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Weekly Edition - Published 12 September 2015


Local News Report - Mobile Page


Webhelp Proposes 10 Year Plan to Deliver Customer Centric, Digitally Focussed Contact Centres for Shop Direct

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 customers are."

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 contact.

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, and 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 of England.

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."

Does these affect you? If this does, please let us know your views and thoughts by emailing us to:- News24@southportReporter.Com.


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