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The Virgin Media and 02 merger has now been given approval to proceed. I’m curious as to know what this is going to mean for their CX design and their contact centre estate.

Virgin in particular have had an appalling reputation, and have never really fixed broken processes and customer journeys from several legacy acquisitions and rebrands from the cable space going back many years. I still wear the battle scars from my days at NTHell as we somewhat affectionately called it.

02 have also lost their way in the past few years. They were great, certainly back in the mid to late noughties, but have been shocking in recent years. Their self-service “my account” portal is truly frightening to use, causing lots of customer frustration. It’s so bad it actually drives customer contact not reduces it, and the actual contact centre journey is woeful.

If you manage to navigate and survive that, the process you are then subjected too will make you wish you had spoken to the doctors receptionist instead. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that this began to happen when they handed more of it over to Capita.

We can only hope for some sensible CX design, but as a very senior industry figure said to me over a flapjack yesterday, this doesn’t happen with businesses of this scale when the Big 4 get involved.

So what is this going to do to their call centre estate?  Job losses seem almost inevitable, that’s where mergers create their value, and undoubtedly will be  a big factor here too, along with an even bigger drive towards AI, Automation, digitisation, self-serve etc, all to reduce actual people needing to speak to actual people.

But for our industry there is another aspect to be factored in as well, that could lead to a seismic shift, as so much of the contact centre estate of these 2 organisations is outsourced, so get ready for a giant game of musical chairs as that all plays out.

Consolidation and movement is inevitable, and there are going to be some very big players with 1,000+ seat accounts up for grabs and at risk.

Of course, the real casualties in this as ever will be the frontline staff, seen as expendable lines in a spreadsheet of someone’s overhead to be reduced.

A further consolidation of a smaller number of even larger outsourcers is expected.

I had coffee last week with the owner of a mid-sized outsourcer, a very respected industry figure for many years. He spoke about the large players quench for scale and we discussed how this is going back to the days of 15 years ago.

It’s a shame its going this way, when even a 300-500 seat business making 20 % EBITDA is considered too small to be acquired.  And where does that leaves the mid-size players as for nearly all of them it has been their business plan to grow to that size then sell.

And more importantly, what does this mean for clients and their customers, when so much has been preached in the last few years about being at one with the clients brand and customer intimacy, when the business model and measure of success is about scale?


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