Telecom hangs up on 250 Kiwis

It’s not only the Government – the Labour one we dumped, not the splendid government we have now – that gets into social engineering. Or cultural engineering, if you prefer.

Today we learn Telecom’s call-centre workers in the Philippines “will be trained to talk like New Zealanders, learning slang words and mastering the Kiwi accent as part of a move to outsource 250 jobs.”

Outsourcing 250 jobs to the Philippines, of course, is a mealy-mouthed way of saying Telecom will be kicking 250 workers out of work in this country and giving their jobs to foreigners. If Telecom’s Kiwi cast-offs don’t get new jobs in a hurry, we taxpayers will be left giving the poor buggers a helping hand with dole payments.

But Telecom doesn’t want us to know we’ve been lumbered with a foreigner who wouldn’t know Eketahuna from Timbuktu, or a Kiwi from a Hottentot, when we get through (if we can) to a real person at one of their call centres.

It wants us to think we are talking with genuine Kiwis.

Telecom, which has announced it will axe the call-centre jobs in New Zealand and shift them to Manila, will put the new employees through a two-month training session.
Once completed, some would sound like “authentic Kiwis”.

Alf supposes this means they will be able to say “bugger me”, and “Alf, you old bastard”, and “your’ shout”, and “Fred’s chucking up in the dunny” with the best of us.

To what purpose?

British-based Rob O’Malley, whose company employs more than 3500 call-centre workers in the Philippines, bemusingly does much of the explaining for the purposes of the Dom-Post’s report.l

His role in all this was not explained – a serious lack of curiosity on behalf of the newspaper – but he said the results of training foreigners are often “staggering”.

“You wouldn’t know they are in Manila. You would think they are in an office somewhere in Auckland that’s how good they are.

“The call-centre workers have to be the real deal and do everything better than if they were in New Zealand. Someone from the Philippines with no training would struggle to understand someone with a strong Kiwi accent, straight off the street.”

He also said criticism that call-centres in the Philippines were poor quality and a way for companies to save money was true several years ago, but the standard had now changed.

Perhaps he’s right about the quality (Alf will reserve judgement).

But he also says companies are attracted to outsourcing work to the Philippines because Filipinos speak good English “and would do the jobs for lower wages”. This plainly means (if you ever doubted it) Telecom is cutting costs.

Its shareholders, of course, will be delighted.

But Alf wonders if the company fully explored all the efficiency possibilities on offer here in Newzild.

He reckons we could muster a good gang of workers here in Eketahuna, to staff a call centre. A couple of rooms down at the boozer could be wired up quickly enough to do the job.

The Eketahunans would be cheaper than in the big cities. And they would not have to be taught how to muster a good old “kia ora, bro” when appropriate.

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