BT goes local with UK jobs boost under ‘beyond limits’ banner

Telco to boost UK call centre staff numbers, up high-street presence and add in-home tech support

BT, under its relatively new CEO Philip Jansen, has announced a slew of initiatives under its “beyond limits” banner, underpinned by a localist approach that includes more UK call centre staff, new in-home tech support workers, and an augmented high-street presence.

At a press conference at the telecoms company’s headquarters in London, Jansen said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime shift. We know we have got to improve.”

Feedback from customers has told the supplier that its customer service effort needs to be closer to local communities – and so it is launching a new team of 900 “home tech experts” who will help customers in their homes. “BT customers will be able to book appointments to get help installing the latest tech or fixing problems,” the company said.

“There will also be a new team of specialist tech experts for small business customers. This team will carry out personalised set-up of products and services that are most critical to the running of each customer’s business.”

The supplier said the BT brand is “returning to the high street to provide personal help within 20 minutes’ drive of 95% of the UK population”. It will turn 600 EE shops into dual-branded stores.

From January 2020, said Jansen, a domestic BT customer will get through to a British or Irish call centre worker, most likely in their own region.

He said investment of £350m, announced at the time of the company’s results in May 2019, will go towards the new staff and the other initiatives. “You can’t cut your way to greatness,” he said.

“We are the current market leader, but you can never rest and the customer service part of what we are announcing is important – and nobody else will be investing as we are.”

Gerry McQuade, CEO enterprise at BT, speaking alongside Jansen, said the supplier has been working with big business customers on how to develop mobile 5G use cases to “solve their problems”, but his main emphasis at the press conference was on what BT intends to do for its million or so small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers.

“You can’t cut your way to greatness. Nobody else will be investing as we are”

Philip Jansen, BT

For them, as for domestic consumers, it is introducing its “Halo” products and services. And it will, it said in a statement, “upgrade 700,000 people and businesses to superfast broadband at no extra charge, with full fibre plans and 5G, launching in November”.

Halo is a further development of another mobile and fixed-line and broadband service that has been called BT Plus. Halo domestic customers will, the company said, get unlimited data and calls on mobile and at home, including support from the supplier’s new team of 900 “home tech experts”. Plus/Halo customers will be the first to be able to upgrade to 5G from 11 October, said BT.

Halo for Business is said to offer “superfast broadband” with a digital phone line which provides small businesses with a range of services that are not available on traditional phone lines.

The supplier also said it is introducing a “next generation of connectivity for larger businesses, delivered through flexible, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). Designed to support UK businesses with multiple office branches, the new service will deliver secure, high-bandwidth connectivity to businesses and gives them“ greater visibility and control of their critical applications”.

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The supplier also announced a digital skills programme for 10 million schoolchildren, families and businesses.

For teachers, it said it will provide “digital skills and computing training for a further 3 million children by 2025 in partnership with Computing at School, through the highly successful Barefoot computing programme”. It added: “The programme has already helped more than 70,000 primary school teachers and 2 million children to learn computational thinking and the computing curriculum.”

BT said its Work Ready programme will help 5,000 18 to 24-year-olds not currently in education, employment or training to acquire new skills, work experience, and ready them for employment or further education. A total of 2,700 young people have completed the BT Work Ready programme to date.

The company said it is now also the lead partner to all four of the UK’s Home Nations Football Associations. Through these partnerships, BT is connecting more than 200 grassroots football clubs across the UK, and teaching digital skills to players, volunteers and communities, it said.

“It’s not about the football per se,” said Jansen, “but about being rooted in communities, with a focus on digital skills.”

In the statement, he said: “We are 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.

“We are starting a journey today with real changes that will have a positive impact for people and businesses – connecting more customers to full fibre, boosting customers’ speeds right across the UK, keeping customers connected wherever they are with our new converged Halo products, and helping to give them the skills to make the most of today’s connected world.”

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