Telstra joined Thriving Communities Partnership in 2017 as a Founding Partner because we recognised that telecommunications was a crucial service to enable people to participate in the rapidly evolving digital-first world. We were also one of the first Partners to contribute to the building of the OSOS Hub, seeing it as an important way to create efficient referral pathways between community organisations and service providers to support customers in vulnerable circumstances.
The benefits of our involvement in the OSOS Hub comes three-fold. There are benefits for the human (customer), benefits for our staff and benefits for the organisation. Each of these benefits intersect with one another, highlighting how outcomes that are good for the customer are often good for business too.
The stories we hear from the frontline are what continue to inspire and motivate us in our work with the OSOS Hub.
In receiving referrals through the Hub, we are made aware of hundreds of humans that may not have contacted us or known about the support we can provide them until it is too late.
The referral process provides our hardship team with the opportunity to have an appropriate conversation with our customers at critical moments, setting them up for the future and relieving financial pressure. We can offer immediate bill and payment relief, a top-up if they have run out of credit on their pre-paid mobile service, check that they are on the best value plan for their needs, and check their account details to ensure privacy, security, and safety.
Offering support in critical times and at an early stage (e.g., where the person may have just fled a violent situation) is an enormous advantage, allowing us to engage with people before financial stress or debt arises. Even covering a month of bills means they can use that budget towards other essential expenses like food and medical supplies. Working in tandem with other service providers through the Hub, we can contribute to maximising the available assistance to really make a difference.
Our frontline staff take a lot of pride in being able to offer additional support to customers and telling them “You don’t have to repeat your story.”
As a digital platform, the OSOS Hub provides benefits to our frontline staff to work flexibly and meet expected service levels. Early engagement with referred customers makes for positive conversations and helps mitigate vicarious trauma for our staff, provides great safety and planning benefits for customers, and allows us to address risks and issues before they progress and provide adequate solutions tailored to the customer’s specific needs.
The warm referral created through the OSOS Hub also allows trust to flow between organisations. When the referring organisation builds trust with the customer and offers a referral to us, the customer can receive our call with a greater level of confidence that they will be well looked after here too.
The organisational benefits emerging from our participation in the OSOS Hub continue to inform the way we approach hardship assistance.
At Telstra we are constantly learning from other organisations in the OSOS partnership and sharing our own knowledge across different industry sectors. We catch up regularly to discuss any concerns and contribute to process improvements. In doing so, we’re creating a collective culture focused on the customer's needs that engenders trust in the ability of business to do the right thing, builds our social licence and embraces a duty of care to the people we serve.
The OSOS Hub also allows our customers to feel that they are supported, not only by us, but by their entire ecosystem of essential services. What is good for the customer, is good for business.
We’ve already made changes to the way we approach pre-paid mobile customers and the way we manage hardship assistance because of our participation in the Hub – a marker of the continuous opportunity for learning and growth. The impact this partnership is having on our organisation is clear – our stakeholders tell us how pleasantly surprised they are with our responsiveness and resolutions through the Hub.
As more organisations join the OSOS Hub, these benefits for humans, staff and organisations will only increase.
(With special thanks to Robert Morsillo and Marryl Carsola, Telstra)