Answering your customer support calls in our own backyard
By Kate CotterSeptember 8, 2021
Eighteen months ago, our call centre teams packed up and moved home. It took just three weeks for us to completely redefine our contact centre model. This is a fundamental shift, which gives our customer service teams flexible working opportunities. We’ve also committed to answering all voice calls in Australia by the end of June 2022, and with our contact centre teams at home, they could be answering calls from down your street or over the back fence.
Unlike office workers, moving contact centre teams home meant we had to create a bespoke operating system to allow our teams to access Telstra systems remotely. We also needed to ensure each agent had the right tech, a secure connection and a few other security checks to get them online at home.
While Telstra employees have long been able to work flexibly, our customer support centres were one area of our business that was an outlier. This move has allowed Telstra call centre team members to redefine how they work and embrace a better work life balance – both here and overseas.
We are a leader in the future workplace as we can recruit based on talent rather than location – and that means more opportunities for regional Australia.
We’ve now fully expanded the working from home tools for our staff in India and the Philippines which keeps our teams safer, reducing their risk of community transmission by eliminating their commute to the office. Working from home also gives them the flexibility to care for friends and family members as both countries manage a high number of COVID-19 cases.
In Australia, we’ve seen many staff take the opportunity to relocate to be closer to family, to change their lifestyle and in one case to be able to train for the Tokyo Olympics while working from home.
We’ve also seen firsthand how being able to work from home has helped our agents have a better rapport with our customers, as the conversation sometimes evolves from a particular issue to our common experiences and sharing tips on working from home in the pandemic.
This new way of working for contact centres is something we’ll continue to evolve as we work towards having all consumer and small business calls answered in Australia by the end of June 2022.
Customer Service and Contact Centres Executive -
Kate joined Telstra in March 2021 as the Customer Service and Telstra Contact Centres Executive in Consumer and Small Business, serving our millions of customers from multiple locations in Australia, the Philippines and India.
Prior to joining Telstra, Kate was most recently Head of Group Operations at Jetstar Airways. Kate led operations transformation and operations support functions across Jetstar airlines in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam. She has also held leadership roles in strategy at Jetstar & Qantas Group, commercial and strategy roles in the Energy sector, and in strategy and transformation as a Principal with The Boston Consulting Group.
Kate lives in Melbourne with her husband Michael and their two teenage children.
We’re bringing on new team members from across the country to help support our customers during this difficult time. Many of our new starters are from industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, such as travel and tourism – amongst others.
The energy, positivity and drive being displayed has been nothing short of electrifying. It has been great to see our new starters embrace the training and seeing them go live with their first calls is simply an incredible result for our customers.
I’d like to introduce you to four of our new team members who join us from Bathurst, Adelaide, Melbourne and even one from her own home.
Lyndall Hutchins, Melbourne
A previous employee of Telstra, Lyndall re-joins us from Australian Company Aussie Travel Saver, which supplies travel and everyday discount cards to tourists. With tourism coming to a halt, general manager of the company, Lyndall, wanted to keep as many of her employees in a job as possible.
To do this, she made the difficult decision to step down from her role for the foreseeable future so that others in her team could continue to work.
“I feel like I have come home after having spent 24 years of my life here.
“Ultimately it’s the amazing people who make a business a great place to work and that’s what I am really passionate about adapting into my every day at Telstra. I want to ensure our new starters are empowered with knowledge and confidence to do their job well.”
Patrick Leano, Adelaide
Until recently Patrick worked at Adelaide Airport, checking in passengers for departures, and as a supervisor there he managed issues and customer service problems.
Patrick is also a returner to Telstra, having worked in our retail stores prior to his move into aviation. “I really enjoyed working for Telstra, so when I stepped down due to COVID-19, coming back to Telstra was an easy decision to make.”
“My experience so far has been great. The first day was a bit strange and I didn’t know what to expect from learning online, however the experience so far has been really good. The virtual training sessions have been really engaging!”
James Hansen, Melbourne
Previously a Fundraiser Coordinator at World Vision, James worked on major campaigns such as the 40 Hour Famine, as well as being a professional runner. Hansen was meant to be lacing up his shoes at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, but is now running a different race, using his talents to open an online coaching clinic.
James has been a Telstra customer his whole life so coming to work in the customer service team feels very familiar.
