Big new call centre is latest in three-year project

The atrium in Alexander Bain
House: the call centre
occupies two floors
BRITISH Telecom has officially opened its latest call centre, at its Scottish HQ, Alexander Bain House, on Atlantic Quay, in the Broomielaw district of Glasgow.

It is one of the final stages in BT's three-year "next generation" project to reduce its number of call centres from 104 to 33, two of which are in India.

The number of agents has been cut from 16,000 to 14,000. Job losses were confined to agency personnel because BT guaranteed that there would be no compulsory redundancies among its own staff. BT says that the project meant spending £100m, but saved £150m.

Each month, the 1,055 agents on two floors of Alexander Bain House handle 1m calls.

It was launched by Jim Wallace, deputy first minister, who said: "This is a fantastic new facility which is an important addition to Scotland's call centre industry and to Glasgow's international financial services district.
"If Scotland is to retain a flourishing contact centre sector it is critical we compete globally in terms of quality. Good facilities are clearly a crucial part of this."

BT Retail says it has spent more than £17m on developing the Glasgow site and two other multi-function centres in Aberdeen and Dundee.

Carol Borghesi is the director of BT's customer contact centres and chairs the Call Centre Association.
She said: "Our people benefit from the best training, have the best working environment and can exploit cutting-edge technology to deliver the kind of services our customers want."

The four Scottish centres -- Glasgow, Aberdeen, Thurso and Dundee -- employ more than 2,400 people and handle calls from residential and small business subscribers and Glasgow includes business sales, billing and repair, consumer sales, operator assistance and directory inquiries.

Pictured at the launch (from left): Garry Johnstone, BT's customer contact centre regional director for Scotland and the north west; Carol Borghesi, director of customer contact centres; deputy first minister Jim Wallace; and Bob Downes, director of BT Scotland

Staff transferred to Alexander Bain House included those based in Motherwell and three Glasgow sites: Dial House, Westergate and Linfern.

About three in five of the Glasgow staff are part-timers, many of them students. And BT says there is special help for working mothers - 55pc of the employees are female - with enhanced PC training packages.

Across all of its centres, there are 12-18 agents to each team leader -- depending on the complexity of each function -- and eight team leaders to a call centre manager.

Asked about recruitment and training, a spokesperson said BT finds possible recruits through local papers, radio and agencies. She added: "We also work closely with age and disability partners to ensure a diverse workforce."

And she said: "BT values excellent customer skills built around an ability to communicate effectively, strong customer focus skills, empathy and sincerity.

"All new advisors experience new entrant training. This is then supported by a knowledge management system which helps them perform their daily role.

"Ad hoc and refresher training is completed as business as usual and we also have a comprehensive e-learning programme.

As part of its planning
consent, BT undertook to
invest in works of art which
would be available for
public viewing

"NVQ is a way of life within our customer contact centres.

Lawrence Freeman, Glasgow call centre site
manager, with Shirley Gallagher, consumer
sales on-line advisor

"We have also introduced a standard performance management framework across the organisation, which will enable areas of performance improvement to be clearly identified and the appropriate training and support actions to be taken.

"This is supported by 'PR Live' (performance review) which provides a consistent on-line reporting system."

She said that BT used a variety of skills training, from campaign specific to multi-skilled, including automated inbound and outbound blending.

She said: "Our emphasis is on first contact resolution...yielding £30m in cost savings in the period to March 2004 by tackling repeat and transferred calls and empowering advisors to do more at the point of contact with the customer.

"Moving forward over the next three years, first contact resolution will continue to be a key programme to ensure we do everything possible for the customer at first point of contact and underpin our service promises.

"In particular: 'If the first person you talk to can't help, they'll make it their top priority to find the right person who can'."

And on incentives and bonuses, she said: "We operate a comprehensive bonus, incentive and recognition scheme with clear policies to incentivise and reward good performance and to recognise outstanding individual and team performance.

"Recognition encompasses a range of events and rewards, from weekend trips for our top performers to vouchers for individual 'heroes'."

Jim Wallace unveils a plaque to
mark the official opening

BT is rolling out Siebel's CRM system for most of its agents.

In addition, its knowledge management systems is designed to provide information on products and services and latest announcements as well as allowing agents to share knowledge on best practice.

BT says that the number of callers who agree that "advisor knew how to deal" has increased by 47pc.

BT offers its knowledge management system, written in house, as a commercial product. And it has set up a separate business, called Contact Centre Solutions, to sell its expertise to companies and the public sector.

In action: BT's new Glasgow call centre

BT call centres fact file

Telecoms carrier: BT
Numbers in use: mainly 150 (free from landlines)
ACD: Nortel DMS 100, Lucent
Software: Siebel and in house
CTI: Yes, to support routing
Call volumes (inbound): 340m per year
Call volumes (outbound): 50-60m, mostly to keep customers informed, then welcome, upselling and winbacks
Service level: 85pc of calls answered within 15 secs
Service target for consumer calls: fewer than 5pc abandoned