BT has announced plans to recruit a further 500 customer service staff in the UK and Ireland as it steps up efforts to reduce customer complaints and improve service levels.
Official figures published by telecoms regulator Ofcom show the firm has the second highest levels of complaints of any broadband supplier, behind its recently acquired EE subsidiary, and regularly tops complaints from TV customers.
Although complaints from phone customers are lower than the Post Office and TalkTalk, BT and its EE and Plusnet brands make up three of the five worst performing firms.
At 19 complaints per thousand customers, BT’s performance is worse than the industry average and the firm performs more than three times as badly as Virgin Media and Sky.
In recent years BT has seen its residential customer base grow thanks to significant investment in its TV service, including exclusive sporting rights, which has helped deliver prolonged growth to its broadband base. However many customers continue to complain about low levels of service, especially poor call handling and order provisioning.
Sir Michael Rake, BT’s group chairman, and CEO Gavin Patterson have both identified improving the firm’s service levels as key to delivering further growth.
In addition to new training and internal IT systems, BT has introduced new online tools allowing customers to manage more of their account, including adding and removing services, themselves. The firm has also embarked on a major reversal of its decision to offshore thousands of call centre posts.
BT, like many large firms, sought to maximise profits by recruiting cheaper staff outside the UK, however customers have long complained that the move led to worse service, with agents and callers often struggling to understand one another and staff lacking the skills and product knowledge necessary to resolve issues.
Although BT is retaining overseas staff for ‘back office’ functions, it has pledged to answer 90 per cent of customer calls in the UK by the end of March 2017.
To meet this commitment it has hired 1,000 new staff and has now promised to recruit another 500, the majority of who will be based in contact centres in Swansea, Warrington, Doncaster and Accrington. The remaining posts will be located across the UK and Ireland.
In addition, agency staff hired via Manpower are being offered the chance to convert their role into a permanent job working directly for BT.
Libby Barr, managing director of customer care at BT Consumer, said: “We are proud to be creating these new jobs in the UK and Ireland. BT is completely changing the way we serve our customers in order to boost our service levels.
“We are going to answer 90 per cent of our customers’ calls in the UK and Ireland by the end of March, and we have been taking on great people to fill full time jobs working for BT. In fact, we will be recruiting for an extra 500 positions, which will be a dramatic increase in what we said we’d do.”