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Eir CEO apologised for the inconvenience caused to customers; Remote working and staff shortages were a major challenge, said CEO

DUBLIN: Eir Chief Executive apologised for the inconvenience caused to its customers at the time of the pandemic. CEO Carolan Lennon pointed out that the company’s customer service operations were disrupted due to remote work, IT issues and shortage of workers.

Ms. Lennon explained that while retail stores were closed due to COVID-19, the company was unable to provide quality care services to customers because hundreds of care agents were transferred to remote jobs. She added that due to restrictions in the country, the recruitment and training of new employees was hampered.

“The result was longer than acceptable wait times for our customers and I apologise unreservedly for that,” Ms. Lennon told the Oireachtas committee. However, Ms. Lennon said she does not argue that company’s summer service was acceptable, “or even where we are now is acceptable,” she added.

The CEO said that Eir had lost up to 80 staff since the onset of the pandemic, that the number of calls other staff had been able to handle had decreased and that the number of calls had also increased. She said the call volume increased by 30% over the same period last year.

Ms. Lennon told the committee that customers who called the company had an average wait time of 30 minutes during the early stages of the pandemic, but that had now dropped to below 10 minutes today. Meanwhile, the Oireachtas committee chairman Kieran O’Donnell said he had contacted customer service on Wednesday and he had waited 29 minutes to be connected to a staff member.

Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley said he was shocked that 80 people quit their jobs from March to July. Ms. Lennon told the committee that call staff were being paid a salary of between €21,000 and €23,000 plus bonus per annum. But Mr. Dooley said that it should come as no surprise that people are leaving if wages are low.

“If you pitch what you’re offering to such a low level then you’re going to get people that are less skilled and less committed to your company,” Mr. Dooley said. “I would argue, with respect, that if you’re serious about doing what you’re talking about, and putting in place permanent pensionable jobs, then you’re going to have to pay more,” he added.

Ms. Lennon said Eir made a “mistake” in locating their customer care center in Sligo. “There was no history of contact centres in Sligo before we got there, which meant that when we were hiring local staff, and people travelling from the environs, local staff, many of them came in from retail or hospitality,” she said. “That was a challenge, it took us longer to train them,” she added.

Mr. Lennon said that during the summer of 2019, Eir had completed the roll-out of its rural fibre broadband programme, providing a total of 340,000 rural households and businesses. She also stated that the company had connected 150,000 new customers to fibre broadband and had fixed 200,000 faults since April of this year.

The Chief Executive’s comments come after Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan have demanded the telecom service providers Eir and Vodafone Chiefs to improve customer service.

Consumers were struggling to report faults, switch mobile phone Sim cards or move providers. Many customers were hugely frustrated trying to contact the utility’s customer care staff.

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