BT create 500 extra customer service jobs

simon chandler
By Simon Chandler

bt building logo

BT have announced they're creating 500 customer service post throughout the UK and Ireland, in addition to the 1,000 new call centre jobs they announced in January.

The provider state that the "vast majority of the roles will be frontline positions in customer care for BT Consumer", meaning that they'll most likely be answering customer queries via the phone (and perhaps via the internet).

With these additional members of staff, BT aim "to answer 90 per cent of its customers' calls in the UK and Ireland" by March 2017", thereby overhauling their reputation as one of the worst ISPs for customer service.

Yet whether simply increasing the number of their call centre staff is enough on its own to improve customer satisfaction is another question entirely.

Not just customer service

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For instance, in a previous survey of customer satisfaction among internet service providers, we noted other factors in customer satisfaction, such as the reliability and quality of the service itself.

This would mean that BT - who saw a slip in their ability to fix repairs in the latest quarter - would also need to focus on recruiting new engineers.

Unfortunately, they haven't announced any such recruitments since June 2015 - when they began the hunt for 112 new "frontline" engineers for Scotland - and October 2014, when they began a similar search for 500 new personnel for the entire UK.

Because of this, BT (and Openreach) are arguably falling behind the expansion of their own customer base, which now stands at some 9.2 million broadband subscribers.

More significantly, the nine-million threshold was crossed in the first quarter of 2016, when BT absorbed the one million home broadband customers formerly belonging to EE, who BT famously acquired in January.

This substantial increase may have been good news for BT and their shareholders, yet it seems to have put their customer service department under considerable strain.

That's because, for the first quarter of the year, they recorded 31 complaints per 100,000 customers, a three-point increase over the 28 they registered in the final quarter of 2015.

And while they brought this number down to 26 for Ofcom's latest quarter (Q2) report on industry complaints, it still makes them the worst-performing broadband provider.

Sell us a friend for £500

As such, BT have vowed to improve their ways, promising to introduce 500 new customer service employees, in addition to the 1,000 call centre staff they aim to have installed by next March.

On top of this, they've also announced a "Refer a Friend" scheme, which will earn existing employees a £500 bonus if they encourage a chum to submit a job application that's later successful.

Speaking of this scheme and the new jobs, BT Consumer's managing director of customer care - Libby Barr - said, "We can offer the chance to join a business that is transforming its service ... There are opportunities to earn £500 by referring a friend and also openings for agency advisors".

Amazing, unless...

While the excitement here is palpable, it's somewhat curious that BT will be paying existing employees £500 to act as part-time recruitment consultants for them.

It suggests that BT are possibly having trouble recruiting additional customer service staff themselves, that the lack of appeal of accepting a call centre job with them has to be overcome via financial inducements.

While this is very far from being a scientific survey, a quick glance at glassdoor.com's reviews of BT as a company at least hints at one of the reasons why.

For example, a former manager gives the company four out of five stars overall, yet goes on to add that they're "amazing" to work for "[u]nless you are unfortunate enough to be placed in a call centre ... Very target driven, stressful and often dehumanising".

As if confirming this comment, BT responded to it by admitting, "we're working really hard to make improvements across the business, as well as in our Contact Centres, to make life better for our employees".

Yet even changing how their call centres work isn't enough, since they also have to focus on their entire service overall in order to ensure they move away from the bottom of Ofcom's customer satisfaction pile for broadband.

Perhaps the legal separation of Openreach from them will help this to some extent, insofar as Openreach will (theoretically) be better placed to concentrate on fixing repairs more speedily.

But otherwise, the thrust of change needs to come from within BT themselves, since there's only so much Ofcom can force them to do on behalf of their own customers.


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