Over the past two years, Macquarie Telecom’s gargantuan investments in data centres and cloud computing have taken centre stage but the publicly-listed company has also invested heavily in new staff.
With high-flown growth ambitions spanning the NBN roll-out, SD-WAN and traditional fixed wireless and satellite services in the enterprise space, the focus has until now largely focused on the (now delayed) $80-million-dollar Macquarie Park Intellicentre.
But for group executive Luke Clifton, investment in the talent to underpin these ambitions isn’t just a platitude for shareholders actually part of a bigger concern about the state of skills in the Australian telecommunications space, in particular the recent spate of mass lay-offs at Telstra.
“The jobs of the future are going to be customer-service oriented and technically literate,” he told ARN. “Australia is going to build the fabric of our growth off the back-end of highly technically literate organisations.
“These are the roles that are being removed by Telstra. And I worry about the effect of this on the mid-tier enterprises: they’re the ones with 20 applications to roll out and a 20 per cent reduction in their budget every year. They have the NBN coming through, they have cyber security challenges, they’re trying to get to the cloud. They have no hope unless they have some quality customer service people helping them. Where is Telstra for them?”
For Macquarie Telecom, a company which claims to only hire customer service support in Australia, the lay-offs have naturally had a knock-on benefit for their own workforce.
“We’ve brought on hundreds of new staff over the past two years," he said. “The majority of these we have picked up from the top-tier telcos.”
Clifton acknowledged “as a competitor” the recent turmoil at Telstra was good for Macquarie Telecom, he added it was “myopic” to see it solely from that viewpoint.
“It’s been proven time and time again that customers will pay a premium for good customer service backed up by an expert technical team,” he explained.
“They will pay for on-shore service, they will pay for customer care, local account management and they will pay for technical competency from a networking centre to build value on top of the centres the government has sponsored. That requires business leadership and keen execution on winning customers. That takes courage and investment and is something I’m not seeing among my peers in the industry.”
“We need to invest in the customer service and technical expertise we need to retain here in Australia, and not just leave it to a chatbot,” Clifton added.
Macquarie Telecom itself is now in the process of rolling out its $100-million-dollar wholesale deal with the NBN. The deal has given Macquarie access to new deals with customers such as OfficeWorks and Allura, Clifton said.
Last year, it also won a $1 million contract to supply Regional Australia Bank with broadband services.
The telco recently said it expects to post EBITDA of between $51-53 million for FY 2019, which will be 10 consecutive halves of revenue and profit growth when it reveals its full year results on 28 August.