“I’m really enjoying working for such a well-known company! I haven’t been involved in such a technical role before but the trainers we’ve had and the team around us have been awesome. I feel extremely supported and equipped to start what is essentially a complicated role”.
Kate Dickson, Bathurst
A 19-year veteran of Flight Centre Travel Group, Kate is taking advantage of our flexible working arrangements by working from home. “Telstra is another great Australian company and brand to be proud to be a part of. I had a feeling they’d have great staff support and systems training and it definitely is, and I wanted to be able to work from home during these times.”
“It really has been amazing to feel instantly welcomed as part of the Telstra family.”
“The local staff here in Bathurst have been supportive and welcoming. We know this training & work from home situation is being created as we go, and Lyndsay Bayne and Ryan Mills have been amazing and provided a really supportive environment. There’s a lot to learn and I feel excited and nervous about becoming an NBN Faults Consultant next week!”
Claire is the Telstra Contact Centres Executive, responsible for our domestic centres and complaints. Claire has worked for Telstra for more than 20 years and has worked across many teams and functions that have centred around her passion for customer service improvement. Claire has completed university studies in International Business and an MBA, has been awarded the qualification of GAICD by the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and holds a board position with a not-for-profit organisation.
Earlier this year on Friday 4 May, Telstra experienced a service disruption that affected the ability for some people to call Triple Zero. The disruption was due to the combined impact of three separate network issues – a hardware fault, fire damage to a main inter-capital fibre cable, and a software fault.
We take our responsibilities as the service provider for Triple Zero (000) extremely seriously. One failed call to Triple Zero is one too many and we apologise again for what occurred.
Following the Triple Zero disruption, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Department of Communications and the Arts (DoCA) commenced investigations into what occurred and today both have released their findings.
The ACMA found Telstra had contravened section 22 of the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009 and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 by failing to ensure that all emergency calls were carried to our 000 emergency services answering point.
The DoCA has made 11 recommendations on improvements to infrastructure, processes and communications that Telstra, industry and Government could make to reduce the risk of similar disruptions in the future. Telstra has already established a program of work directed to the recommendations of the DoCA, and a number of these have already been completed.
The events of 4 May 2018 were complex and unprecedented, and Telstra responded by conducting its own extensive investigation into what occurred in order to identify further process and network improvements. We also worked cooperatively with the ACMA and the Federal Government on their own investigations.
We have also entered into an enforceable undertaking with the ACMA to make and maintain a number of improvements including to:
our monitoring and fault detection processes and systems
our network redundancy and diversity for emergency calls
our infrastructure and software
Importantly we are also working with Emergency Services Organisations and other network operators to develop a crisis communications plan and protocols in the unlikely event a similar incident occurs in the future.
Telstra has a long and proud history in providing critical telecommunications services to Australians and has been operating the Triple Zero answer service for more than 50 years. As DoCA has recognised in its report, Telstra’s historical performance in delivering the service has been high.
As the Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs, Jane leads Telstra’s engagement with regulators and key policy makers on a broad range of issues affecting the company and our customers. She also advises internally on Telstra’s regulatory compliance.
Are you the go-to geek at home? We’ve got you covered
By Craig NewtonMay 31, 2018
Are you the go-to family member that everyone targets with their IT problems? Do the people you live with ask you for help with their phone, computer or internet? It’s nice that they think you’ll have all the answers. But what happens when you don’t know the solution, or don’t have the time or patience to find it?
Telsyte has recently found that the average Australian household had 17.1 internet connected devices in 2018, up from 13.7 in 2017, predicting that this number will grow to 37 by 2022.* And with the introduction of voice assistants and other IoT devices continuing to boost these devices in Australian homes, it’s only natural that the tech questions will be coming faster and more frequently.
Our insights here at Telstra support this, showing that online searches for troubleshooting tech issues in the home is on the rise. More and more Australians are heading online to find answers, with searches such as device set up, software upgrades and connectivity issues topping the list.**
No one can be expected to have all the answers to help with the set up and optimisations of the myriad of PCs, phones, gadgets, software and apps available today. It is a huge ask to keep up to date with how everything works together and it’s difficult to know where you can turn to, what sites you can trust and which tools are safe.
So, to help with this, we have developed a range of trusted resources across:
All these resources are a great way to improve knowledge, so you’re fully equipped. Alternatively, you can use them to help give family and friends a little nudge in the right direction so they can help themselves!
