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What's been going on in the CSC?

What's been going on in the CSC?

What's been going on in the CSC?

There's been talk in the forums today about our plans for the Customer Support Centre.  As you know, we have a call centre based in Durban, South Africa, in addition to our one here in Sheffield.  This is where we provide customer support for Madasafish, as well as for ISPs for the John Lewis Partnership. I've provided more background in the blog below but here in summary are the key points:

  • Plusnet is growing as a business and we intend to continue to provide the quality of support and continued levels of customer satisfaction we are known for
  • Our colleagues in South Africa have great knowledge and experience in certain areas, winning several customer service awards in the last couple of years
  • It doesn't make sense for us not to look at ways in which we can work together, to improve quality and customer satisfaction
  • Any changes we will be making will be made one step at time
  • We're still hiring into the Sheffield CSC http://www.plus.net/careers/

More detail read on.  If you have any questions please check out the forum..   Last year Madasafish became part of the Plusnet family.  Since Brightview was bought by BT in early 2007 we've been busy moving their customers over into our Plusnet 'Workplace'.  In all, during the last 12 months, we've migrated more than 70,000 Madasafish, Waitrose and Greenbee customers over from the Brightview systems and network onto ours.  As part of this we've gained a customer support centre in Durban, South Africa, which we have been responsible for since last September. English is of course very well spoken in Durban and they're only an hour or two ahead of Sheffield which makes it really easy to work together. Nick Dodds, our Operations Manager, has been keeping us all up to date with the news from Durban in his blogs (Nick's first blog). The team in South Africa have won numerous awards for service over the years, which is why the John Lewis Partnership chose Brightview to provide Internet services for their own customers. We also talked about our new CSC in South Africa at our last Customer Open Day and highlighted there how importantly we view the quality of our customer support. Up to now our South Africa team has worked exclusively with the Madasafish and John Lewis Partnership brands.  But we've been working towards the point where, instead of Plusnet's Support Centre in Sheffield getting larger and larger, we could use the South African team to allow us to continue to grow as a business. Since we completed the integration of Brightview, key Plusnet staff have spent a lot of time over in Durban. We've got a much better understanding of the Waitrose, Greenbee and Madasafish customers and we've built up strong relationships with our colleagues in South Africa.  In fact for the past 12 months many of the CSC staff from Sheffield have been visiting in teams, spending up to 6 weeks at a time with the employees there.  As well, as part of this, CSC management from Durban have spent time here in Sheffield. There's been a lot of focus on training how we do things the Plusnet way; particularly in using our ‘Workplace' systems and in how we communicate as a business. We have daily conference calls and constant instant messenger chat to build the team across our two sites. We're now supporting well over 300,000 customers on Plusnet, Madasafish, John Lewis Partnership and BT brands. Sheffield needs some help to get through all the work - due to the growth in customer numbers on our Plusnet brands, call and ticket volumes have increased into Sheffield.  This is affecting our call answer rate and ticket turn around.  As this growth continues we are planning to maintain the service and quality levels by utilising our colleagues' knowledge and experience in South Africa. The South Africa team have now got a good handle on Workplace and efficiencies are improving. We're looking at how we can move some customer service ‘workflows' (such as failed billing) between the teams as capacity becomes available.  We aim to handle higher volumes of tickets and calls without compromising on quality. We're confident that by utilising the specialist teams we have at our two locations, we can improve efficiencies whilst allowing business growth, and most importantly for us, build on our reputation for excellent customer service. We're really excited about our new Partner Programme which we'll be launching soon and on the back of this it's likely that we'll need to increase the size of the business support teams in Sheffield. Any changes in how we work will be taken one step at a time over the next year.  We'll make sure the right teams with the right skills in the right location deliver the right level of service. And we'll also always keep a core team for every stream of work here in Sheffield. One of the key reasons customers choose Plusnet is the high quality of our of customer support. And we aren't going to break that - ever. Because if ever we do, we know we're no longer Plusnet and we'd just become another boring telecoms provider. Throughout all of these changes we'll keep you updated with our regular blogs and newsletters.  We'll continue to publish our Customer Satisfaction results, the latest of which is due in the next couple of days.   Carol Axe Customer Services Director

 

