Australia’s cost of living crisis needs extreme customer care

As we enter into a new year, the cost-of-living crisis across Australia continues to bite into household budgets.

Rising interest rates and near 8% inflation have seen monthly mortgage payments rocket to record levels, food prices on every supermarket aisle jumped by almost 9% in the past eight weeks, house rental costs are up by 18% making it unaffordable for many, and elevated fuel costs have seen people forced into harrowing choices which affect their everyday lives.

To put it simply, this has seen thousands of people in every territory struggling to pay their bills, falling into spiralling cycles of debt with their energy suppliers, or perhaps worse, defaulting on mortgages. More than ever, this means that any organisation who customers owe money to have to work harder not only to collect payments owed, but also to have those difficult conversations in a sympathetic and constructive way.

It’s a historic and hugely difficult area to master, but I believe this is where customer service and contact centre outsourcing comes into its own as it delivers a dedicated and experienced resource which can help take the strain.

What outsourcing can bring, as many businesses across Australia know well, is a huge level of expertise and knowledge where the outsourcer will take your problem, own it, find strategies to meet your customer or debt collection objectives, and go off and deliver the campaign ensuring your customers get the best possible experience of your organisation.

Often set up at speed, it takes the hassle away from the day-to-day business as usual activities and puts trust in a company, like Sigma Connected, to make contact, have difficult conversations, support people, and if needed, signpost them to mental health, wellbeing or financial support.

That wellbeing angle is something we have received multiple global awards for through our ReachOut initiative which does exactly as it says. Through our specially trained Pathfinders we reach out to those in debt, find a middle-ground and reengage customers with a supplier they’ve been ignoring or who were previously anxious about engaging with.

It’s a hugely powerful initiative here in the BPO industry and rightly deserves the plaudits it receives as it’s about tailored conversations with no targets, all based around finding a solution for every customer in need. Ultimately, it shows a different way of working. It’s a softer and non-judgmental approach to traditional, hard-edged methods of collecting debt.

Looking elsewhere, what a BPO can also deliver at this testing time is flexibility, the ability to scale up at short notice and, importantly, provide quality people – experienced, motivated and trained individuals who not only give the human-to-human contact people crave, but with the ability to back up your digital systems and processes. Those people are harder and harder to find but I am delighted that here in Brisbane and further afield across the Sigma Connected Group, that we have a team of skilled agents, ready to make a difference.

Here at Sigma Connected we work across many industry sectors where there are a growing number of businesses that we support with our outsourcing expertise, as they flex and look to step up to support customers during these unprecedented times. Whether that be from our domestic operation based in Brisbane or further afield in our South African operations.

I think many would agree that more than anything, especially as we enter 2023, brands need to look after their customers. They need to be responsible and do all they can to help them through this challenging period. Customers remember who looks after them and who goes the extra mile. Afterall, it is far more expensive to recruit new customers then retain them.

About the author

Based in Brisbane, Jason Cowan is Sigma Connected’s Regional Managing Director for Australia.

Readers can connect with Jason on LinkedIn.


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