November Coronavirus Update – a message from our CEO
As we are almost a week into a new period of lockdown in England, as well as continuing restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I wanted to update you on the steps that we are taking to ensure that we protect our people and our customers, and ensure that we keep the nation connected.
While we would obviously all love to be living our lives free of restrictions, one reassuring thing is that we are in a much better place as a business to manage the new lockdown than we were in March.
We now have a better understanding and insight into where the demand on our network is coming from. We’ve seen a significant shift from city centre to suburban areas with many people now working from home.
At Three, our mission is to provide a better-connected life for our customers and the last eight months have shown how vitally important that has been. I’ve heard numerous stories about relatives and friends keeping in touch with isolated, vulnerable people via video – this has only been possible through the infrastructure that we and others provide.
We continue to play an incredibly important role and have a responsibility to our customers over the coming months to keep them connected. I’m really proud of the impact that we’re making.
2020 has been a huge year of change for our people and as we move into another period of lockdown in England, I know that many of you will be feeling a mix of emotions.
The wellbeing and safety of you and your families remains of the utmost importance to us here at Three. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to look after you and your family’s mental, physical, financial and emotional wellbeing – so remember there are a number of support tools available on our internal Wellbeing hub.
Remember too that for all home workers, there is a £500 virtual working allowance to make your home set up as comfortable as possible.
Following the latest direction by the government, we have closed all our stores in England and made the decision to furlough all Retail employees in England, except Store Managers who will be providing support remotely via Three Store Now. All those that have been furloughed will remain on 100% pay. We’ve taken our learnings from the previous nationwide lockdown and the more recent lockdown in Wales and created a comprehensive plan to support those still working. This has been shared with both our Retail field team and Store Manager population. Our Wales colleagues returned to stores this week and our Scottish and Northern Irish stores remain open.
I’d like to thank the teams for their responsiveness and support and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Retail in England as and when we are able to re-open our stores. We will continue to monitor government guidance, but the current plan is for all stores in England to re-open on Wednesday 2 December.
The vast majority of employees across our Maidenhead, Reading, London and Glasgow offices have been working from home since 17th March. This has been working well and our current office policy remains in place. We have however made some changes to our IT processes for the duration of lockdown for our new starters, leavers as well as laptop warranty swap outs to minimise travel to the office.
We continue to have a dedicated cross-functional team that meets regularly to evaluate recent developments, coordinate planning activities and provide guidance to you. As new developments arise you will receive further updates on people related news from our Chief People Officer, Mark Redmond.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been investing significantly in our network. I am pleased to say that we have carried out improvements to our service on thousands of 4G sites and we have extended our 5G network significantly since March.
We have also activated voice calling over our 4G network on thousands more sites meaning a more reliable service for those work and family calls.
I am pleased that our network has stood up to the rigours of home working and has kept the UK connected.
Indeed, we now have a much better idea of where we expect the demand on our network to be over the coming weeks as we have all of the data from the earlier period of lockdown.
I am confident this stability will continue and my team are working hard to ensure this. I thank them for their efforts.
Unfortunately, there have still been a number of attacks on our mast sites over the past few months seemingly motivated by baseless theories around 5G and Coronavirus.
Any attack on a mast potentially means that a vulnerable person is unable to access the support that they need. I don’t need to emphasise how dangerous this is. Hundreds of thousands of our customers have suffered either a loss or a degradation to their service because of them, thankfully only in the short term.
The attacks need to stop and I am grateful for the ongoing support from government in this area.
Our Customer Care
I am pleased to say that despite our retail stores closing, our customer service centres are operating at pre-pandemic service levels.
If customers need support, they can do so via Three.co.uk and the Three app, or via 333 or our live chat service.
In addition, we have developed new ways for our customers to interact which are ideally suited to this new period of lockdown.
Three Store Now – the personal shopper experience without leaving the sofa
Three Store Now connects customers with dedicated store advisors for a one-on-one virtual personal shopper experience.
Going beyond the standard live chat service, it offers a unique way of answering questions on the perfect device or mobile tariff, by sharing videos and photos live from the shop floor, tailored to the individual’s needs. The advisors can now also check on a customer’s contract end date and help them with upgrades. So, whether it’s a comparison of the latest handsets or upgrading to the new iPhone, the Three Store Now team are on hand to help.
The service has new extended hours – with advisors available 9am-8pm Monday to Saturday and 9am-6pm on Sunday and more than 2,000 people are using this service each day. For more information visit www.three.co.uk/three-store-now
Three Live – for expert tips and device know-how
Hosted by expert presenters, anyone can ‘tune in’ online to ask a question or get bespoke tutorials on a wide range of topics from choosing a new device, through to setting it up and getting to know the features. The presenters broadcast live, so once received, questions can be answered live on air.
Three Live is available Monday to Friday between 10am-7:30pm. For more information visit www.three.co.uk/three-live
We will continue to monitor service levels in our contact centre and live chat, particularly around key events such as Black Friday, and take action to ensure that vulnerable customers are prioritised if we need to.
It has been great welcoming our customers back to our stores over the past few months and I thank them for their patience and adherence to the measures we put in place.
The majority of our customers are on unlimited tariffs meaning they are set up for any increase in usage whilst remaining at home. For our business customers, we are helping to keep their workforces connected from any location, allowing businesses to remain as productive as possible.
During the initial period of lockdown, we also implemented a number of policies to help our customers access the advice and information that they need. I am pleased to say that these initiatives are still in place and will continue to be for as long as necessary.
- We are continuing to offer unlimited data to all NHS frontline staff who have signed up the scheme.
- Zero-rated access to all NHS website domains – Anyone using the Three network can access information regardless of whether they have allowances or credit left.
- Zero-rated calls to NHS 111 and the new 119 number.
- Hospedia – Some NHS trusts use a service called Hospedia to provide patients with bedside phones which can be reached by dialling a premium rate number. For the duration of Coronavirus, we have removed the charge that Three applies for calling the number linked to this service.
- Zero-rating on NHS video consultations provided by Attend Anywhere’, so that customers can attend virtual outpatient appointments without eating into their data allowance.
- Removal of all delivery charges.
- Supporting our PAYG top up customers by texting them with information on other ways to top up and stay connected.
Visit three.co.uk/stay-connected for more information on the above.
Helping the vulnerable
We continue to zero-rate access to a number of victim support websites meaning that those who need to use the service can do so, even if they don’t have any data.
We also continue to offer support to those suffering financial hardship. If any customer is struggling to pay their bill, they should contact us and we will discuss a number of options with them.
In addition, we have our Community Fund, which enables employees to help the organisations and groups that mean the most to them. Each month we donate money to 5 causes, as chosen by our employees.
Finally, please remember to continue to follow all the guidance and advice offered to you by the government and the health service. I hope that you and your families stay safe and I am confident that we will come through this together, stronger.