How Important Is It to Have Local Support Teams for Your ISP?


Anyone can relate to an experience where you’ve called up your broadband provider’s customer support line and spent hours merely communicating the problem, to no avail. This may have been an important technical or billing issue and how that conversation went down has formed our impression of the ISP for the rest of eternity. If you have ever consumed a service from the telecommunications industry, you cannot ignore the fact that the reputation of a telecom is heavily dependent on the customers experience they provide. A bad experience will lead to bad reviews and, therefore, a decline in sales.

While a lot of emphasis has already been placed on voice and tone of customer service representatives, a communication gap between these representatives and customers will result in an unpleasant cocktail of increased frustration levels and bad press. Now most offshore customer support staff speak English fluently, so language is not the issue here. The main problem lies in comprehending accent and idiom. Fair enough – not everyone speaks Aussie English.

Australians have an accent that is particularly unique and can best be understood by a trained ear. Every human being loves the sound of their own voice and we’re naturally more comfortable talking to one of our own, because we feel understood from the word go. There is a natural predilection to want to speak with someone who will understand our needs quickly and genuinely empathise with our situation, whatever it may be. Thus, it is no surprise that Australian broadband providers with locally based customer support are more popular than those that outsource their support internationally.

So why do some ISPs outsource their customer support?

The simple answer for Australian call centres going offshore is cost. For one, it’s significantly cheaper to hire offshore staff than an Australian worker. According to CX Central, the minimum annual salary of a full time contact centre agent in Australia is around $40,000, while a customer service agent in the Philippines would receive approximately $5,500 annually. For a 30-seat call centre, this difference in wages amounts to an annual savings of over $1M for every year of operation. South Africa, India, Malaysia, Fiji, and more recently Congo, are among countries that are investing significantly in attracting international businesses looking for cheaper contact centre labour.

The big players in the telecommunications industry re-invest their savings from cutting call centre costs into the product. This is how they are able to offer the best network, with the best combination of inclusions at competitive prices and still make a profit.

However, with multiple unfavourable reviews of experiences with outsourced customer support, ISPs are starting to offer customer support that is locally based. They’ve come to learn that Australian customer service can give them an edge over competitors because it goes to show that they are willing to put their customers first. They realise that their customers want to speak to an Australian, not to mention it creates more jobs in Australia as well.

According to the latest 2016 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman report, when compared to the previous year:

  • Vodafone (with Australian based call centres) saw a decrease in new complaints by 59.5%
  • iiNet, recently acquired by TPG, with a mix of Australian, New Zealand and South African call centres saw an increase in new complaints 48.2%
  • TPG, with a Philippines-based call centre, saw an increase in new complaints of 7.4%
  • Optus, with call centres in Australia and the Philippines, saw an increase in new complaints of 18.2%
  • Telstra Broadband and Mobile (mostly Philippines based for consumers except for the ‘recovery teams’ who happen to be Australian based) experienced a 3.2% decrease overall in new complaints.

NBN Broadband Plans

Core Internet Plan
  • Up to 20Mbps Standard Evening
  • 200GB Data
  • NBN 25™ Fixed Line
$75/mth
Min Cost - $1,899 if you stay connected for 24 mths

nbn™ Broadband Basic (Small)
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • 100GB Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
$50/mth
Min Cost - $50 over 1 mth

Unlimited Premium Month to Month
  • Up to 80Mbps Premium Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 100™ Fixed Line
$79.95/mth
$79.95 for first 12 months, $89.95 thereafter
Min Cost - 79.95 over 1 month

NBN Standard Plus Month to Month
  • Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
$70/mth
Min Cost - $130

good mates
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
$59/mth
Min Cost - $59

Australian and Overseas Customer Support

There are many broadband providers with Australian-only customer support teams such as Mate Communicate, Barefoot Telecom, Southern Phone, Aussie Broadband and Start Broadband.

  • Aussie Broadband customer support is based in Morwell in Gippsland, Victoria and they also have staff in Warrnambool, Victoria and Adelaide in South Australia. They also claim to not run scripts, other than those required for compliance reasons, and have a strict no nonsense approach when it comes to customer service.
  • Mate and Barefoot telecom are 100% Australian owned and pride themselves on employing local staff with a passion for providing outstanding customer service. Their customer service team is based in Western Sydney, NSW. You won’t find yourself spending hours on the phone listening to outdated music while waiting to be attended to and can expect their support staff to understand you quickly.
  • Southern Phone is another provider in the industry well known for its outstanding customer service, having won the Morgan Customer Satisfaction Award five years in a row. Their contact centre is based in Moruya, NSW and operate 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm. In addition to being locally based, they are also a very community focused organisation committed to investing back into the community. They are a true representation of a telecom that is by the people, of the people and for the people.

There are also broadband providers that have customer support based out of Australia but also overseas such as Optus, Vodafone, and Telstra. In some cases, customers might be directed first to the overseas call centre with escalations being forwarded to Australia while in other cases only overflow calls may be directed to overseas call centres.

Optus has customer contact teams in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, India and the Philippines that manage both telephone and online customer queries. Optus encourages exposure to a multicultural experience claiming that even an Australian based agent may sound like they are overseas. All contact centres adhere to the same high standards of service, regardless of location and regular feedback is provided to operators to improve customer satisfaction.

Vodafone has a similar approach to their customer service. The Vodafone customer service centre is based in Hobart and specialises in a range of areas including account management for Business Customers and consumer plans. Their aim is to provide high quality service with a view to drive great customer experience, regardless of location.

Does local customer support really matter?

This comes down to you – the customer. If you want the cheapest internet plans, 24/7 customer support then you’re likely going to get it from a broadband provider that has customer support services located outside of Australia. If you are willing to pay a little more and make use of 24/7 customer support that goes out of its way to look after you, then a broadband provider that stresses on localisation of jobs and service would align with your needs.

Call centres do not make for the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing plans, however it is a bonus to know that if you’re going to call them up in the event of an issue, they will not disappoint.

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