O2 has announced the appointment ofSaj Umarji as the new head of its Customer Service Centre in Bury.

Sajcan rightly claim to know the call centre industry from top to bottom. Now aged 37, he joinedO2 as a Customer Service Advisor at the Dumers Lane centre when it first opened10 years ago. Since then he has had a steady rise to the top and believes that anyone can succeed -with the right training and development, encouragement from managersand a willingness to work hard.

Growing up in Blackburn where he still lives with his wife and two children,Saj says he was drawn to the centre because he was sure it would present many career opportunities.

‘I was ambitious andliked thecustomer service centre environmentbut I never dreamed then that I would one day be responsible for the whole site.’

After his first year as an Advisor, he was given the chance to act up as Team Manager for a year, He was then promoted to hold a similar post for two years. Four years on, he was Operations Manager looking after eight Team Managers and 100 people. The next step was Senior Operations Manager looking after around five Operations Managers and 500 people. After nine years at Bury, Saj moved to O2’s Preston Brook Customer Service site at Runcorn, as Head of Contact Centre Operations responsible for over 1000 people. As new Head at Bury, he looks aftermore than 1300 staff, responsible for O2 Pay & Go and Tesco MobileCustomer Service.

Not in favour of private offices – he feels they can keep bosses aloof from theirpeople – he now sits at a desk about 50 yards from the one where he took his first customer calls as a new O2 recruit. He knows hiscolleagues well,playing in the five a side football squad made up ofpeople from all levels. He is keen to build on the site’s ‘family’ feel.

SaidSaj: ‘Some people stillview call centres as being like the old sweatshops. But we are constantly looking to how we can improve the environment for our people from the minute they walk through the door. We want O2people to look on it as a long term career and we are proud of our record in retaining staff.’

“I’m an example of that myself and there are quite a number of people who have been here from the beginning like me. I have had a lot of development, training and encouragement from managers to get to where I am.’

‘We recognise the importance of investing in people because they will do a better job helping us to improve our customer satisfaction levels. In thePay &Go world, customers can very easily switch to another network so it is important that we give them an exceptional level of service.”

One of his aims as new head of site is to improve the working environment even more. Another is to build on existing strong bonds with the local community and to invite Manchester businesses into the site with a view to forming close working relationships, sharing best practice and discussing how the mobile industry can help businesses meet the challenges of the current economic climate.

Acknowledging that many young people are currently experiencing difficulty in building careers, he advises them to work hard, set themselves some goals and go after them. ‘Really challenge yourself. Have an idea of what it is you want and go for it, ” he said.

O2 is Bury’s largest private employer. Sarah Sargent, former head of site and one of the winner of Manchester’s Women of the Year awards in 2009, has moved on to a new position in the company.

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