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AirNZ's Outsourcing Move Keeps Local Contact Centre Staff On Their Knees

Air New Zealand's decision to temporarily outsource some call centre activities to the Philippines because there is a shortage of suitable staff is understandable, but also a self-perpetuating practise because it cheapens the profession—the moment you find a cheaper alternative, the less locals earn, says industry body Customer Contact Network New Zealand (CCNNZ).

CCNNZ CEO, Elias Kanaris, said he understands Air New Zealand's decision to move contact centre activities offshore temporarily because of their need to improve customer service, but it's a two-edged sword because cheaper alternatives overseas mean companies don't have to invest in the local industry and its people.

"The result is that the profession remains low wage in New Zealand. This makes attracting or retaining good staff is difficult," Kanaris said. "I hope they explored outsourcing to a New Zealand company to help with the overflow before looking overseas.

"Local contact centres will offer better customer service to Kiwis because they live locally and understand our cultural and social context. But as long as we outsource to other countries, the industry will struggle with shortages and low salaries."

CCNNZ is the industry body that supports the contact centre industry in New Zealand. It provides a platform for contact centre professionals to connect, share knowledge, and learn from each other.

Kanaris said that if we continue to undervalue contact centre staff, the ultimate loser will be the average Kiwi customer.

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"We know from experience that some companies offer their staff commissions if they can recruit suitable candidates and that those commissions are lower for people who introduce contact centre candidates.

"At the moment, we are working with the Ministry of Social Development to recruit and train people who are on the benefit. In the last two years, the industry has recruited and trained more than 300 people who were on the benefit."

Kanaris suggests some proactive initiatives could help local companies recognise the value of contact centre staff—both online and telephone.

Tax Breaks

"I would call on the new Government to consider tax breaks for companies that recruit and train Kiwi contact centre staff because this would assist job creation, get more people off the benefit, stimulate the local economy and improve overall customer service in New Zealand," Kanaris said.

Outsource Locally

Kanaris said there are local companies that provide outsourced contact centre services, and while they may be more expensive, the level of customer service they offer is higher and demonstrates the client organisation’s commitment to its customers.

Invest in the Sector

Kanaris urged corporate New Zealand to improve salaries and training and implement clearly defined career paths for contact centre staff.

"A mapped career path will motivate performance, attract good talent and contribute to an overall better experience for the average Kiwi—people want to talk to people who understand the context of life here in New Zealand," Kanaris said.

Contact centre staff—including those online and in chat—are a crucial link between an organisation and its customers, particularly as a first point of contact because it assures customers and gives them confidence that they are being heard.

“Local staff are more skilled at solving local problems and offer improved customer engagement and an overall better brand image for the organisation," Kanaris said.

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