Telstra taps CBA to win customers

Telstra has sought advice from Commonwealth Bank on how to improve its popularity with its millions of customers Australia-wide.

Telstra has sought advice from Commonwealth Bank on how to improve its popularity with its millions of customers Australia-wide.

But the telecommunications major has no plans to scale back its outsourcing of call centres.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessDay's Malcolm Maiden, chief executive David Thodey revealed that Telstra had consulted Commonwealth Bank on the telco's plan to win over customers, a project requiring big changes to Telstra's processes, technology and culture.

Mr Thodey said the formerly government-owned CBA had "a lot of parallels" with Telstra, and he took heart from the bank's success in transforming its customer satisfaction ratings under the leadership of former chief executive Ralph Norris.

According to Roy Morgan research, consumer satisfaction with CBA reached 80 per cent in January, the highest rating of the big four and the bank's best rating since the survey began in 1996.

"It was seven years before they climbed to be number one, and we are what, two or three years into our journey," Mr Thodey said.

Telstra has lifted the net promoter score that rates its popularity with its customers into positive territory overall, but Mr Thodey said the company still had a long way to go.

But one difference between the strategies of CBA and Telstra was that the bank had not sent processing and call centre jobs offshore. Telstra runs local call centres, but also has a significant call centre operation in the Philippines.

Mr Thodey said that while he understood some customers were more comfortable hearing an Australian accent on the other end of the line, the first priority was to give "a great customer experience, irrespective of where that contact centre is".

He added that Telstra was not just an Australia-focused group, but a regionally focused one, with people from many cultures employed.

"Cost comes into it - I'm a businessman," he says. "But we honestly start with an improved service outcome. Even if the cost per call is very low, if the customer has to ring back, all the economies go out the door."

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