In the midst of Covid19, offshoring takes a hit

By Our Reporter
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Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash

The Coronavirus pandemic is shaking up the global outsourcing industry. Lockdowns in India and the Philippines—among the major outsourcing centres of the world—are now prompting firms to “reshore” jobs. Also, with greater use of artificial intelligence during the lockdown there seem to be less need for “humans” in the call centre sector.

Restrictions on normal activity in these countries and others have created a logistical nightmare for the managers of call centres and other back-office operations for foreign corporations. For instance, due to restrictions in the Philippines, where the government has called for home isolation, several call centres are not functioning.

With mass cancellations due to the government’s ban on overseas flights, Virgin Australia, is struggling to handle customer enquiries. Qantas is having a similar problem with customers waiting for 5 to 6 hours to reach an operator. Telecommunications companies too like Telstra are suffering similar delays, with overseas call centres straining due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Optus was similarly affected.

Now, in an effort to prevent massive job losses across the sector, the Australian Information Industry Association recently wrote to the government urging it to exempt IT support services from the lockdowns on the basis that their role supporting “critical infrastructure and essential services” makes them ‘essential services’.

The situation has become so bad that industry watchdog the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has granted telecommunications companies extra time to respond to the expected “increase in urgent complaints”.

Companies now have 15 days to respond to non-urgent complaints referred by the TIO, up from the usual 10 while urgent complaints must still be resolved within two days.

Automation is now being flagged as a more viable and sustainable alternative to offshoring, but it can do little for the high-contact services now being affected. Telstra, for instance, which was already planning to slash customer service calls by two-thirds by 2022, now intends to accelerate its use of AI.


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