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32 Comments
Seasoned Pro
I signed up to Plusnet BECAUSE they didn't have outsourcing agreements.
Im off to ZEN at least they are keeping british call centers.
Plusnet Staff
@novaboydie We *are* keeping ours. And recruiting into it. It'd be a shame to lose your custom just because we intend to work smarter.
Grafter
'We’re confident that by utilising the specialist teams we have at our two locations, we can improve efficiencies whilst allowing business growth, and most importantly for us, build on our reputation for excellent customer service.' Another way of saying cost cutting by out-sourcing call centres.
Plusnet Staff
@ James We've been having some healthy debate about this over in our forums. As we have said, this is NOT about cost-cutting; although of course it will keep costs down in the longer term, by working smartly with the resources we already have in place. http://community.plus.net/forum/index.php/topic,68368.0.html
so long as we don't seem to be sent from pillar to post it sounds okay.
Community Veteran
Come on guys, this is not outsourcing as that literally would mean PN pays a 3rd party to do the CSC work. The staff in SA are PN staff.
Plusnet Staff
@godsell Your sentiment is spot on. But technically the staff in SA *are* contracted to a third party, not Plusnet directly. It's a technical point really in my opinion and shouldn't in any way detract from the commitment to customer care they have demonstrated to Madasafish and Waitrose customers over the years.
i cant help but be a bit concerned by this. i also joined plusnet largely on the strength of its reputation for good customer service and UK call centres. indeed my plusnet experience was very impressive and even though i expected a high standard i was still VERY impressed and the service i recieved reflected the reviews i'd read on the internet. HOWEVER the reviews of the customer service for Madasafish and Waitrose frankly suck... time will tell i suppose and customers rarely their views upheld in this kind of descision but i tend to agree it does smack of a cost saving measure and i dont see how this could benefit the customer.
I too am concerned by this, and joined PlusNet _because_ of 24h, 01, UK-based help. I'm sorry, I'm not being racist: I _have_ had excellent support from some foreign helpdesks; however, I've had a lot that isn't. The problem usually doesn't seem to be language problems as such: it's usually more a difficulty in understanding all but the simplest concept (and if it was a simple concept, I'd not be calling them). Also, the usual inability (as in they're not allowed to) pass on to a UK-based person. To be fair, these have mostly been with India (or similar): SA _might_ be different. But just one or two bad experiences will send me, like novaboydie, off to Zen ...
The fact that the John Lewis Partnership has put trust in the Durban call centre for the last few years should tell you that it is all about providing you with a top quality service. I used to work for Waitrose and they don't accept second best. I now for Plusnet and I can assure you that winning 9 out of 11 uSwitch awards this year was not easy - it's down to a great service and a lot of hard work - and that's not something we'd ever compromise on nor relinquish. For those not sure - stick about, you might just like it Smiley
I have only been with Plusnet a few weeks, but I trust them to make the right decisions - they didn't win all those awards by making the wrong ones.
Seasoned Pro
It will only take one or two minor screw-ups by SA for my pro-UK "prejudices" to be confirmed. What are the choices for UK only ISP's (apart from Zen)?
Grafter
axisofevil Do I take it that you have never had any 'screw-ups' from any UK firms? If that's the case, you are very, very, lucky! Cheers Keith
deekay - good point, well made. I deal with a whole raft of call centres on a regular basis, from my banking to electricity, insurance to gas. My bank provides UK-only call centres and a truly exceptional service. My gas servicing provider also appears to provide UK-only support centres - yet the service level is so bad (disjointed, being passed from pillar to post, having to tell the same thing to several people, engineers that don't show up on the right day) that I am leaving once my contract is up. I'm not naming any names, but my worst-ever experience is with this gas company. At Plusnet we work a little differently, with the focus on making sure you receive a good experience every time. This comes from a lot hard work to make sure our CSC, whether in Sheffield or Durban, are up to speed. I am a natural sceptic and would only tell you these guys were good if they really were - and they are Wink
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I wonder if this is the same SA call centre that TalkTalk use? Mmmm. On the occasion that I did have to call TalkTalk on behalf of a friend I was on to their SA help desk for over an hour and found them very helpful - even though they couldn't solve the problem:-( At least I could understand what they were saying.
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Hi Eddie, It's certainly not the same one that TalkTalk use, unless TalkTalk have a contract with Bizworks that I'm unaware of!
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..and just to confirm, TalkTalk use a completely different company to that of our friends in South Africa.
Just so long as BT don't start being bullies & bring PM "in-house" we should be ok (although the second that does happen, I'm off)
("PN" even)
Newbie
