news Adelaide-based ISP Internode this week revealed to staff that it would set up its first ever offshore call centre, in a move that represents a radical departure of the company’s customer service and sales approach since its acquisition by iiNet and then TPG.
Historically Internode has maintained a strong customer service base in its home city of Adelaide. The ISP is known for its local customer service agents that have historically had a stronger technical background than staff from other Internet service providers, reflecting Internode’s overall stronger technical focus.
However, in an email to iiNet and Internode customer service teams on Wednesday this week, iiNet general manager of customer service Mathew Conn told staff that Internode now needed to seek “a little help from our friends”.
“It’s with excitement and positivity that we’d like to announce, that Internode, for the first time in the brand’s history, will be seeking some help from friends outside of Adelaide,” Conn told staff. “Along with the new staff recruited in Adelaide, we’ll be creating a small team to begin in Cape Town South Africa, the team will begin by being trained in Sales to support the superstars in Adelaide!”
Internode parent iiNet has long operated a call centre in South Africa.
Conn told staff that the “expanded” team members would be a “fully fledged part of our team and culture”.
“They will be filling gaps in our roster, that have historically been difficult to fill (Public Holidays, Weekends etc), and will give us greater flexibility within our opening hours for our existing staff members in Adelaide. We have long needed the backup that the rest of the group gets, and this is a magnificent opportunity for our brand to share in the follow the sun philosophy,” he said.
Conn said that iiNet senior customer service manager Ari Crellin would be heading to South Africa to support the new call centre, and “to give them a little bit of that Node Culture”, although Crellin would not be permanently based outside of Australia.
In answer to the question of why Internode was carrying out the change, he said: “It is part of the overall long term strategy that provides efficiency, effectiveness and ultimately allows us to provide a consistent level of support to customers.”
However, Conn intimated that the change would not affect Internode’s Adelaide-based staff much.
“It really is status quo, we also have a new team beginning in Adelaide on the 11th April,” he said.
Conn acknowledged the change would have some impact on Internode’s customers, because “they’ve never had to speak to anyone outside of Adelaide”.
The executive said if customers asked about the change, they were to be told: “We have a small team in Cape Town that supports us and our customers, this allows us to service a larger range of hours, more efficiently!”
“This is something that the rest of the business/brands already do with great success, I am confident we will see the same success with the Node brand!” Conn concluded. “Obviously changes like this take time so provide all the support you can whilst these guys get up to speed.”
Since iiNet bought Internode, and since TPG bought iiNet, rapid change has been taking place inside these companies. Internode — and iiNet — are plainly no longer the companies we used to know and love.
I predict that Internode will eventually start losing staff in Adelaide as a result of this change. The South African customer service agents will plainly be significantly cheaper, and willing to work in significantly worse conditions. We’ve seen this change a thousand times before, in larger companies such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone etc.
TPG itself is known to have offshored a large portion of its call centre staff to locations such as the Phillipines. It will be absolutely no surprise to see TPG shift Internode jobs offshore as well.