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BT commits long-term future to Plymouth contact centre

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The EE contact centre in Plymouth is set for a multi-million refurbishment as BT commits its long-term future to the city as part of plans to invest in a complete refit of its facility there.

The centre – located in Langage Business Park, Plympton, and one of the largest employers in the area – will undergo a full refurbishment to modernise it and create an improved workspace for the 900 or so colleagues based there.

While the majority of contact centre colleagues based in Plymouth – and at other locations across the country – are still working from home during the pandemic, the company is continuing to invest in new and modern workspaces as part of its ‘Better Workplace’ programme.

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, the company introduced new systems to equip contact centre colleagues, who wanted to work from home temporarily, with the technology, security and equipment to do so.

Plymouth is one of the company’s largest contact centres and employs hundreds of customer service advisors, providing support to customers across the UK.

BT’s consumer contact centres now handle 100% of customer calls in the UK, including at EE’s contact centre in Plymouth. Since customer service for BT, EE and Plusnet customers was brought back to the UK and Ireland last year, more than 34 million calls have been handled.

Work on the refurbishment is due to start in the summer and will be phased to make sure there is no impact on customers or colleagues. The project is expected to last around twelve months and will involve local contractors and suppliers, where possible.

EE, part of BT Group, opened the Plymouth contact centre in 2000 and the company says the investment highlights its future commitment to the location and the wider region.

Nick Lane, managing director for consumer customer services at BT, said: “We’re excited about the plans to refurbish our Plymouth contact centre. It’s an important location for the company and will be the first EE contact centre in the country to benefit from one of our new future-fit workplaces.

“While most colleagues are still working from home due to the pandemic, we’ll be working with them to help create a modern, innovative workspace we can all be proud of. The buildings in which we work play a huge part in how we feel.

“Colleagues in our contact centres have played a really important role during the Covid-19 pandemic. They’ve done a fantastic job making sure our customers have been able to stay connected with family, friends and work during this difficult time.”

BT Group is a major employer in the South West of England, directly employing more than 8,000 people, including this contact centre. According to a new independent report published this week, BT Group’s combined activities in the South West adds nearly £2 billion to the region’s economy and supports more than 17,000 jobs through direct and indirect effects.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Northern Ireland Customer Services

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Northern Ireland has a track record of investment and reinvestment in the services sector over the last 20 years, growing from a small number of indigenous firms to nearly 40 international companies in customer services, shared services and IT services.

Almost 75% of new investors in Northern Ireland reinvest – an incredible achievement for a region with a population of only 1.8m.

Since 2000, Northern Ireland has attracted many international brands ranging from large BPO names such as Capita, Concentrix, Teleperformance, Firstsource and Convergys to customer service centres for large financial institutions such as Lloyds, Santander, BNP Paribas and Danske Bank.

The region delivers a wide range of customer service activities including technical advice, sales and customer support across a broad variety of industries servicing a global customer base.

One of the reasons for companies’ repeated investment and reinvestment is the talent pool. Investor constantly cite the quality and talent of our workforce as Northern Ireland has an agile, educated talent pool – a key attractor.

As a region we boast a motivated and highly qualified workforce with one of the youngest populations in Europe. In customer services especially, staff are also recognised for their soft skills such as empathy and problem solving. Our students consistently excel in our GCSE and A-levels results measured against other UK regions and our two universities provide a great pool of talented graduates.

Find out more visit investni.com.

Vodafone Call Centre

Vodafone pledges £2bn customer service investment over next two years

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

UK-based communications giant Vodafone has pledged to invest over £2bn in its customer service over the next two years, starting with the announcement of over 2,100 new UK call-centre jobs.

The new roles will be on shored from South Africa, where the company currently uses an agency, and spread across existing Vodafone call centres in Scotland, Wales, Manchester and the Midlands.

The company will continue to use some of its customer service operations overseas, including technical staff in Egypt.

