Webhelp Proposes 10 Year
Plan to Deliver Customer Centric, Digitally Focussed Contact Centres for Shop
ON Friday, 11 September
2015, a spokesperson from Shop Direct told us that:- "There are no planned
or proposed changes to Shop Direct staff at our contact centres in Aintree and
Bolton." But, Webhelp, Europe's 3rd largest Business Process Outsource (BPO)
provider, has created a proposal, that has been being put to trade unions on
Thursday, 10 September 2015, to deliver digitally focussed customer experience
centres for Shop Direct, the UK's 2nd largest pureplay online retailer, that
will be able to provide the innovative and personalised contact options the
customers of today and the future are increasingly demanding.
But in a press anouncement David Turner, chief executive officer of Webhelp UK,
said:- "Consumer behaviour is continuously changing and as a digital
retailer on a journey to becoming world class, Shop Direct needs to be confident
it can continue to anticipate the ways in which customers will want to
communicate with its brands in the future. Webhelp is a leader in developing
innovative, personalised communication solutions that meet the needs of
individual customers. Using a picture built up by analysing the interactions a
customer has with a brand over time, Webhelp can anticipate how a customer will
want to communicate in the future. This means we can ensure Shop Direct will
have the necessary options to engage with their customers in a personalised and
unique way that will keep pace with changing consumer habits. Far from a
scripted, automated, 1 size fits all approach to customer service, Webhelp will
be able to create customer service solutions that are as unique as Shop Direct's
Consumer habits have been changing very rapidly in recent years. Since 2012 Shop
Direct has seen an increase of more than 700% in the amount of contact that has
been conducted via social media and web chat sales have increased by more than
120% in the past year. But voice calls still account for almost 80% of all
A report published by eDigitalResearch in July 2015, states that less than half
of consumers (45%) said they were satisfied with phone as a touch point.
Turner continued:- "Shop Direct is still currently receiving a huge
percentage of customer contact via traditional methods, such as telephone,
however, it is clear that customers want to move onto digital channels, and the
pace of change is increasing. Shop Direct has given this challenge to Webhelp
and using our expertise in data-drive, digital transformation, we have been able
to offer a proposal, which, if accepted, will ensure Shop Direct's customers
could choose from a raft of digital contact options, including Whatsapp, virtual
advisors and video messaging and will see more than 60% of contact becoming
digital in 3 years."
Webhelp became Shop Direct's customer contact partner after the transfer of the
contract from Serco on August 3, 2015. Since then Webhelp has been conducting a
strategic review of the existing operations and looking at how best to take Shop
Direct's customer service offering onto the next level. That review is now
complete and today the proposal is being communicated and discussed with trade
unions, staff and other interested parties.
Due to the reduction in call volumes anticipated over the next decade, together
with the digital skills and infrastructure required to meet the changing
customer needs that have been identified, it is proposed that the current
Webhelp UK workforce operating on the Shop Direct account will reduce from 1,162
to 470. This will include the possible closure of the Webhelp operation in
Bolton by Spring 2016 and the proposed phased closure of the Webhelp Aintree
operation by Spring 2017.
It is proposed that there will be a Shop Direct centre of excellence established
in Cardiff, with the remainder of operations being handled in South Africa.
Turner commented:- "It is crucial that we can deliver to Shop Direct the
best possible digital customer contact offering. We believe that our track
record and experience in South Africa, together with the technical capabilities
in the Cardiff site, which we inherited from Serco, give us the best combination
of quality skills and cost efficiencies necessary to make this a really
successful partnership. This is purely a proposal at this stage and will be
subject to thorough and meaningful consultation with trade unions, employee
representatives and employees at each affected site."
Shop Direct chief executive officer, Alex Baldock, said:- "Shop Direct is
on a journey to transform into a world class online retailer. We've made a
number of great strides in that direction this year with the removal of the
catalogue and the consolidation of some of our legacy brands into our two power
brands, Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com. But our progress does not end there. Our
customers are increasingly embracing digital as their preferred method of
communication and we need to be able to respond to that demand. We set Webhelp
the challenge of developing a customer service capability that would serve our
customers' needs over the next decade. They have responded to that challenge by
reviewing the estate they inherited from Serco and recommending the proposals
that have been outlined to the trade union today. Change can be difficult, but
it is necessary and we are confident that the proposals outlined by Webhelp will
ensure we can continue to develop the fantastic digital service our customers
are telling us they expect from Shop Direct."
Webhelp UK are currently located at Aintree and Bolton, but if this "proposed"
action takes place, would result in the loss of over 700 jobs in the North West
Mike Aylward, Usdaw Divisional Officer, says:- "Our members are shocked
and outraged by this decision. The staff have suffered years of unrest and
uncertainty, despite giving great support and professionalism. They've seen
their employer change from Littlewoods, to Shop Direct, to Serco and now Webhelp
UK, only to be put under the threat of redundancy. These loyal employees have
been badly let down and deserve much better than to see their jobs exported.
Next week we will enter into consultation with the company on their proposal and
we will be challenging the employer to find a way to keep the jobs in the UK at
Aintree and Bolton. We are also calling on local politicians to do what they can
to help. In the meantime we will be supporting our members throughout this
difficult period as we fight for their jobs."
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