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Staff at Webhelp UK’s contact centre on Pride Park have this week celebrated its first anniversary. Business editor Robin Johnson charts the company’s successful first 12 months in the city.
When Barclaycard announced it would not be retaining the call centre on Derby’s Pride Park it had inherited when it bought internet bank Egg, a cloud of uncertainty hung over the building.
Cutting the cake to celebrate Webhelp UK’s first anniversary in Derby, above, from left, are Rob Robson, Rob Cain and Sian Eastwood.
But salvation came in the form of the aptly named Webhelp UK. Just over a year ago, the centre started taking its very first calls on behalf of its customer , multi-media giant Sky, and staff have not looked back since.
Today, the building is home to 1,200 staff and, this week, the majority of those workers took the opportunity to celebrate the first anniversary of Webhelp UK in Derby.
To mark the milestone, staff got into the party spirit with a giant picnic, featuring around 1,000 pieces of birthday cake, more than 700 samosas and team quizzes and games.
The party atmosphere was in stark contrast to the mood at the building back in 2011.
Among the celebrating staff were people who remembered the dark days, when they worked for Egg and stared redundancy in the face.
Rob Robson, 39, of Breadsall, is a customer experience leader at Webhelp UK. He was one of the first to join the company in January last year after spending eight years working for Egg.
He said: “When I started working for Webhelp UK, we were in one corner of the building and there was about 200 of us. Today, the whole floor is buzzing. It’s a great environment in which to work. We are not judged on targets, such as how many calls are answered within a certain time limit. We are judged on the quality of service we give. The customer always comes first. We also have a great team. We’ve taken on people from all walks of life, who reflect our customer base.”
Over the past year, Webhelp UK Derby has handled four million calls. Proof of how operations have ramped up at Derby is shown by the fact that 350,000 of those were taken last month alone.
The first person to take a call at the Derby centre, on January 27, 2012, was Abigail Matemezano, a single mum from Heatherton.The 30-year-old was the first person to be recruited by Webhelp UK in Derby – bringing to an end her two-year search for work. She said: “I’ve had a fantastic year. Webhelp UK is a great company to work for. I work child-friendly hours and love my job. When more staff starting moving in I found myself getting a bit possessive about the building. It felt like they were moving into my house! But it’s been a great opportunity to make new friends.”
Before joining Webhelp UK, Rob Cain, 34, of Denby, was used to the outdoor life, as a sign-maker.
Rob, a deputy customer experience leader, said: “Joining Webhelp UK was a complete change of direction for me.
I was used to manual work and the thought of working in one place horrified me. But I’d always enjoyed meeting and talking to the customers – and when I joined Webhelp UK, I pretty much took to it like a duck to water.
I feel like I’d found my calling and I’d like to think that I will be working here for many years to come.”
The arrival of Webhelp UK could not have come at a better time for Derby.
Two years ago, the city was at a low ebb. It had been left reeling from job losses at Bombardier, Celanese Acetate and Royal Mail.Then internet bank Egg sold its credit card business to Barclaycard.
The sting in the tale came when Barclaycard said it did not intend to retain Egg’s Pride Park call centre and instead would service those accounts from existing offices in Northamptonshire.
Not only was Derby faced with the prospect of 650 more job losses, it was also presented with the challenge of finding a new tenant for the redundant call centre.
But, by December that year, a lifeline was thrown to those workers. The Derby Telegraph revealed that Webhelp UK was coming to town, bringing with it hundreds of jobs to service a contract with Sky.
The Falkirk-based based firm employs more than 6,000 people across nine contact centres. At Derby, it has 1,200 staff, which makes it the largest Webhelp UK site in terms of worker numbers.
Operations manager Craig Purdie said: “Webhelp UK has played a key role in helping to shape Derby’s growing emergence as a major contact centre location. We’ve invested in this location because we know the workforce is talented, skilled and incredibly committed to delivering excellence in customer service.”
Financially, Webhelp UK is in rude health, borne out in its recent annual results.
In December, the company announced a huge 117% increase in profits, from £4.1 million, to £8.9 million.
Chief executive David Turner said: “It has been a quite remarkable year. We were always confident that opening in Derby was the correct decision but the scale and pace of our growth here has been staggering.”