Posted: 11 May 2020

New ways we’re supporting customers during the Covid-19 outbreak

An update from TalkTalk CEO Tristia Harrison.

We aren’t the first company, and we won’t be the last, to talk about how we’re helping people through the challenges and uncertainty presented by the virus outbreak. Our priority remains to be the health and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers, and my teams have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to keep everyone connected.

Following the government’s latest plans for the gradual easing of lockdown, I wanted to provide you with an update on all the steps we have taken so far to support customers. And while the situation is rapidly evolving, we are committed to taking a safe, gradual, flexible and structured approach to ensure we can continue to deliver the best possible service.

Keeping customers connected

As a critical national service, we know the phone and broadband connections we provide are a vital lifeline to many during this challenging time. TalkTalk customers with the Unlimited UK Calls Boost already benefit from unlimited free calls to UK landlines and mobiles but having noticed more customers were reaching the 60-minute limit for free calls, we increased this to 180 minutes between April – May 2020. Furthermore, any customers currently on a promotional price for the Unlimited Calls Boost will have their monthly cost frozen between May – July 2020 to ensure our customers can focus on the things that matter, keeping in touch with loved ones.

Our broadband plans already include totally unlimited data and our key workers are working around the clock to keep up with a 30% increase in network traffic.

We know some of our customers may face financial difficulty and have made a commitment not to disconnect anyone if they struggle to pay due to reasons associated with Covid-19. And for customers who need extra time to pay their bill, we have introduced the option for customers to defer their next payment. We have also stopped inflationary increases in bills from April and are continuing to provide end of contract notifications – now more than ever we think it’s important that our customers are aware of the best value deals available to them before they reach the end of their contract.

Vulnerable customers and NHS colleagues

We’ve put in place a dedicated UK support team for vulnerable customers, capped their landline bills and introduced new landline packages to make sure this group is getting the right support. Measures have also been introduced to ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating are provided with alternative methods of communication wherever possible, if priority repairs to broadband and landlines cannot be carried out due to Covid-19.

Our NHS customers are receiving free upgrades, if they are specialists who need a faster home broadband connection – for example clinical staff who need fibre to carry out video consultations or review large images like scans.

Some of our empty offices have been put to good use for the  Hamilton Davies Trust, who we have  supported in the production of scrubs and plastic visors for frontline NHS staff and local care homes, housing a production line and also providing financial support. To date they and many volunteers have made 35,000 plastic visors and are now switching to producing scrubs and other materials to use in NHS facilities.

We’re also working with NHS Digital to offer free connectivity to care homes to help them respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as providing free upgrades for clinicians needing to work from home with increased bandwidth to carry out appointments or to download scans and other large images. 

Customer service

Like many other companies, we’ve had to temporarily reduce the number of people working in our call centres to keep them safe and well. Over 240 of our head office colleagues volunteered to retrain as customer service representatives to help answer queries via digital channels and live chat. This, combined with other steps we have taken, has increased our customer service capacity significantly, and we should be closer to normal levels soon. 

Meanwhile, we’ve rolled out new automated options on Service Centre which allow customers to manage their connection online. And an enhanced self-serve function has been introduced enabling customers to run a live connection check and book an engineer if necessary, without having to call us.

Supporting critical services

So far, our engineers have helped connect and upgrade over 70 hospitals, fire stations and care homes. We have also made bandwidth changes to support libraries that are now being converted into Covid-19 pop-up facilities. And we have been delivering Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) connectivity to food distribution depots and supporting supermarkets with an emergency strategy to maintain the food supply to the UK, following the huge demand on basic food items that we have all seen.

None of the above would be possible without our colleagues who have been working incredibly hard to support customers and contribute to tackling the effects of Covid-19 at a national level.  As the situation continues to change, we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting all our customers during this time and keeping them connected to the things and the people that matter most to them. I am so proud to see the TalkTalk family pull together to help our customers during this critical time.