Swinton Insurance staff will be "missed" by the community if Norwich call centre closes
PUBLISHED: 17:53 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:53 27 April 2017
Archant � 2017
The closure of a Norwich call centre with the loss of 180 jobs would be a blow to the surrounding community, said the landlord of a pub nearby.
Swinton Insurance announced on Wednesday it was reviewing the future of 84 branches and its Rosary Road site as it aims to adapt to the rise of the online market.
Bob Cameron, co-owner of the Coach and Horses which is close to the Swinton office, said the changes could have an impact on other businesses in the area.
He said: “We do get quite a lot of business from them and I think the local economy will feel a knock-on effect.
“For instance, there’s a little shop around the corner where a lot of them go for lunch.
“All of them are nice people, always very friendly, and there are quite a few who have been around for years.
“It would be a shame for the area to lose them and hopefully another business, which is as friendly, will come in to take their place.”
There are 180 jobs at risk at the call centre, with a 45-day consultation period under way for those affected.
Swinton said changes to its branch network were needed as 90% of customers now bought insurance online or by phone.
The sites to close will be chosen based on location and customer use and it is not yet known if branches in King’s Lynn, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Thetford will be affected.
Cutting back on bricks-and-mortar sites follows a trend within the financial services industry over the last few years with high street banks, such as HSBC and Lloyds, closing branches.
Norwich and Peterborough Building Society’s owner announced the closure of more than two dozen branches earlier this year, citing just 23% of customers visiting a branch last year.
Swinton has said it will aim to redeploy staff to other sites where possible, as it cuts 900 roles nationally, and the latest swathe of cuts follows 130 branches being axed last year.
As part of the proposals the company has invested £45m in technology at its Manchester head office.
Swinton has occupied the Rosary Road building since buying online motor insurance firm Its4Me in 2007.
Adapting to new technology
Call centres must adapt in order to stay relevant, industry experts have warned.
Lynsey Sweales, chief executive of digital marketing firm SocialB and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce board member, said firms had to speak to customers on their terms. “With how busy everyone is they don’t have time to go into a bank or insurance broker, which are usually open during working hours. If businesses are to keep branches open they need to be flexible,” she said.
“There are other ways of talking to customers – live chat or video chat. We are seeing brands use Facebook Live to interact with people, and lots use [video-calling service] Skype.”
Laura Morrison, managing director of Bury St Edmunds-based Future50 company Your Telemarketing said: “Big call centres have to adapt and change, and learn to interact on digital platforms. They have a big job to maintain efficiency and make sure they are effective.”
A firm still focusing on bricks-and-mortar
While advances in technology have seen banks and firms offering other financial services retreating from the high street, one Norwich-based company is going the other way.
TaxAssist Accountants opened its 200th UK high-street franchise this month and is on the look-out for locations in Thetford, Diss, King’s Lynn and Norwich as it targets further expansion.
James Mattam, group business development director, said having a high-street presence remained a key part of the company’s strategy to get its name known and attract business.
“That visibility is a huge part of our lead generation and client acquisition - our business would be much poorer without it,” he said.
“Accountants by nature are risk averse, and we have to make the numbers work, so a lot of experience and knowledge goes into choosing the right location.”
TaxAssist also has head office functions at a site on Broadland Business Park.