Telstra hangs up on call centres, stalls IM adoption

Lies have made customers wary

Telstra's poor infrastructure is stalling the uptake of instant messaging (IM) by Australia's largest call centres.

Australia's call centre industry has been slow to adopt IM because poor telecommunications infrastructure means the technology falls short of projected return on investment (ROI) forecasts provided by vendors.

Telco analyst Paul Budde blamed Telstra's monopoly on Australia's telecommunications network for lack of adoption by local call centres.

"Nowhere in the world is there a single teleco giant that owns the entire nation's infrastructure in such a way; they want to monopolize [telecommunications] by excluding competition and this is stalling essential development," Budde said.

"While [this issue] is dragged through the courts, Australian business is lagging behind global competitors."

Call Centres Managers Forum director Niels Kjellerup agreed, pointing out that call centres are forced to ditch IM because it cannot meet projected ROIs.

"[Some] vendors have lied to call centres about the ROIs of Web communication technology, they have lied through advertising documents and [call centres] have been tricked into investing so they have become very wary of the technology," Kjellerup said.

"These ROIs have not been met because our broadband network is so slow it is laughable; [however] customers are gradually coming back, because vendors are using more realistic ROIs."

Callcentres.net director Dr Catriona Wallace said while call centres have been deterred by unmet ROIs, they should reconsider Web communication investment because of generation Y demand.

"Vendors have promised unrealistic ROIs for IM technology which have not been realized." Because of Australia's poor demand for Web-based services and vendors were put-off Web communication technology, Wallace said.

She said a survey commissioned by Callcentres.net which collected 113 responses from Asia-Pacific region call centres in September found only 3 percent use online chat to communicate with clients, compared to 35 percent in other regions.

"These results are influenced partly by Australia's [telecommunications] infrastructure and partly because some Asian call centres simply mimic their US and European head offices," she said.

"However, Telstra is very keen to catch up and those [call centres] that are early IM adopters will fly and those that avoid it will be left behind."

Telstra media representative Peter Taylor said broadband adoption in Australia is growing rapidly.

"Already, close to 90 percent of the population has access to ADSL [while] around [25 percent] of Australians have broadband connected at home," Taylor said.

"According to Roy Morgan, more than 4.6 million Australians had broadband connected at home at the end of 2005 [while] the number of people with broadband connected at home has grown by at least 100,000 every quarter since 2002."

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