CrowdSupport® is our online community to connect our customers on a platform where they can ask questions, or search for answers in a managed tech forum. It’s the place to go for that tricky problem you can’t seem to solve – you’ll often find complex answers here, along with reassurance that you’re not alone in experiencing a particular issue.
For help with mobile services, there is a brilliant set of tips and how to guides for our smart phones, mobiles and tablets. Our range of interactive guides provide easy to follow steps to learn how to set up email, organise contacts, access the internet, to get help with messaging and apps, and much more.
For advice on staying safe online and protecting your privacy, our Cyber Safety page provides top tips for securing your device, helping you protect your personal information, keeping your kids safe with device use along with a set of great resources and tools.
On top of these, our Platinum team have just launched a new series of articles to help with the most common tech issues our customers ask for help with. The articles give tips and advice when setting up new tech, using new features as well as solving and staying out of a tech crisis.
Where to turn to when all else fails, or it’s just too hard
If you simply can’t find the answer, our Platinum team are always here to help. We offer expert support and advice with our ongoing paid subscription services to provide ongoing support online, over the phone or instore. We also have a range of affordable once off services for help when your own go-to geek is not available, or you just need to get something set up or fixed right now!
Our team can provide expert technical advice for most Australian devices. This includes devices purchased from us or from other retailers – it doesn’t matter if your phone or internet service is with Telstra, if you’re a Telstra Platinum customer we can help.
* Telsyte Australian IoT@Home Market Study 2018 ** Telstra Brandwatch Report Month End March 2018
General Manager Platinum Services – Innovation and Strategy -
Craig has 19 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry leading teams developing new products, network improvements and process improvement programs across fixed, broadband and mobile portfolios. He currently leads our Platinum Service team, who are focused on driving improvements in our customer help and technical support beyond the typical boundaries into applications and IOT services. In his spare time Craig can be found down at North Burleigh Surf Club (the best beach and surf club in Australia) with his wife and champion nipper daughters who he trains, but prefers to no longer race, as they now leave him in their wash.
My story: connecting Cambodia to the world after the Khmer Rouge regime
By Andrew HankinsJanuary 19, 2018
In his 25 years at Telstra, our international head of network evolution, Andrew Hankins, has never backed down from a challenge. That includes relocating to Cambodia – as a graduate engineer – to help facilitate the nation’s first international calls after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.
I remember my first network job; perhaps more profoundly than most. It’s probably because it led me all the way from my home in Sydney to Phnom Penh less than 10 years after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
The country was in a state of flux.
Before my time in Cambodia, I began my career as a junior graduate engineer at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) in Sydney. I was 21 years old and had never left the country. At the time OTC (now Telstra) was charged with responsibility for all international connectivity into and out of Australia.
I worked in the satellite services team, testing and installing antennas and building small earth satellite stations. My first posting was at the Oxford Falls Cable Station in Sydney.
My time abroad with OTC started in an unlikely place – an AIDAB (now AusAID) aid project in Laos as part of an Australian government program in the late 80s. It opened my eyes to a different world; one where I was empowered to act and use my skills to make a real difference in places where it was needed.
Not long after this experience, OTC offered me the opportunity to join a four-month project to build a Satellite Earth Station in Cambodia. It was 1991 and the Vietnamese military had just withdrawn after a 10-year occupation. The newly-formed State of Cambodia faced the difficult task of maintaining stability amidst the potential guerrilla warfare.
The satellite station construction was the first project under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement with the Cambodian Ministry of Telecommunications. We were tasked with building and jointly operating the country’s international telecommunications infrastructure which would, after 10 years, be returned to the government. At that time, the only international links were a handful of circuits to Hanoi and Moscow and it was nearly impossible to make a simple phone call out of the country.
Cambodia looked very different 28 years ago. The only foreigners in Phnom Penh were from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. Children playing in the streets would often assume we were Russian. Each morning, I would ride my bicycle to work at the satellite station and local students would ride beside me and ask questions to practice their English.
Although it was illegal to learn English in Cambodia at the time, they would innocently ask questions like, “what is your function [job]?” or “do you still have a family?” It was grimly telling. In the absence of many western staples, simple items like cornflakes became a small reminder of home. The post-war conditions saw Cambodia largely disconnected from the rest of the world.
