Talk of the technology-led economic recovery needs to be focused on how we can use technology to generate jobs, in their thousands. Perhaps with the right mix of policy support from government and insight from the market, we can bring back up to 30,000 contact centre jobs from offshore.
This is a once in a generation opportunity, promising to benefit work life balance, embrace the concept of working from home, and even improve how we manage our environment.
It has the potential to provide some serious economic and social benefits – creating jobs and skills in regional areas, driving innovation and improving productivity and customer satisfaction. And it’s no idle boast. It is an idea whose time has come.
Why? As they say in economics, everything goes in cycles.
Contact centres were part of the great business processing wave of the last two decades of the 20th century. They were ‘offshored’ generally as a simple, cost saving exercise.
In recent years, though, more and more Australian organisations have found that saving money from using offshore operations was no longer as valid a reason. Poor customer satisfaction levels, and advances in technology have led many to reconsider that strategy. This trend continues to accelerate post COVID-19.
For instance, call centres that traditionally rely on rules, repetition or data are increasingly adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and algorithms that perform and handle routine cases.
AI and Machine Learning (ML) add enormous value by uncovering and acting on patterns which make customer and business predictions far more frequent and accurate. At Nimbus, we believe AI will reduce overall call volumes by 40 per cent and operating costs by up to 25 per cent in the next five years.
Now, with the impact of COVID-19, several of our largest companies have had to urgently adjust their contact centre strategies as the South East Asian contact centres they have relied have been forced to close, at least temporarily.
The outcome of all this, may be that post COVID-19, innovative Australian businesses will still use contact centres, but they will see an opportunity to employ many thousands of astute, intuitive Australian telephone agents working from home, doing what they do best – solving challenging customer service issues and exercising judgement and instinct.
AI and local telephone agents will drive a better customer experience. It might not mean all 30,000 contact centres jobs will come back to Australia – but some of them just might.
And those jobs may go to people in Orange, or Launceston, or Darwin. The adoption of cloud, advanced security protocols, the acceptance of software as a service (SaaS), and Australian innovation like Nimbus’ Patent Access Control to ensure remote workers are paid hours they work, all point to the possibility of thousands of jobs staying here.
We now have technologies which allow contact centres operators to appropriately ensure productivity remains high and agents are making their customers happy, but to ensure contact centre employees will not be restricted by where they live and can enjoy a work/life balance which has never before been realised.
We are already seeing some of our larger customers put plans in place for this evolution. They understand the benefits, to customers, their bottom line, and their workforce, of the benefits of using secure access controls which allow telephone agents, with robust internet access.
All this can create a real, “live anywhere, work everywhere” approach, and enable them to provide services to customers within a cost effective, secure platform that ensures compliance with business rules and employment laws.
We can’t predict how much of the contact centre industry will be ‘on shored’ because of COVID-19, but it’s clear that the industry will never be the same. Let’s take the opportunity.
Grant Custance is the founder and CEO of Nimbus, Australia’s only patent protected, cloud based Workforce Management (WFM) solution provider. A workforce management industry pioneer, Grant has more than 20 years’ experience in WFM systems and solutions. Under Grant’s leadership, Nimbus was granted a worldwide patent, when implemented by an organisation, ensures employers meet their award and business obligations ensuring employees are paid their correct entitlement.