Telstra CEO David Thodey has told retail shareholders that the company expects to reduce the number of call-centre employees over the next five to 10 years, as customer service moves online.
In August, Telstra announced that it would shed 651 jobs across Australia, with the company closing customer-service centres in Lismore, New South Wales, and Townsville, Queensland, with a number of Sydney and Melbourne jobs outsourced to the Philippines.
Speaking at a retail shareholder event in Sydney yesterday, Thodey said that as more and more Telstra customers begin to interact with the company online, rather than over the phone, more jobs will likely go.
"You will continue to see our call centres decline. That's just the way of the world, unfortunately," he said.
"We are seeing a reduction in call volumes, and we are moving people to an online experience. The numbers in our call centres will continue to reduce over the next five to 10 years, because most people would like to be online."
Thodey said that Telstra decided to "offshore" its call centres because there had been a change in the way that customers interact with the company. He noted that while a common complaint for Telstra regards overseas call-centre workers, half of the time those complaints are mistaken.
"Of all the complaints I receive around speaking to someone who is thought to be offshore, 50 percent of the time they are in Australia. It is someone who works in our call centres."
But broadly, Telstra is becoming an Asian company, Thodey said.
"I have no option for the company, because when you look at the growth opportunities and where our people will work, it will be spread across Asia," he said. "We've got to look at where we can do the work most efficiently and effectively. We will be an Asian company, and as shareholders I need you to understand that because it will continue. It's the only way I can deliver a return in the long term for the business."
Thodey said that while he has a preference to keep people in Australia, he has to compete on a global level.
"I'm competing with companies like Vodafone, which is an international company, [and] SingTel, which is an Asian-based company; I've got to be competitive."