Denny Smith, Customer Services Adviser
What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19?
I work in customer services in one of our contact centres. Normally I just speak to customers thinking of leaving, but now I cover everything. I’m working 12-hour days speaking with customers and helping them with everything from solving faults, moving house, adding services and finding ways to help manage their bills.
Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how?
It’s completely changed. We’re incredibly busy and I’m getting calls from customers on a much broader range of issues. We’re normally quite specialised but now I cover everything. It’s great as you never know what you’re going to get and it’s meant that I’ve learned loads”
I’m also working from home now so am trying to find quiet places to talk to customers. My wife and kids have been amazing keeping the noise down.
Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19?
Continuing to serve our customers is vital - absolutely vital. Calls are coming in thick and fast because people need WiFi, they need SIMs, to get through this. Communication is remote now – so WiFi and mobile data are fundamental to everyone’s lives. Now more than ever, it’s super important, particularly for families with kids who are doing their schoolwork. Demand has shot up so it’s vital we help people.
What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown?
Bringing work into the home environment isn’t normal for me. I’m used to going to work, chatting to colleagues and speaking to people face to face. But at home you have family responsibilities as well, so it’s a compromise. My son was excited I was home but sad I was working. Everyone is having to compromise in some way.
Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown?
You get great moments every day. When you can hear someone is really struggling, and you can help get them sorted, it’s amazing. That’s our job, but I love being able to help people. One example that comes to mind is a nurse I spoke to last week. Her services had stopped working and she had a disabled husband at home who had to isolate himself, so he had been completely cut off from the world. I tried everything I could think of to fix it over the phone but we needed to send out an engineer. I spoke to the guys on the ground and they got an engineer out the same day to fix it. It was a team effort but for some customers like that, we just can’t let them wait so I’ll do everything in my power to get them help.
Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown?
People are a lot nicer. They’re worried about what’s going on and how to get their services running, but they’re being lovely and thanking me for continuing to work during the crisis. People can see that we’re human beings, and that we’re doing everything we can to help them.
Can you explain a bit more on the transition from working in the centre to working remotely and the challenges this has posed for you and your colleagues?
Transitioning to working from home has definitely been a change. It’s not lonely because I’m talking to people all day, but I miss going into work. I miss the banter, having people around me, and going out into the world. I took that for granted before.
My kids want to play but they’re having to be quiet. They’re being great but it’s weird for them now I don’t have the separation between work and home life. You can be someone else at work. I like being able to walk out of the office, switch off from work, and come home to my family, but I don’t get that headspace now.
I like being part of a team with people around me: we all help and support one another at work, but that’s harder to do remotely. For example, it’s tricky to quickly explain a situation and get advice when we’re not all together, so I’ve had to learn loads of new things. Of course we’re all still here, but everything is virtual, and sometimes it can feel like you’re just a voice at the end of a phone.
Can you provide a couple more case studies about the experiences he has had talking to customers during COVID-19? Both positive and more challenging experiences if possible.
Nowadays customers just want to talk to someone. People are stuck at home by themselves and they’re desperate to talk to anyone about anything. At first, people were really emotional, panicked and worried but now they’re just bored.
Because people have more time now, they pick up on really small things. I spent ages helping a customer understand their bill the other day - I think part of it was just that they were lonely and wanted to talk to someone.
Most people are still being really lovely, but some people are frustrated that it’s taken a while to get through to us. We’re busy and we’re trying to help but they don’t always see that.
I speak with all sorts of different people every day. People might be calling to get their broadband activated, be worried about their bill or be calling up about a problem with their services. Even though I’m now working from home, we deal with it in the same way so I’m still speaking with area managers to get faults fixed for elderly customers and finding ways to help customers manage their bills. Customers can still get through to us and get help – it might just take longer than usual.