News & Insight

BT's just axed 13000 jobs - but will it improve their customer service?

Oliver Jones

At 12% of BT's total workforce, it's one of the biggest layoffs in UK corporate history.

BT’s just announced one of the biggest layoffs in UK corporate history, with 13,000 jobs – more than the population of some UK towns – set to go at a cost of £800 million.

The move is part of a 3-year plan which seeks to reduce costs by £1.5 billion, freeing up cash to invest in 5G and full-fibre networks.

But it may be a case of too little too late for the corporate giant, which has seen its stocks lose almost a third of their value over the past year. BT faces mounting criticism over its failure to develop the UK’s fibre infrastructure – and over its unfailingly abysmal level of customer service.

How the cuts are distributed

The jobs being cut amount to 12% of BT’s entire workforce. It’s one the biggest round of lay-offs by any UK company, ever. Insider sources described the cuts as “savage”, and note that they follow another 5,000 job cuts this time last year.

About two thirds of the lay-offs will be in the UK, and will mainly target middle management and back-office roles, a process that BT has labelled “de-layering”.

BT will be replacing some of those roles, with plans to add around 6,000 roles in engineering and customer service. It also aims to bring all its call centres into the UK by 2020.

Does this mean we’ll see an improvement in BT’s customer service?

Probably not. The hiring of new service teams is a welcome development, but we know from experience that it takes years to develop them to a decent standard.

BT has spent years neglecting customer service, so it’s a long way off delivering the kind of standard any customer should expect – let alone customers trying to run their businesses off a BT line. This 11th hour restructuring towards front-line staff is unlikely to deliver any major improvements any time soon.

Failure to prioritise

BT has a lot of problems. It’s been slow to develop its broadband infrastructure, which means Britain is stuck on unreliable, copper-wire connections while the rest of the world moves on to full fibre.

It’s also struggling under the weight of an £11 billion pension fund deficit, and regularly has to deal with Ofcom fines, and pressure from shareholders as stocks plummet.

And to make matters worse, insiders speculate that the company may be prepping itself for sale under the guise of fixing its long-term problems and keeping up with Ofcom regulation.

With these problems to deal with, it’s no wonder that BT’s been unable to address its consistently poor customer service ratings, which currently stands at 0.5/10 on Trustpilot.