Non-Indian call centres and High Street shops on the way

These truly are strange times. BT is plotting a return to the High Street, unleashing hundreds of tech troubleshooters onto the unsuspecting public – and onshoring all of its call centres to Britain quicker than scheduled.

New broom Philip Jansen – who took over as CEO from Salesforce bound Gavin Patterson on 1 January – trotted out a flurry of announcements today; handy to deflect attention from declining sales and profits, or indeed the massive cost-cutting programme underway.

“We’re helping families and communities across the UK, and companies in Britain and around the world, to remove the barriers of today to realise the potential of tomorrow,” he said in a canned remark. “We’re starting a journey today with real changes that will have a positive impact.”

Back down on earth – or maybe not – BT said it is “reinventing what it means to provide great customer service”, in much the same way that, er, Dixons’ Knowhow team has done. The 900-strong team of “tech experts “ will be dispatched to people’s homes to help them install or fix their digital stuff. For business customers, the fleet of techies will “carry out personalised set-up of products and services that are most critical” to run organisations.

The service is free to existing customers and is said to cost £30 for non-BT customers. We presume this is per hour but have asked BT to clarify. We have also asked what the parameters for such visits are.

A year ahead of schedule, BT said that all of its customer calls will be answered from a UK call centre from January next year, bringing forward its previous pledge of January 2021 for this to happen. Separately, it will launch regional route calling so that the nearest open call centre takes the call.

In another nod to a bygone era the telco will also reappear on the High Street for the first time in 15 years. Some 600 EE stores will get a new lick of paint and sport dual branding, giving individual customers and small businesses “local access” to a BT employee who can get them online for the first time or flog gadgets to the unwary.

BT needs all the good news it can promote these days, what with the multi-year £1.5bn expense purge that includes exiting 90 per cent of its real estate in the UK and laying off up to 13,000 employees. So far the cost-cutting has helped improve BT’s profits for fiscal year ’19, though fiscal ’20 didn’t start so well. ®

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