Heather Orr

Heather joined the business thirty-three years ago as an operator. For twenty of those years, she’s been leading contact centres all across BT Group from EE to BT. We caught up with her to learn more about her career journey and how she’s fostered a highly engaged and top performing team.

Can you tell us about your role?

I'm a Contact Centre Manager in Business Customer Support in the wider BT Business Service team. I look after the Derry/Londonderry centre where I have a team of just over a hundred people across a variety of teams all Billing related.

These teams look after our SMB (Small and Medium Businesses) Billing customers who contact us about their bill via call, chat, or WhatsApp. We also have a high-level billing complaints team, Business Recovery and Business Assurance teams.

My responsibilities as a contact centre manager are directly linked to our business goals, ensuring our customers are supported and their issues resolved.  Driving improvements to help make things better for our teams and our customers. That includes collaborating with my colleagues across Service Enablement, Learning & Development and teams looking after our services globally.   Driving for growth and adding value to the business, whilst achieving high engagement and ensuring I am continuously looking after our team’s wellbeing and also developing our capability to do more. 

You’ve been with BT Group for thirty-three years. Can you tell us about your career journey? And what’s kept you here?

So, I started as an operator in Directory Enquiries and being honest I hadn’t intended staying long enough to make a career, and for the first few years as we brought the girls up, I was quite happy in that role.

About six years later, an opportunity came up, and a very supportive manager encouraged me to apply, which turned out to be the best decision I ever made, as that was the start of my career journey in BT Group and I really have never looked back.

My first real step up was into Group Billing, which was an area of the business I really enjoyed working in and had some fantastic mentors and managers; it was there I moved to a first line manager role and to Senior Business Manager role. I gained some great experiences in this area and made some fantastic contacts, many of which I have worked with in other areas of the business throughout the years, and some still to this day. 

As I moved to different business units around the company including BT Group Ireland, Consumer and now Business and back to where I started in the Billing area of business, I quickly learned how key it is to build those contacts and maintain them, as at times when you need a little bit of support to move something along, having that relationship can be key.

Throughout my time in BT Group, I really have never given much thought about moving away from the company. Whilst my roles have broadly been around managing a centre, leading teams of people hasn’t changed massively, and it was almost like working for a new company each time I moved. I’ve been able to work with different people, both learning and sharing different experiences and skills each time I moved around the business.

How has BT supported your career development?

I have had the chance to attend numerous training courses through BT Group’s Learning and Development team over the years and have had no shortage of opportunities to put the skills I have gained into practise when leading my teams.

We also have free access to LinkedIn Learning online courses at BT Group, which is a superb tool, available to every one of us in the company, covering a huge range of skills, and that is something I have used often.

How do you and the business more broadly support your team’s wellbeing?

There is a complete toolkit of both physical and mental support available to our people around wellbeing, along with monthly campaigns.   Some of these campaigns focus on the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’: Connect, Keep Active, Take Notice, Keeping Learning, Give.  A recent campaign was Mental Health Awareness Week #Donutfeelalone where we had our tea trolly out and donuts for everyone on site, highlighting the issues.

The teams have access to the EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) 24/7, and a fantastic array of support online around all aspects of wellbeing.

How does your team make you proud? How do you keep your team so engaged?

The passion and genuine care my team shows for their customers every single day makes me extremely proud. One of my key roles is to drive improvements to make things better for our customers and colleagues, and my team do that brilliantly using Continuous Improvement (CI)- this has driven efficiencies and benefit, and at the same time empowering our people to drive change themselves.

My team have consistently delivered some of the highest engagement scores in the business, they have a fantastic sense of pride in their centre and are never afraid to speak up.  For me, its key to have my finger on the pulse of how people are feeling in the centre at all times and have regular dialogue and an open-door approach.

We have a brilliant centre who like many others, have adopted the hybrid model of three together/two wherever, which has of course challenged us all to take a different approach at times – we don’t have all our teams in the office all of the time, and some of our newer team members have never known anything different.

You recently won an external award recognising your leadership skills in managing contact centres, and you were subsequently phoned up by the director in your space to congratulate you. Can you tell us about that experience?

Firstly, for me – I felt like I had won from the minute I was nominated by my manager. To me that was fantastic recognition not only for me but my entire centre, so I was going to the national CCMA (Contact Centre Management Awards) to have a really good evening and be proud to represent the company, but to then be called out as a GOLD winner against the fantastic competition from across many companies in the UK was phenomenal.

When I got the message and then call the next morning from our new Customer Service Director, it was amazing – it was pretty special for that to be the first conversation with your new director, but it was so much appreciated and to be honest made the award feel all the more special.

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