The chief executive of HEROtsc, David Turner, believes that the company’s latest deal with Vodafone is something of a coup.
The move will see the outsourcing company buy Vodafone’s Warrington call centre and transfer 600 of the operator’s staff onto its books. For Turner, the deal marks a pivotal point in the nine year relationship between HEROtsc and Vodafone.
He says: ‘We have worked with Vodafone for the past nine years, running its prepay operations from our centres in Kilmarnock and Dunoon, but now we will also be dealing with Vodafone’s postpay,
high value and ultra high value customers.
‘It’s quite unusual for companies to outsource their highest value customers – most prefer to look after these customers themselves, as they are the most important for their business. This is a real testament to our ability.’
Turner believes HEROtsc’s success in dealing with Vodafone’s prepay customers at its Scottish call centres, where 400 staff work exclusively on the Vodafone account, was central to its winning the deal.
He adds: ‘We looked at our prepay processes end to end and developed a much more innovative way of delivering service to the prepay customer. The success of that operation then gave Vodafone the confidence to trust us to take care of its important high value customers.’
So what is the magic formula that HEROtsc will bring to the Warrington call centre operation?
Turner says: ‘Our processes are based on evidential work carried out around the customer experience.
‘Reducing the number of customer care calls is of the highest importance to us. We work with clients to reduce the amount and volume of calls coming in, because that signifies that customers are getting good service.’
But how can HEROtsc prevent poor service elsewhere in the client’s chain of service? Turner declines to answer this question, jesting: ‘You don’t want me to reveal all our secrets to the opposition, do you?’
However, he adds: ‘It is very different from what other call centres do.’
HEROtsc is keen to use the Warrington staff’s experience to help improve its service. Once the transfer is completed in July, the company’s senior management team, which is based at its HQ in Falkirk in Scotland, will work closely with the senior management team at Warrington to look at ways in which its service can be improved.
This will not be a top-down process. Turner explains: ‘We don’t know all the solutions. We want to work with the good, experienced professionals who are already at Warrington, bringing in our main strengths – customer insight and business intelligence – to see what efficiencies we will be able to gain for the customer.’
There is staff and union concern that reducing the number of customer calls will lead to job losses. However, Turner is adamant that the 600 staff being transferred can have a long-term future with the company, and insists the Vodafone staff will be transferred to HEROtsc with all their terms and conditions completely intact.
He pledges: ‘There won’t be any redundancies among the 600 staff transferring over to us. These are excellent and experienced professionals who have spent time looking after Vodafone’s most important customers, and we are absolutely delighted to have them with us.’
Turner argues that far from culling jobs, HEROtsc in fact has a reputation for creating them. Based in Larbert, near Falkirk, the call centre specialist’s staffing levels have grown from just seven employees when it was formed in the mid-1990s to nearly 3,000 staff, who work across seven call centres in Scotland, a centre in the Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire, and now the Warrington call centre as well.
HEROtsc has also saved jobs, which is no mean feat in the current economic climate. When T-Mobile transferred its call centre work from Larbert and Greenock to Manila, in the Philippines, last year, HEROtsc managed to forge a deal with Sky, which not only salvaged 300 jobs but also created an additional 170 vacancies.
Unsurprisingly, HEROtsc has decided to wind down its operations with T-Mobile and will keep Vodafone as its only telecoms client. Turner says this is due to the strength of HEROtsc’s relationship with Vodafone and the company’s overarching strategy of working with fewer clients and building longer term relationships.
He says: ‘As part of this deal we have decided that we will only be with Vodafone from June; after that, we won’t do business with any other mobile provider. What we have with Vodafone is a long-term partnership that is important to both our businesses.’
Staff ‘betrayed’, says CWU
The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has accused Vodafone of cutting both jobs and bonuses at the Warrington site in preparation for the deal with HEROtsc.
CWU organiser Neil Singh says staff feel betrayed. ‘Last summer many experienced Vodafone staff were encouraged to move from Stoke to Warrington, with the promise of better wages and a monthly bonus of up to 30%. Then jobs were cut and bonuses reduced, leaving staff high and dry. They’ve been badly let down.’
Singh fears that wages will inevitably be driven down at Warrington. ‘The outsourcing market is highly competitive and our experience is that when these contracts come up for retendering, very often wages are driven down in order to compete.’
Staff at Warrington have also expressed their anger. One employee says: ‘The only thing that Vodafone has managed to do is alienate the entire workforce.’
However, Vodafone says most employees were ‘very pleased to hear the news, along with the assurance that they will be transferred on their existing terms and conditions to one of Vodafone’s existing partners’.
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