A rapidly growing BT contact centre in Newcastle, which employs more than 900 local people, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The centre – which handles around 2.7 million calls a year and carries out a wide variety of work, including customer service and sales of products such as broadband, TV and BT Sport – celebrated its milestone birthday with a visit from former Newcastle United legends Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole.

Both toured the site at the Gosforth Business Park and took part in a question and answer session with the people working there as well as posing for some selfies and handing out signed photos.

The contact centre has a come a long way since it opened in 1997 and is growing all the time with around 155 people already recruited in the past six months. Recruitment is ongoing with around 70 further positions set to be filled in the next six months. This includes around 35 apprentice roles.

The last 20 years has seen lots of famous faces visit the centre including Brian O’Driscoll, Martin Bayfield, Glenn McCrory, Jake Humphrey and Phillipe Albert, as well as famous football silverware such as the Champions League Trophy and the FA Cup.

As well as being a keen supporter of local charities such as Long Benton Cat and Dog Shelter, the contact centre has also been used for charity telethons, such as Children in Need and Red Nose Day, with around 120 BT volunteers from the region giving up their time to answer phones each time. Even Pudsey Bear in his famous yellow spotty attire has visited.

Newcastle is also home to the Nuisance Call Bureau, a team of highly trained advisors who help customers affected by nuisance calls. This can involve straightforward complaints about persistent cold-callers or sales calls, but sometimes more serious cases of threatening and intimidating calls. Often, advisors have to work with the police to help stop the calls, identify the callers and bring them to justice. This can involve giving evidence in court. Newcastle was chosen because of the wealth of expertise and experience among the workforce.

One person who has been at the centre since the very first day is Chris Towner. Chris made the move from BT’s Warrington contact centre to Newcastle as a team manager. He is now a senior communications manager responsible for making sure staff in several contact centres are kept up to date with news and events.

Chris said: “I absolutely love my job and have enjoyed a steady career progression during my time here. I remember going into the Newcastle building to test the computer systems when it was still a building site. We wore our headsets over our hard hats and blue plastic bags over our shoes.  My BT claim to fame is that I got the first ever on-site sale during the testing process. You can definitely carve out a long term career here and I’d hazard a guess that in another 20 years I’ll still be here. I certainly hope so.

“The centre has changed massively over time, not only in terms of technology and the décor, but also in the products we sell and the support we provide to customers. I can still remember the calls coming in from people desperate to know when they could order broadband for the very first time. Now customers want superfast broadband, BT Sport, TV packages and mobile phones all in the same call. Today’s advisors certainly have a lot more to remember.

“BT has also had a massive impact on my personal life. Eighteen years ago I met my wife, Racheal, who was working in the human resources department. We now have two beautiful children so as well as providing me with a long-term career, I can also thank BT for that.”

Rachel Hancock, general manager of customer care at the Newcastle contact centre, said: “I’m really proud of everything that the teams in Newcastle have achieved over the past 20 years and I’m delighted that they have reached this impressive milestone.

“After two decades we’re still hiring and growing our presence in Newcastle and I love being a part of the centre’s ongoing success.”

More than 8,500 people are directly employed by BT and its EE business in the North East – equivalent to one in three employees working in the region’s IT and communications sector.

For recruitment opportunities at the Newcastle contact centre please visit www.btcontactcentrejobs.co.uk

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