Locations include Stoke-on-Trent, Newark and Cardiff, with nearly half of the new roles sent to the company’s Manchester call centre.

A fine of £4.6m was imposed by Ofcom in October 2016 due to issues with Vodafone’s billing systems in 2015, with Ofcom accusing Vodafone of ‘mis-selling, inaccurate billing and poor complaints handling procedures.”

Cheaper overseas customer service roles have been used traditionally by telecommunications and technology industries, with countries such as India and South Africa benefiting from the work. However, recent wage inflations and the continued frustrations by customers at being routed overseas to discuss issues has motivated more and more companies to on shore customer service departments.

EE claimed to be the first operator to in-source all call centre rolls back in 2014, bringing over 1,000 customer service operator jobs to sites including North Tyneside, Darlington, Plymouth and Merthyr Tydfil.

Parent company, BT, which bought EE for £12.5bn, has also started the process of bringing back jobs from India, with 1,500 call-centre staff being hired across the UK and Ireland.


Industry Spotlight: PeopleTECH – how to get the most out of social media in contact centres…

800 450 Jack Wynn

The past decade or so has witnessed the astonishing rise of social media. It has changed the way we communicate with friends and family; how we consume news; how we share photos; how we look for a new job and much more – there are an estimated 1.65 billion active daily users on Facebook alone.

Social media has also changed how consumers interact with brands. Because consumers are so savvy and switched-on to the immediacy of social media, they know a few tweets can save them time spent on frustrating calls and long waits for engineers. Twitter and other social channels are plugged into marketing, PR and sometimes even the CEO; therefore issues will often get addressed as a priority.

This means brands have had to invest in social media, and bring that into existing customer experience channels. At times this has even meant that many brands focus on social at the expense of other channels. But while this is understandable in some ways, it is also a mistake. Organisations that provide omnichannel service will prosper far more than those who concentrate on social media channels at the expense of others – this is how to really get the best from social media in the contact centre.

Provide agents with the right training

When a consumer is expressing dissatisfaction with a service or just want a question responded to on social media, it requires a slightly different approach to other channels. With a phone call, live chat or face-to-face interaction, it is taking place in private. Social media interactions are taking place in public.

While the Millennials that make up a lot of the workforce within a contact centre have grown up with social media, there is a difference between how it is used personally to how it is used professionally. Make sure you staff are clear on what they can and cannot say on social media.

Don’t put all your customer experience eggs in one basket

Social media is an intrinsic part of both everyday life and also customer experience. But brands and their contact centres should be very wary about not over-focusing on social media. More than half of consumers who expect a brand to respond to a Tweet, demand that response comes in less than an hour, rising to 72 per cent when they have complaints.

When companies don’t meet these expectations, 38 percent of the public feel more negative about the brand. But is it realistic to meet those demands all the time? Social media is actually a limited channel for addressing customer queries or complaints, and interactions are often transferred to a different channel to be fully resolved.

So while any brand that doesn’t use social media as a customer channel looks to look at their strategy very hard indeed, it is imperative not to overlook other channels or over-invest in social media – it just isn’t sustainable.

Social media and the Single Digital Channel 

The best use of social media within a contact centre is as part of an omnichannel strategy, providing to consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience, across ALL channels. In addition to omnichannel providing this seamless experience, the right tools can also give brands unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent.

This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel.

The Single Digital Channel (SDC) is also important and should be a customer experience goal for any brand. This gives an agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers – voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

Social media is a channel that can play a major role in delivering the right customer experience. But it shouldn’t be the sole focus. There can be a danger that brands will focus too much on this and let other channels suffer, when they would be far better advised to include social media as part of an overall omnichannel strategy.


Mike Hughes is a director at PeopleTECH consulting and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked with companies such as Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom.

PeopleTECH combines experience working with some of the world’s biggest companies, with a deep understanding of digital transformation, helping to drive efficiency and profitability by offering a bespoke and agile approach to improving the customer journey.