Not yet a PN customer but have had two contacts with your team, the first via the UK call centre to ask about the Max Premium (higher upload speed) package; he said it wasn't available - the result, WRONG INFO (it is available as I since found out on the website). The second contact is a general enquiry raised by ticket from the site regarding installation and Max Premium traffic management - the result, 3 DAYS no reply as of yet. So - thanks.
Hi Dean, Sorry about the hassle there, I suspect there may have been confusion over your initial phone query as we do not offer a specific package that includes Max Premium. However this can be added to any of our packages at a cost of £8 a month. With regard to the contact sales request, do you have the original ID? If this can be supplied we can look back and try and resolve any errors for you.
Grafter
When will companies learn? Yes UK companies screw up but it's a damn site easier arguing with someone fluent in your langauage and customs to get a sensible resolution than it is agruing with some off-shore customer services drone.
I just signed up for PN 3 days ago. Got told I had an incompatable product on the line on the first day. BT ( after dancing around the Automated system ) said 'no the lines totally clear'. So I call PN CSC and explain the issue and ask it be refered back to PN and can they please tell me whats not compatable since the line is clear, tagless & serviceless and not Lightuser ? I'm told ( the guy was SA and absolutely fine ) that he would put me on hold and relay the details to the Huh? something team, begins with P but I forget. Then after a few mins on hold he says this team will call me back later in the afternoon. BUT, What can be said about CSC after relating all this you wonder ? Well, from my limited point of veiw there is problem when you call South Africa to tell them your not connected, and they have to presumably call someone in the UK to look into it. This I feel is an important issue because the information is bound to break down when travelling a few thousand miles between offices. And who in South Africa truly understands the evil known as British Telecom ? Would you be surprised that I got no call back ? Nor did I get one the next day either. And thats upon just putting an order in for PN as an ISP, I greatly fear what the next 18 months will be like and I think if I get no results by the end of the week then I will cancel the order. PS) No offense intended at any point, just incase I worded something badly etc. And sorry if its slightly off topic too.
@ultimateequinoxe, I'd imagine you're talking about the 'Provisioning' Team who (with the exception of house moves) are actually based in South Africa. I am sorry you didn't get a call back though. Are all your issues resolved now or would you like me to look into anything for you?
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Called customer services today to be greeted by "Good evening" in an Asian accent. My position is quite simple. I want to speak to someone who has English as their FIRST language to avoid confusion when I need assistance. I also want my money to provide employment in THIS country and am willing to pay for that. When the contract is up, I'm off! You can certainly see the hand of BT in this...
Grafter
Hi 44TT, We are based in Sheffield and do not have a call center in Asia, if that's what you mean. A number of my colleagues have Asian accents but that doesn't mean they are working outside the UK.
To add to JoJo's comments, we do have a call centre in South Africa where English *is* most people's first language. We inherited the call centre when we bought Madasafish (who themselves received their fair share of customer service rewards). How come you had to call us anyway? Is it anything I might be able to help you with?
Grafter
I have had 3 calls over the last 3 days and the persons English was impossible to understand,with todays call it took me several minutes to find that it was a cold call about computers.As far as I'm concerned if the person can speak good English I'm happy,I dont think Engish Tech centres are the only good ones in the world.
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I have no objection to foreign call centres in and of themselves. The staff at PlusNet's South Africa CSC have been perfectly friendly when I have spoken to them. The problem is the change in corporate structure and business practices that goes with this kind of change. Two disparate locations that can only communicate by phone or electronically means twice the opportunity to mess things up. It also suggests that plusnet care more about their bottom line than their customers. For example: after I cancelled my account with PlusNet seven months ago. PlusNet continued to bill me regardless. After I complained I was refunded the money, but I have since had repeated emails saying that I haven't got a direct debit set up properly and so forth. I've spoken to some lovely people at your call centres but I have no faith that the systems are properly set up to ensure my account has been actually cancelled and that I'm not going to end up with debt collectors at my door in a few months time, demanding money I do not owe. The only times I've had serious trouble with large companies before has been when they've outsourced. Not because their foreign staff are unfriendly - they aren't - but because that company is usually cutting corners in other areas, too.
@Mark, what was your account username?
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[...] you’re a regular reader of our blogs then you’ll already have a bit of an insight into how we’ve been running things, and what life has been like for the support staff out in South [...]