BT Ireland’s Jackie Phillips: ‘Ensuring network availability continues is a priority’

25 May 2020

Jackie Phillips, BT Ireland. Image: © Luke Maxwell/

Jackie Phillips spoke to about how BT Ireland pivoted operations for Covid-19 and prioritised the emergency call answering service.

For the telecoms industry, maintaining networks and supporting increased traffic has been vital during the Covid-19 crisis. In the early weeks, Ireland’s telecoms companies ensured they had the bandwidth for any spikes in traffic.

Now that we’re a few more weeks into the crisis, spoke to BT Ireland’s director of client management and operations, Jackie Phillips, about the strategies the company put in place, starting with a task force.

“We decided to focus on three key objectives, those being obviously keeping our employees safe, informed and supported, ensuring continuity of services for our customers, including the 999/112 service, and continuing to provide support in communities as part of our responsible business strategy,” she said.

“As a communications provider, we were also very aware of the importance in ensuring our network remained available at all times and, in order to facilitate additional demand from customers, we increased the network bandwidth to support greater traffic across the network.”

Phillips said that from a disruption point of view, BT was very lucky in that it already had detailed business continuity plans for its own teams.

“I think because we are a technology company and we already had a really flexible working policy that was ingrained in our policy and with our people, we’ve really faced minimal disruption or challenges,” she said.

“That’s not to say we haven’t had them, but I think we’ve been fairly lucky as an organisation in that we probably haven’t had the challenges that other companies have experienced.”

Phillips added that in many cases, BT’s teams have become extensions of customers’ own business continuity management teams. “Many of our customers are now accelerating their digital transformation journeys in order to facilitate remote and flexible working, and clearly as a technology partner we have a significant role to play in helping them on this journey,” she said.

“Companies have had to adapt very quickly, whether it be insurance companies going from zero to 95pc remote working or finance institutions enabling entire contact centres to operate remotely within days.”

Maintaining emergency call answering services

“Our main priority has been to ensure critical services and network availability continues to operate safely and efficiently, and to ensure that we could continue to support our employees and customers as effectively as possible,” Phillips said. “Having the ability to respond and fulfil urgent requirements to help them through difficult times has been vital.”

She added that while much of the company was equipped to work remotely, BT still needed look at critical services where remote working had never been done. This included Ireland’s Emergency Call Answering Service, which is operated by BT Ireland.

“In normal circumstances, the emergency call answering services would be operated out of call centre locations on a 24/7 shift rota. In order to protect staff and the service, we needed to adapt this pretty quickly and enable flexible home working where appropriate,” said Phillips.

“This has been completely successful, we’ve maintained service levels and we’ve continued to operate at the optimum level with all calls continuing to be answered within [service-level agreements].”

While the need to support customers has been paramount and mobilising customer operations teams was made a priority in BT, Phillips also spoke about how remote working has helped her get to know her colleagues better.

“Seeing everybody working remotely and in home environments has actually been a real leveller,” she said. “It’s taken us all out of our comfort zones, but I also think it’s broken down some barriers.

“Personally, I found out more about people that I’ve worked with than I have probably over the last two years.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic