Enabling our contact centre colleagues to work from home

Over the next two weeks, BT is providing up to 8,000 of our customer service colleagues from our contact centres across our consumer brands with the technology, the security and equipment so that they can work from home.

Since the world changed for us all just a few weeks ago, we have been working tirelessly to meet the enormous technical, logistical, and regulatory challenges that arise in giving such a large number of our people the option of home working.

With 100% of our frontline people based across many sites in the UK and Ireland, we have been able to maintain resilience in the face of the Coronavirus crisis – helping to keep our customers connected when they need it most

However, since we started to see a dramatic change in the way we live our lives in the UK, we’ve received a huge surge of customers calling to improve or change their connectivity, as well as those who are facing stressful financial situations needing to talk to us about their payment options and how we can restructure their packages, so that they too can stay connected.

I couldn’t be prouder of how my colleagues have risen to this challenge – particularly in our contact centres, where we have asked our keyworkers to come in and, while adhering to strict social distancing guidelines, to give our customers the help they need so they don’t have to leave their homes.

We also understand that key worker status brings with it extra pressures. So we asked a team across our three brands – BT, EE and Plusnet – to put together an ambitious plan that would enable our frontline people to temporarily work from home. We want to give as many colleagues as possible the option to work wherever suits their individual needs best, while at the same time delivering the best customer service.

It’s a mammoth task that we began by asking all of our frontline staff who were still working from our contact centres – from Canterbury to Plymouth, and Merthyr to Enniskillen – whether, where possible, they would opt for home working.

So far, almost 70 per cent of my colleagues in our contact centres have expressed a preference for working from home. And around 70 per cent of those are currently in a position where we can put the right technology, security and measures in place in the right environment: a single-use secure working space, a work-owned laptop or desktop and reliable and secure VPN access. Only then will they have the tools to keep our customers connected, and customer information secure.

Our technology and customer care teams have worked tirelessly to make this happen, including developing a telephony routing system to enable advisors to speak to customers and get the right team answering the calls in their area of expertise. Our customer service advisors working from home are now able to do so using Voice over Internet Protocol, essentially meaning they connect to their work machines via thousands of BT Complete WiFi connections and their own home networks. Our teams have done an amazing job to source and dispatch the extra equipment needed.

Over the course of the next two weeks, every colleague who wants to work from home and has the right home set-up will be transitioned, in a staggered approach so that we can continue to meet our customers’ demands for connectivity without a drop in the level of service. Continuing to give our people the support they need while working from home means our HR teams have been creating new processes to provide support with the transition, including virtual team meetings and open Skype calls for instant help and advice.

I’m proud to say we have trialled and tested a solution that has enabled 3,467 of our customer service advisors – more than a third – across our three brands to work from home already. Our ambition is to have transitioned nearly 6,000 by the end of this week, and up to 8,000 of my colleagues over the next fortnight. It’s a huge challenge that might normally take many months to achieve. But our team have done an amazing job in putting all this in place in weeks, and at a time when we are all stretched to capacity.

Making every effort

The security of our customers’ information also remains a priority. To fully protect customers’ details, payments over the phone are not being taken by colleagues working from home and will instead be transferred back to staff who have decided to remain working in our contact centres.

In the meantime, we’re working closely with our facilities teams and partners across our contact centre locations, where a smaller number of our people will still be based. We’re continuing to closely follow guidance from Public Health England on cleaning, enforcing social distancing and safeguarding our people as well as asking colleagues to remain vigilant and to protect themselves by strictly following personal hygiene measures.

And we are continuing to pay our people in full, even if they need to isolate, giving them the security to make the right decisions for their health and the health of their loved ones.

We are also doing all we can to be there for our customers and provide the best customer experience possible. Our stores might be closed, but our local experts are still here for our customers, who can now book an appointment to speak to one of our retail colleagues online. Our customers really value face-to-face interaction – particularly those that might not be tech-savvy or need some support staying connected to their friends and family – so our local experts will call during that time slot to give our customers the help they need.

And we have adapted our in-home service so that it respects social distancing rules. It’s the same superfast delivery, now with remote, expert set-up over the phone.

Keeping our customers connected and keeping our people safe at this extraordinary time remains an enormous challenge. But I’m proud to say it’s one that everyone across BT’s Consumer brands has risen to meet. Let’s keep looking after each other.

– Marc Allera, Consumer CEO