Telstra says it will have Australian agents answer all inbound calls from 2022.

Telstra has lost capacity in its offshore centres in India and the Philippines due to COVID-related lockdowns, forcing it to suspend some of the activity handled offshore, and hire over 1,000 new agents in Australia.

It now appears that the changes made during COVID-19 will become permanent.

“Whilst we have managed to move large amounts of this work online, and to Australia, we are very conscious of the impact that it's had and is still having on some of our customers as they tried to contact us over a voice call,” Telstra CEO Andy Penn told a Trans Tasman Business Circle event last week.

“In fact, some of you in the audience today may have also been affected, and I therefore wanted to apologise for the delays and thank everybody for your patience.

“For us though there is no doubt, therefore, that this is the right time for us to continue and again think differently about our customer service in the future.

“Of the things that we have implemented on a temporary basis to help us through this time, which of those can we make permanent?”

Mr Penn said Telstra maintains its inbound calling capacity “for customers who want to call us for more complex support, and also for those Australians who are not as comfortable using digital tools”.

“What it will also mean is that over time, we will need a smaller call centre workforce for our consumer and small business customers,” he said.

“In fact, our aspiration is that by the end of our T22 [2022 transformation] program, all inbound calls from these customers will be answered in Australia.

“Then, what will happen is that this, in turn, will enable our teams in the Philippines and India to continue to support our digital experiences.

“The majority of our interactions will occur digitally and we will be able to continue to use our capabilities in places like the Philippines and India to do that.”