Playing a vital role in keeping the UK connected

We are working to do as much as we can across BT, EE and Plusnet to keep providing our customers with the service they need and our people safe at this difficult time for us all. This is why we’re asking our most important people to come into our many contact centres, up and down the UK, if they’re healthy and able, so customers can get help they need, without leaving their homes.

In the past few weeks, we’ve received a huge surge of customers calling to improve their connectivity. Families who cannot leave their homes need digital connectivity. Family members and students moving back home to support their parents need to be connected. People want more connections: one in 10 of our EE customers are asking for second lines. Demand for mobile broadband and tablets has gone up, as customers ask for better connectivity to support home schooling. And some of our PAYG customers are asking us to move their old-style phones to smartphones for the first time. The reason? WhatsApp works only on smartphones – and that's just one important way people are staying connected with their families.

We also have customers 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. 

In the three weeks prior to March 16, when we started to see a dramatic change in the way we live our lives in the UK, my amazing colleagues in our contact centres were handling more than 800,000 calls every week for service, new connections, billings, and even just some advice. So far this week, despite having fewer people available to talk to customers, we’ve had nearly 20 per cent more calls. Our service lines are 16 per cent up and our line for people asking about new products has seen a 27% jump.

Lots of people are calling us asking to get connected, and this is something only our sales people can put in place. EE’s Home Broadband queue is 30 per cent busier than normal, while BT's is 45 per cent busier. Plusnet, meanwhile, is up 22 per cent. Our PAYG mobile teams have seen 60 per cent more traffic already this week, as people ask to move to different products.

These are just some of the critical reasons we're asking our people to continue coming to work.

Roughly 17,500 of my colleagues play a critical role for our country from our contact centres. 10,000 of them continue to come in to work across our 45 sites in the UK and Ireland – including our partner sites – from Plymouth to Enniskillen to North Tyneside. We moved all of our customer calls to be handled in the UK and Ireland earlier this year, which means we are able to do everything we can for our customers, and ensure our contact centres are operational, while of course keeping colleagues safe.

My contact centre colleagues have key worker status because they are, as outlined by the Government, necessary for the continuation of the essential service we provide. They literally help keep the nation connected, every day. We have arranged for as many of our people work from home wherever possible to help with social distancing, and that includes more than 1,000 who would usually be in contact centres.

Now I want to share what we are doing for our people who are continuing to come into their place of work:

  • We’re continuing to pay our people, 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 have ensured strict social distancing is in place in every one of our centres, having people sit and work further apart and opening up training and communal areas in order to give people a safe, isolated space.

  • We are providing free meals to colleagues.

  • We’ve increased the cleaning throughout our call centres, throughout the day and at the end of the day to keep our sites as clean as possible.

  • We’re asking colleagues to remain vigilant and to protect themselves by strictly following personal hygiene measures.

  • Our sales and retention teams remain in place to cancel contracts should our customers have financial worries and wish to bring to an end the service we are providing, although some of these are now being redeployed to our service roles.

  • And we’re exploring options to redeploy our retail colleagues, where possible, to support our customer service colleagues.

A huge thank you to all my colleagues who are playing such an important role in keeping our customers connected during this difficult time.

Let’s keep looking after each other.

- Marc Allera, Consumer CEO

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @marcallera