Vodafone NZ Egyptian call centre shut down

30 New Zealanders on Vodafone roaming in Egypt; 2degrees to open ChCh call centre

Vodafone has shut down the contact centre in Cairo that serves New Zealand pre-pay customers, with the 180 Egyptian staff at the centre having been instructed to stay home.

Speaking at a press conference this morning in Auckland this morning to update the situation, Vodafone director of service Kelly Moore said "the first concern is the wellbeing of our staff in Egypt, and the evacuation is complete."

Of the 180 staff at the centre, approximately 100 were answering calls at any one time, Moore says, during what is the night shift in Egypt.

While there were some delays for the pre-pay consumer customers served by the centre (it does not serve business customers), "things are now relatively back to normal", she says.

This has been achieved by rostering an extra 100 staff at short notice at Vodafone's New Zealand contact centres.

"Essentially, a new contact centre has been established in three days."

Vodafone has made contact with the 30 New Zealand customers who were using roaming services in Egypt, by text, and has established voice contact with several of them.

All expat New Zealand Vodafone staff who were working at the contact centre have been evacuated.

The Cairo contact centre was opened in 2007. At the time, Vodafone customer care director Andrea Midgen said a 35 percent increase in customer calls had prompted the need for a new call centre.

At the TUANZ Contact Centre conference the following year Midgen told the audience that the Cairo operation, known locally as the Horizon call centre -- represented a 35 -- 38 percent saving for Vodafone. The telco was forced to go to Cairo because of the desperate labour shortage in this country "It was an AND", she said.

Meanwhile, 2degrees has announced it will open a contact centre in Christchurch, which CEO Eric Hertz says will create 80 new jobs in the city.

"This is a conscious decision to deliver customer service here in New Zealand," Hertz says in a statement.

The centre, which will be in the city's central business district, will open in the middle of the year.

Also discussed at this morning's media conference was the shut-down of Vodafone's Egyptian network over the weekend.

The IDG news wire reports:

Vodafone and France Telecom say mobile phone service was restored in Egypt on Saturday as demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak's government continued across the country on Monday.

Vodafone said there were no legal or practical options to avoid the demands of the Egyptian government, which has the ability to disrupt service on its own.

"We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network, and if they had done so it would have taken much longer to restore services to our customers," according to a statement published on its website.

The company's other priority was "the safety of our employees, and any actions we take in Egypt will be judged in light of their continuing well-being."

Vodafone issued a statement on Friday saying that all mobile operators had been ordered to shut down servers in some areas and that it was obligated under law to comply.

France Telecom, which has a joint venture with Orascom that runs the Mobinil network in Egypt, said it regretted that it was required to shut down its network on Thursday night but that service was up again on Saturday, according to a spokesman.

The spokesman said that about 20 expatriate employees and their families were being pulled out of Egypt as a precautionary security measure. It has about 4,800 employees in the country.

Mobinil had about 26 million subscribers in Egypt at the end of 2009.

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