Fairfax brings Manila call centre back to Palmerston North

Fairfax contact centre director Christian Smith, right, will manage the inbound and outbound call centres in Palmerston ...

Fairfax contact centre director Christian Smith, right, will manage the inbound and outbound call centres in Palmerston North.

Palmerston North's newest call centre is part of a tide of offshore contact centres returning to New Zealand.

Fairfax's new inbound call centre  is expected to be up and running by October, after which customers calling about classified ads or public notices will no longer be connected to Manila in the Philippines.

The new call centre will employ two team leaders and 18 sales advisers, who will join the 20 employees at the company's outbound call centre, which opened a year ago on The Square, in the same building as the company's Manawatu newsroom.

Fairfax publishes titles such as the Manawatu Standard, Feilding-Rangitikei Herald, and The Tribune in Palmerston North, and metropolitan dailies including The Dominion Post in Wellington and The Press in Christchurch, as well as the Stuff website.

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Fairfax group sales director Gareth Codd said customer feedback suggested people preferred to deal with sales advisers based in New Zealand. 

When  the contract  with its outbound call centre in the Philippines finished, Fairfax relocated it to Palmerston North. Now the inbound centre is to join it.

"By bringing those two contact centres back onshore, it creates a much greater constancy, better flexibility, and an overall improved customer experience," Codd said.

Accelerate 25 programme director Craig Nash said Fairfax's decision reflected a larger trend towards  call centre jobs returning to New Zealand.

The jobs were often better-paid roles that required more experienced and skilled staff, however.

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Nash said those kinds of roles needed people with the social skills to build trust with  clients, as well as the experience to know their service inside and out, and companies had to pay these people enough to retain them.

"That's pretty difficult to achieve in low-wage economies, like the Philippines.

"The trend is now for critical [roles] to come back to New Zealand, and Palmerston North is well positioned to take up those jobs."

With 30 contact centres in Manawatu, many run by national organisations such as Foodstuffs, the city has built up a pool of experienced workers in the industry.

That was one of the main reasons Fairfax settled on Palmerston North when it came time to bring its contact centres back onshore, Codd said.

"It gave us access to a pool of highly skilled people, and so it made sense to build on that."

The 2015 Manawatu/Whanganui Regional Growth Study found the region's contact centres also had an advantage over the big cities in staff turnover.

While larger cities like Auckland and Sydney saw 40 to 50 per cent of their staff leave each year, in Manawatu/Whanganui it was only 6 to10 per cent.

Fairfax started advertising for the new call centre's two team leaders last weekend, and will begin the four-week recruitment process for the sales advisers this week.

 - Stuff


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