this conclusion? Putting the employees in a language program wasn't an option for the company? I am sure an esl pronunciation training course would have been enough. It's too bad they rushed into closing the business like that.

Then why are we romping up??? Aussie companies are outsourcing their business particularly to the Philippines not just because it is cheaper to outsource business here, but mainly because Filipinos are more dedicated that Aussies. Yes, english is our second language, but we are more than trustworthy than anyone else.
Let us stop this racism and face the bitter reality...WE TAKE THE JOBS THAT AUSSIES OR AMERICANS REFUSE TO TAKE...and now you blame us for your pathetic situation that most of you are now jobless???

LOL. I wonder if Aussies, Kiwis,Irish, Poms all speakers of English will understand each other if they speak to each other for the first time? Like the ANZ commercial the Scot guy said "I couldn't understand what she was saying although we bought speak English". (Scottish accent) Accent takes time to get used to.

filipina voice is the sexiest voice i've ever heard.

Those who comment bad things about Filipinos are racist

i've talked to an australian customer. He said " I like filipino customer service than aussie's, becasue they are polite,kind,understanding and very patient people.Unlike some of the aussies customer service who are RUDE,SAYING SUCH WORDS TO THEIR FELLOW AUSSIE, AND HANGING UP THE PHONE.

what i'm trying to say here is that, IF we could just help out each other regardless of who or what we are, we can make TELSTRA No. 1. not only being a number 1 telecommunication in australia but it should be around the world.

I know we can do this. we just need cooperation and support from everyone.


Is your caps lock button broken or where you holding down shift?


RACISTS SHOULD DIE! i hate you all,


Aussie with a dick on the head..

International companies prefer to offshore in the Philippines because of these FACTS:
1. Filipinos are more trustworthy
2. Filipinos are far more capable in handling their accounts, that is,we give better service compared to some inshore companies.
3. Language barrier?! C'mon, our spontaneity is one of the reasons why contact centers in the Philippines keeps on growing.

LOL, i worked with australians back in dubai, my boss and 2 others are from the land of kangaroos as we filipinos, indians, arabs, and brits(not britney fans guys) call them. one thing ive noticed from them was, if they cant do it they blame someone for them to feel good (yeah mate) that is what telstra doing now.

yeah,,,you would like to go onshore,,you guys hate filipinos?? why not go to telstra shop and ask your MATE to process your request..after that PLS. dont call us if they didnt process it correctly and you were charge incorrectly..
you really understand each other huh??

It's a fact that people say mean things if they're disappointed or mad. They are just like anyone else, people who are trying to earn money for their family. Yes, you may have encounter a lot of problems with foreign customer supports. But I bet you can't or you rarely post your bad experiences with your local customer support representative. I'm a technical support representative of an American device and I've encountered a lot of customers that are hard to deal with. However, like any other of my colleagues, it didn't stop us to do our best in our job. By the way, if you think we're getting a lot from the job we've taken; I'm sorry to disappoint you but we don't. So before you get mad at us, please remember that we're the one who will try to help you with your problem. To my other colleagues who's giving this profession a bad image, look for another job that you'll enjoy.

"Nothing is true; everything is permitted."

I have been working in a call center industry for three years.All I can say is no matter how irate the customer is, we should be patient and professional in handling calls.
im a Filipina

australians always complain and ask for credits. they are fond of using the service,but when the bill come,they are now in denial,they'll tell you that they did not use it...o cmon and they'll ask for credits. they are good in complains.... thats why we have jobs here.

australians always complain and ask for credits. they are fond of using the service,but when the bill come,they are now in denial,they'll tell you that they did not use it...o cmon and they'll ask for credits. they are good in complains.... thats why we have jobs here.

Filipinos are the most polite people and patient people in the world. That's why Aussies and American Companies flocks in the Philippines to get our services.

Aussies are very lazy to read their manuals and will just call tech support even just a simple problem.they dont have common sense either

Aussies are very lazy to read their manuals and will just call tech support even just a simple problem.they dont have common sense either