How Telstra’ Moe call centre employees have been replaced by a more efficient robot voice and Telstra’s select system of categorising their mobile phone subscribers.

Three years ago Telstra opened a mobile phones call centre in Moe. It was contracted out to a call centre contractor called TeleTech.

As you may be aware, the Latrobe Valley had and still has some of the worst unemployment in not just Victoria but Australia as a result of mass unemployment from the sell off of the states power stations to get rid of Victoria’s debt.

Telstra has now decided to get rid of the TeleTech contractor at Moe and is taking over the call centre so it is owned and run by Telstra. The workers in Moe will no longer be outside contractors, but actual Telstra employees.

To do this the TeleTech contracts will end with the workers there in February and approx 250 to 300 workers had to reapply for the jobs they’ve been doing for three years.

Telstra promised “most” of the people there would be re employed.

The job offers were sent out yesterday and approximately 30 to 50 people in Moe were essentially given the sack (the figures are still a bit shaky – people are still in shock and disorganised).

There are some important points that wont be released by Telstra.

Robot voice

The reason so many were laid off is because the (much hated by Telstra customers) new robotic voice (its called the IVR by the workers) introduced at the end of last year is so more efficient at sending calls to more specialised call centres that the calls to the Moe centre have dropped off in number.

So the Robot voice which Telstra loves but customers hate has cost workers jobs. You’ll have less contact with a human and more contact with a robot in future.

Customer categories

This is a big secret most people aren’t aware of but should be. All the customers ringing up Moblie Phones customer service at Telstra are divided up into categories based on their financial position. The robots work this out by taking your phone number and by deciding how much you spend every month, put you into a category. At Moe, they look after the poorest people who need some of the most help. They also used to take the overflow where the calls that couldn’t be put into one of the categories. The consultant at Moe would work where the call should really go, then transfer them there. It happens less these days because of the robot voice.

The categories are:

  • ‘SELECT’ – People who spend under 50$
    Manly mums and dads, kids, elderly people – people who don’t use mobiles much and often need a lot of guidance and a helping hand. All these calls go to the Moe call centre.
  • ‘PLUS’ – people who spend between 50$ and 100$
  • ‘PREFERRED’ – high users who spend from 100$ upwards
  • ‘FIRST’ – cash cows, high rollers, business people – people who spend thousands every month
  • CORPORATE/KEY ACCOUNTS – large companies have there own call centres/specialists

For your interest, you should ring up 125111 and see how the consultants flounder when you talk about the different categories that’s supposed to be a big secret.

Money, money, money

Another big secret that customers should know is that Customer service has been changed to Customer Service and Sales. So every time a customer rings up for help, the consultant is talking to the customer about general stuff and then looking through their account and how much they spend to see if they can sell them a new plan. This happens on every call. Even when people just want basic help. The consultants are forced by Telstra to meet a sales quota every day. If they don’t meet it, they get in trouble from their Team Leader.

At Moe, they probably kept those consultants who make them the most money from customers and got rid of the others who made less. No matter how good they were with the customers or how helpful they were.

You might want to speak to the Union Reps who look after the Moe Call Centre, Hayden Jones and Emily Benardos. You might want to tell them an anonymous member of their union sent this to Crikey.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off