During the testing and commissioning phase of the satellite station installation, we would work under the moonlight from 10PM until dawn. This was the testing window allocated by Intelsat (a satellite services provider). During these hours, the streets were always eerily empty. There was a nationwide curfew in place and Cambodians were required to stay in their houses at night.
To get to the cable station we would pass through the maze of roadblocks scattered across the city. What would normally be a straightforward set-up was instead fraught with challenges. One of the largest was interfacing our equipment with the country’s outdated 1920’s French operator panel. Within weeks of establishing better service, international call traffic grew about 1000 per cent.
After travelling home to Australia for 12 months, I was quick to return to Cambodia – this time as Telstra’s Operations Manager. At just 23 years of age, I became responsible for a large part of the country’s telecommunications network.
We began training around 20 local Ministry staff to operate the facilities, most of whom had studied telecommunications or electronics in places like East Germany, Hungary or Russia. Local switchboard operators received lessons from a lively Australian woman, who had flown over to impart knowledge on long distance call etiquette and fair practice.
During this time, we worked to install the country’s first automated international exchange to replace the old French model. This exchange provided automated calls and billing. Sadly, the original exchange had been partially destroyed in a sweeping attack at the height of the Khmer Rouge regime. Incredibly, we later heard stories of how the local workers had returned to the scene and rewired the exchange from memory. It was an incredible demonstration of their resilience.
In March 1992, a United Nations peacekeeping operation arrived in Cambodia bringing with them around 22,000 military and civilian personnel. It was a de-escalation process that would provide the Kingdom’s first national elections.
To enable the elections, a tender was opened for the installation of a telecom system across the country. It was a contract that Telstra won. At the height of this project, we had 50 Telstra staff in Cambodia building out a telephone network – linking all the provincial cities back to Phnom Penh. Not long after the election, Telstra also set up Cambodia’s first mobile phone number program based on our approach in Australia.
Rapidly, Cambodia was becoming a much larger international gateway. The exchange buildings were quickly upgraded to near-international standards with purpose-built air-conditioning and generators. We built larger antennas – one pointing to the Pacific Ocean and the other to the Indian Ocean thereby establishing direct satellite links to Australia, Thailand, the United States and Japan. Business was booming and traffic was growing at about 1000 per cent per year.
In 1994 I returned to Australia once again – this time for four years, and with support from Telstra I gained an MBA. But, Cambodia continued to be a magnet. In 1999, I went back to Cambodia as Country Manager and this time ran three businesses: international telecommunications, internet services (BigPond Cambodia) and a payphone business.
After an incredible 10 years, it was time to transfer the infrastructure to the Ministry thereby concluding our BOT agreement. At an official ceremony, in the presence of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, we handed over the physical keys to the foundational infrastructure. It’s a moment that’s etched in my memory. Each of us were awarded medals of service for our work to facilitate some of the country’s first international commercial calls.
The years that followed were markedly different. I arrived in San Francisco for a six month posting that became six years. Here, we would set-up some of Telstra’s first dedicated network in the United States. I suppose I had carved myself a name for taking on new challenges. In 2006, I would come full circle and return to Asia, settling in Hong Kong. It’s where I still reside today.
Establishing some of Cambodia’s first international links is among my most rewarding career achievements. From a 21 year old graduate to my role today as Telstra’s Head of Network Evolution, it’s the time in-between that stands out the most.
I always make a point of telling people starting out in their career to grab the opportunities that come your way – don’t hesitate. Grab them whenever they arise, no matter how unexpected.
After all, my story is living proof that you never know where the road will take you.
Andrew Hankins was appointed the Head of Network Evolution for Telstra Enterprise in September 2016. He is responsible for the architecture and planning of Telstra’s core international network, including the submarine cable, transmission and IP networks.
Andrew has over 25 years of experience in international telecommunications, during which he held senior positions in engineering, network planning, operations, and the international carrier business. Andrew has extensive industry experience in transmission, submarine cable, international telephony, satellite and internet technologies and platforms.
Prior to joining Telstra, Andrew worked at Reach for 10 years where his last held position was Director of Engineering. He previously held senior management positions with the company in the engineering and operations fields.
Andrew has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Technology, Sydney, and an honour degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Queensland.