Call-centre firms coming home to roost
Australian call centre company CallActive expects to take on nearly 100 people in Wellington by Christmas, handling calls on behalf of Infratil's Australian electricity and gas business, Lumo.
A move into Christchurch could come later.
Prime Minister John Key and CallActive co-owner and chief executive Rick Allan formally opened the company's new call centre on Wellington's Willeston St yesterday.
The "proudly Australian-owned" private company said it now employed 50 staff at the centre, where it handles inbound and outbound calls for discount pay-television venture Igloo and for Trustpower.
CallActive has kitted out the first floor of the Guardian Trust building, which has been designed to house 182 call centre staff, and has first rights to lease two more floors that would let it expand its Wellington workforce to 500.
The company, which employs 1300 staff at its Melbourne headquarters, said in May that it hoped to employ 2000 staff in New Zealand within a few years. Mayoral candidate John Morrisson helped raise its interest in setting up shop in the capital during a visit to Melbourne last year.
Allan said that once CallActive had grown to employ 500 in Wellington, it would probably look to open another facility in Christchurch.
CallActive has been marketing New Zealand as a quality, but still low-cost alternative to locating call centres in the Philippines or India.
Chief operating officer Nathan Burke said many Australian firms were seeking to repatriate their call centres from Asia because of "quality of service problems" that were exacerbated by high staff turnover, but some could not justify a return to Australia.
New Zealand offered about 25 per cent lower costs, mainly because wages were lower, so was an attractive alternative.
CallActive picked Wellington for its New Zealand bridgehead over Auckland and other cities because of the generally high standard of education and because Wellingtonians tended to have weaker accents, he said.
But Allan said it was pleasing its first two clients were local firms.
CallActive aimed to make Wellington and then New Zealand a hub for "customer management organisations" around the world and "put it on the global map", he said. "I think there is an opportunity to bring thousands of jobs into New Zealand."
Key said more Australian businesses were looking to set up in New Zealand.
"Business confidence is at a 14-year high and the Reserve Bank is looking closely at interest rates because the economy is growing so fast and that, in a funny kind of way, is a positive problem to have.
"You are going to see some pretty strong growth into next year and unemployment falling reasonably rapidly."
CallActive's New Zealand business is being managed by 24 year-old Australian Clancy Brodick who began his career making outbound sales calls for the company from its Melbourne office five years ago.
He said new staff could expect to earn about $19 an hour.
- © Fairfax NZ News