Greenstone repatriates call centre

Greenstone Energy is reversing a trend by bringing home jobs that were previously outsourced overseas.

The new owner of Shell's New Zealand retail and distribution business signed a deal yesterday which will bring the company's call centre in the Philippines back to New Zealand from August 1.

The new contract with Telnet, New Zealand's largest privately owned call centre operation, will create a dozen fulltime Kiwi jobs.

It brings the number of local jobs Greenstone has created since buying the Shell business in April to 40. Most of the jobs – including roles in treasury management, marketing, asset management and credit functions – were previously based overseas.

Chief executive Mike Bennetts said Greenstone had important points of difference from its competitors, including building "in-country expertise".

"We're locally owned and operated, the returns from our business are retained here for the benefit of New Zealanders and, while competitors are moving jobs offshore, we're creating jobs and investment in New Zealand.

"While Shell was previously paying for these roles globally, as local owners we are now in a position to keep these costs and benefits within New Zealand," Mr Bennetts said.

Greenstone believes there are two critical attributes of a world-class Kiwi company – "world-class customer service and investing in New Zealand and its people" – and the company said these were core to its decision.

Mr Bennetts said that in creating jobs, Greenstone preferred to partner with leading New Zealand companies, and that was the approach behind its contract with Telnet.

Telnet founder and chief executive John Chetwynd said the announcement marked the "coming home" of call centre operations to New Zealand.

"Greenstone and Telnet agree that being Kiwi-owned counts for little if it's not backed up by world-class performance.

"We work hard on delivering cost efficiencies alongside cutting-edge technology and friendly staff, delivered locally.

"It's this combined strategy that is paying off for Telnet," Mr Chetwynd said.

The argument that "better cultural alignment with Kiwis talking to Kiwis being good for New Zealand business" is apparently not the only benefit to the Greenstone-Telnet deal.

While not divulging figures, Greenstone said bringing the call centre back to New Zealand would "realise significant cost savings in the provision of that service – particularly in the IT and telephony costs".

Mr Chetwynd said about 70 per cent of input cost in the contact centre industry was labour, and from an economic perspective, "that is a very strong driver to outsource offshore".

"But what we are doing in New Zealand is that we are using technology in a smarter way, specifically in the way we capture information and build knowledge bases from the type of calls the customers are making and the queries they have.

"We are really looking pragmatically at what is happening and then using technology to service customers better and faster. The benefit corporates get from this balances the effect of labour cost when decisions are made," Mr Chetwynd said.

Mr Bennetts said being able to demonstrate a tangible commitment to New Zealand was being welcomed by staff, customers and suppliers, and he expected Greenstone's unique position would deliver competitive advantage.

BusinessDay.co.nz