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Shop Direct to outsource customer services

Shop Direct, which operates brands including Littlewoods and Very, has outsourced its customer service operation in a move which could see two of its four contact centres close.

The group has made the move in the face of “rapidly changing consumer behaviour”. The retailer, which has seen online sales jump from 18% of sales five years ago to 75% of sales now, has seen call volumes continuously decline.

Call numbers have plummeted 45% from 24.2 million in 2007/8 to 13.4 million in 2011/12. Customer contact via social media has also rocketed over 1,400% over the last year.

The online giant has hired specialist Serco to manage its customer service operation for the next 10 years. All of its 1,800 employees will move across to Serco in July this year however the firm is proposing to close two of the retail group’s centres in Worcester and Preston, although both will stay open for at least a year.

The proposal is subject to consultation. Serco is also proposing moving some of Shop Direct’s work offshore to reduce costs further.

Serco is planning an investment in the latest technology which will integrate online and mobile into the contact centres to more efficiently deal with the surge in social media contact.

Shop Direct chief executive Mark Newton-Jones 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.

“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.”

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