BT is to hire an army of 900 tech experts who will visit customers in their homes to help them sort out problems with their TV and broadband services.
Customers will be able to book an appointment with a Home Tech Expert, to help install a new technology product or fix a technical problem. Repair visits will be free for all BT home broadband, TV and phone line customers. Non-BT customers will be able to use the service for a fee of about £30.
The initiative is reminiscent of Team Knowhow, the service set up by Dixons Carphone, which owns Currys and PC World, which replaced its TechGuys service in 2010. In 2006, Carphone Warehouse, now part of Dixons Carphone, brought US firm Best Buy’s pioneering IT help service, Geek Squad, to the UK. In March, the Financial Conduct Authority fined Carphone Warehouse £29.1m for mis-selling the Geek Squad mobile phone insurance and technical support service over a seven-year period.
“We’re creating a brand new team of 900 colleagues that we’re calling Home Tech Experts,” said Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT. “They’ll take away the complexity our customers can face in setting up and getting the most out of their technology, providing more personal, more local customer service direct to people’s homes.”
The BT brand will also be making a high street comeback 15 years after shutting its last retail store. BT intends to transform 600 EE shops across the UK, which it acquired following the £12.5bn deal to buy the mobile phone company in 2015, into dual-branded outlets.
Jansen said boosting its high street presence was “going against the tide” amid widespread retail store closures. The British Retail Consortium estimates that one in 10 shops in town centres are lying empty.
BT said the dual-branded stores would provide consumers and small business customers with local access to its sales and support experts with “everything from getting online for the first time to the latest in smart home technology”.
The company said it is also accelerating by a year its plan to return all of its customer call centres to the UK and Ireland and will complete the initiative by January 2020.
Last May, BT announced plans to cut 13,000 jobs over three years and move out of its central London headquarters after almost 150 years to cut £1.5bn in costs. Its UK workforce is being whittled down to about 75,000.
In June, BT said it would shut offices in more than 270 UK locations as part of its cost-cutting plans. The closure plan, which will take until 2023 to complete, means BT will maintain a presence in just 30 locations across the UK.
Last year, BT subsidiary Openreach recruited 3,000 engineers as part of a plan to speed up the roll-out of full-fibre broadband in the UK. The company aims to build next-generation gigabit speed internet connections to 4m premises by March 2021 with an ambition of reaching 15m by the mid-2020s.