New numbers as directory enquiry opens to newcomers

TEN companies have set up new-style directory enquiry call centres ready for when BT's 192 service is switched off at the end of August.

It was Oftel's decision to open the UK directory enquiry (DQ) market to competition. In future, callers will dial 118 plus a three digit suffix, allocated in an Oftel lottery.

In fact, the new services officially started on December 10 last year but advertising campaigns have only slowly been building.

One of the newcomers is telegate, with 118 866. telegate, whose HQ is in Munich, already offered services in Germany, Italy, Spain and America through 12 call centres and 3,000 staff.

Its UK call centre is in a refurbished two-storey building, formerly a hospital ward, on Crichton Business Park, Dumfries. Called Monreith House and built of sandstone in 1912, it is Grade B listed.

It is a "no smoking" building, but Peter Harrison, call centre manager, pointed out that an open-fronted covered verandah is handy for smokers, come rain, snow or sunshine.

The company already has outline plans for a second call centre.

telegate has been trialling its UK service round the clock since March 2001. It includes: no voice automation; number delivery by phone, fax or email; callback, if the number cannot be found during the call; call connect, where callers are connected in the same call; an international service.

Based in Basingstoke, telegate's UK company is headed by MD Andy Holliday who joined after 10 years with Vodafone's enquiry operation, followed by a spell in Africa.

In Dumfries, Telegate has 40 full time agents, divided equally by gender, and 80 agent positions. And it claims a staff turnover of less than two per cent, compared with the industry average of 15 per cent.

Mr Holliday said that, when recruiting, telegate (spelled in lower case) sought people with customer focus, computer literacy, geographical awareness, good spelling and team workers.

Successful applicants take 20 days training, comprising two days on company culture, 15 days on systems and three days with a buddy. Later, there are six-day refreshers and optional part support of SNVQ training.


Telecoms carriers: British Telecom and Thus
Number of lines: 180
Telephone system: Siemens EWSD
Headsets: Plantronics and GN Netcom
Software: Siemens ADMOSS operator system, plus Varetis IDW, ISA and NDIS
Computers: Dell and Fujitsu
Call volumes: 100,000 per month (estimated)
Average call length (inbound): 45 secs
Service level target: 90 per cent answered within 10 secs (96 per cent achieved)

Telegate has allowed much personal space for
staff. From left: Kathleen Riley (back to camera),
Michelle Eddy, Rachel Munro and Maureen Crosbie
Monreith House is set in 85 acres of parkland

Telegate's UK service was launched
with a song by Claire Sweeney,
singer and actress, who was formerly
in Brookside