Live on ABC Radio Perth on 10th March 2022, Luke Kenny – CEO of TSA Group, spoke with Presenter Nadia Mitsopoulos about the impact of COVID on call centres and how TSA Group is bringing back jobs to Australia.
Mornings with Nadia Mitsopoulos on ABC Radio Perth
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Well do you shudder a little bit when you know you have to ring a business call centre? You’ve got to listen to the on hold music, which is at times bad enough. And then when you do get through, you’re speaking to somebody overseas who probably often is not really across your local situation. Well, I think you’re going to like this news because there is a Perth call centre company which is hoping to employ a lot more local staff so that you are dealing with someone right here in Australia. Let’s get more with Luke Kenny. Luke is the CEO of the TSA Group. Luke, good morning.
Luke Kenny: G’day, Nadia. How are you going?
Nadia Mitsopoulos: I’m well, thank you. So why is your company keen to get more local people onto the team?
Luke Kenny: Oh Nadia, it’s what we’re seeing with the pandemic, with COVID, was that a lot of the roles that are returning home to Australia that were offshored a decade or so ago to places like the Philippines and India and South Africa, which led to the experiences you’ve been talking about in long wait times and not understanding of the local jurisdictions. So, when the pandemic struck in 2020, those countries were significantly impacted, which meant there was a real scramble to stand up teams here in Australia to start handling that voice traffic again. And that really was an epiphany moment for a lot of businesses. Customers were incredibly receptive to being able to speak with someone here in Australia, particularly during such a challenging time as COVID. And you know, I said it in the article yesterday, in times of disruption and uncertainty, the reassurance that comes from being able to speak with someone who, as you just said, shares the same experience as you, it’s invaluable. And the customers we serve, they trust us with caring for their children by finding them the right early learning provider. They trust us to help them recover from the often devastating losses we’re seeing over east at the moment with insurance claims. And they trust us to keep them connected with their family and friends by making sure their telco services, and as you’ve experienced this morning, are working. So it’s a big deal and we take it really seriously. So we’ve been doing it for a quarter of a century. We started back in 1997 when our founder answered a classified advert for four door knockers. And from there we’ve been on an incredible growth trajectory. And as I speak to you today, Nadia, we employ I think we’ve just ticked over 3200 people and that’s providing contact centre services and the technology needed to run them. So we’re still doing business with our first ever client from 1997, but we’ve also diversified into a whole lot of other sectors.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Okay. Just when you talked about some of the feedback there that you were getting from customers when they’re dealing with a staff member from a foreign country. Specifically, what do they complain about? Because you hear quite often that people often end these calls dissatisfied and really not receiving the help that they were asking for. Specifically, what were the kind of things you were getting back?
Luke Kenny: Oh, it’s exactly that. That the complaints are that you didn’t actually solve my issue. That’s the nub of the matter. It’s about resolution. And again, that only comes with deep experience from being in-country. So it’s very hard to export that to a foreign jurisdiction and expect that they’ll have that knowledge and indeed the empathy for what people are going through. So we, you know, over 25 years, we’ve got a great set of codified knowledge about how to solve people’s concerns. We’ve got infrastructure around the country that allows us to cope with the burgeoning demand that you’re getting in times like this. So it’s being able to resolve. If you can resolve, you think about it. The problem that your connection has caused you today, it’s frustrating. It doesn’t allow you to work. You need to be able to resolve that and provide an answer. And that’s what we do.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Now you will maintain staff in the Philippines, though, won’t you
Luke Kenny: Yep, we do, because the Philippines for us is a vital component with its American history. They are a really well-educated English population, but where we find their benefit is in doing the digital services for us that involve answering messaging, inquiries, live chat and web inquiries, and that allows us to do the high value voice work, the really crucial moments of Aussie speaking with Aussies here, in country. So that’s great flexibility for us, but it’s specifically targeted to those engagements with their great English speaking background to be able to do digitally.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: I’m speaking this morning to Luke Kenny. He’s the CEO of the TSA Group, establishing a call centre right here in Perth. News to many of you and probably good news because so many of them now are overseas. How do you compete on price then? Because that’s the other thing that we get told time and time again is that it is just so much more economically viable sending these call centres overseas.
Luke Kenny: Yeah, and that’s a really good question because the crucial impact that’s happened is that these jobs can be brought back to Australia for good because the investments in technology and automation that COVID has forced us to generate, businesses now realise they can have their cake and eat it too. So they can bring their call centres work back home to Australia knowing that that Labor costs difference can be offset by the technology driven efficiencies. So that’s been a game changer, Nadia, about the ability to actually take cost out from automating through technology and being able to offset that against, you know, it’ll never change. The labor arbitrage is substantially more in Australia.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: How many roles over the next few years, particularly in Perth?
Luke Kenny: Oh wow. Look, it’s been it’s been 231 up until yesterday. We think we’ll get to 300 by the end of this financial year and then we think next year is at least another 300. And beyond that, with the amount of volumes that we’re seeing come back into country, I think there’ll be thousands of roles. Nadia, I actually think we’re on the cusp of a golden era, and after 25 years of operating, we feel like a 25 year old start up. So it’s really important that we will continue to be able to do that because of the WA Government grant we received back in December 2020 from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation. And the Government, that scheme, has been really important in allowing us to invest in marketing, invest in wages, invest in the tech required to enable remote working. So no, we think at least the same quantum of jobs going into next financial year and increasingly growing over the next few years. So it’s an exciting time for us.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Luke Kenny, the CEO of the TSA Group. And finally, Luke, do you think businesses realise how important good service is in a call centre? Because it is very hard sometimes to actually speak to somebody when you have a complaint or a query to make.
Luke Kenny: Yeah, absolutely they do. And as I said at the outset, Nadia, I think if you can call a benefit of COVID, one of the benefits has been the Australian corporates we represent, recognising how vitally important the conversations are to be had with their customers and to be delivered by a competent, reliable Australian organisation. So I think that’s what I say in my view, these jobs are back for good and the businesses, the Australian corporates, are now seeing that they get higher customer satisfaction, they get greater control and oversight of their customer interactions. And it’s also great to be supporting the Australian economy and I don’t think that’s something that businesses are going to be prepared to sacrifice.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Nice to talk to you, Luke Kenny. Thank you for your time.
Luke Kenny: Thanks, Nadia. Much appreciate it.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX consultancy and contact centre services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.