Do you love making people feel special? Our contact centre in Swansea is full of team members like Kareen Elliot who thrive on providing outstanding service to our customers – while making the most of every opportunity a career with Virgin Atlantic can offer. We paid her a visit to find out more about life on the front line”¦
A new start
Working as a primary school teacher had certainly taught Kareen the meaning of hard work. But after twelve and a half years in the job, she felt ready for a change. “I really wanted to do something different, and the role that I was in was coming to an end,” she said. “I saw the advert for a customer service advisor in the contact centre in Swansea and it really drew me in. There was a lot of flexibility with the shifts, and I love travelling so I applied.”
That was four years ago, and since then Kareen has gone from strength to strength, starting on the phones and then progressing to our live chat service some time after; a service which the majority of our customers rate as 5 star. But there’s a whole lot more to the role than answering simple queries. Knowing all about our products, services, sales and campaigns, and being able to identify the needs of our existing customers and Flying Club members are both vital skills for our contact centre staff, and as Kareen explains, it’s something every new employee is equipped for regardless of their background.
“I did a fantastic seven week training course when I started in the role, and our trainer Debbie was great. She knew so much about the company and was so enthusiastic. It was a small sized group and everyone had come from completely different backgrounds. Debbie was such a patient teacher and inspired us to learn more and more each day – it was fabulous.”
A year after joining, the contact centre opened a live chat team and with such a solid grounding in the business, it’s no surprise that Kareen was well placed to make the switch. But what exactly is “˜live chat’ and how does it work?
“Live chat is when we talk to people in real time via the website, as opposed to on the phone,”says Kareen. “We chat to three people at the same time, who could be asking anything at all about their flights. We’ll locate their booking, and other than calculating fares, we can then do anything that’s normally done over the phone, like booking seats or changing dates. It’s always busy and you can strike up a bit of a rapport with the customer. The time just flies by. At the moment there’s 14 of us in the team, and four on my shift. We also answer customer emails too, and when we do those shifts we can work at home.
“We can have around 850 visitors on our website at a time. I’ve just had about 15 chats in the last hour of my shift. It’s much more efficient for us to handle customers in this way, and if the phone lines are ever down, or if the customer doesn’t have access to a phone, we can still chat online.”
A different kind of challenge
Making the switch from teaching to customer service is one thing, but little did Kareen know that working for Virgin Atlantic would open up a whole other world of global opportunities. The chance to get involved with our charity partner Free The Children meant she would soon be volunteering herself for challenges of an entirely different kind.
“It was my trainer Debbie who first told me about all the different Virgin Atlantic charity adventures, and I wanted to sign up for them all,” says Kareen, an avid cyclist who has since made good use of the company bike for work scheme.
“I’ve already climbed Mount Fuji, cycled through India and completed the Three Peaks Challenge. I’m also doing the London-Paris cycle ride in July and the Morocco climb in December. When I started the challenges, I was the only one from the Swansea team who went, so it was a great way to meet other people from around the business. I now have so many cabin crew and engineer friends, and people from head office too. Some of the challenges have about 40 people on them and you can even take your friends and family too if you like.”
The outdoor life
Being based in Swansea allows our contact centre staff to make the most of everything south Wales has to offer, and for lifelong resident Kareen it’s a dream destination – especially when it comes to the great outdoors. “There are so many great attractions around here,” she says. “The beach! The Gower. The Brecon Beacons, for a start. I do a lot of walks up there. Rhossili Bay was voted the best beach in the UK and one of the ten best beaches in the world. It’s a very long, sandy beach and is really popular with surfers as it has great waves. You can also walk up to Worm’s Head, where you might spot some seals and dolphins hanging out. I love all the outdoor stuff, and there’s so much for people who feel the same to discover.
“In Swansea itself, the nightlife district of Wind Street is popular with the team, and we’ll sometimes go to Swansea Marina as a team, which is lovely. You meet so many people in this job – much more than I would in teaching, and it’s also nice to be able to work with adults.”
For Kareen, four years in the contact centre have flown by. So how would she sum up the role and what are her hopes for the future?
“There are so many opportunities here in Swansea – Sales team, Baggage, Customer Relations, as well as Team Leader training programmes and night shifts,” she says.
“I am really comfortable in my current role and work in a great team, though I would like to consider a team leader position in the future. In fact, it could be time to do that now.
“There’s a great atmosphere here and I particularly love the flexibility. There’s also a real mixture of ages and people, and everyone gels well. It’s a really friendly place to work.”
Want to join us? We’re currently recruiting for full time, permanent Customer Service Advisors in Swansea, so if you have a genuine passion for customer service then we’d love to hear from you. And don’t forget to visit our Life at Virgin Atlantic page for more information about our culture and benefits.