400 jobs under threat at call centre

By Geoff Berkeley 09/05 Updated: 11/05 08:48

HUNDREDS of jobs are at risk at a call centre in Worcester which is facing closure.

Shop Direct has revealed proposals which could see the centre on Newtown Road shut, putting 400 jobs at risk.

The move comes after the UK’s leading online and home shopping retailer hired Serco to run its customer service operations.

They have proposed reducing the company's number of call centres from four to two with the closure of its bases in Worcester and Preston.

The move has been sparked by a rapid decline in call volumes to Shop Direct's contact centres, as more shoppers opt to order online and get in touch via social media instead.

Shop Direct, whose brands include Littlewoods and Woolworths.co.uk, has confirmed both call centres will stay open for at least the next year, while Serco carries out a consultation with employee representatives.

Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive of Shop Direct Group, said: “The ways in which customers are shopping with us, contacting us and servicing their accounts have changed rapidly, driven by revolutionary advances in digital and interactive technology. Unfortunately, this will mean a need for far fewer people to be directly involved in customer contact in the future.

"We have chosen to work with Serco as they are an acknowledged leader in this field. Serco’s expertise, coupled with their investment in technological innovation, will ensure that we have a customer contact programme that is flexible and adaptable for the increasingly online and mobile world that we live in.”

Worcester MP Robin Walker said he would do all he could to try and save the future of the Worcester site after speaking to bosses at Shop Direct.

"I think there is a strong case to be made for the Worcester site and I will be putting that case to Serco," he said.

"Shop Direct said they felt the staff at Worcester were very good and well trained and therefore they should be an attractive proposition for this business.

"There is clearly a problem whereby the telephone retail market is not what it used to be because of the rise of online and that's where the challenge is. But I will work closely with the city and county council and will be pushing Serco to make sure they bear in mind all the arguments for Worcester."

Mr Walker added he would also be pressing Serco to look at the option of another business taking over the call centre.

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