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Helping Etihad Airways’ Contact Centres work in perfect harmony

Linking contact centres in the cloud gives every customer a first class experience, wherever their calls land.

Etihad Aviation Group
10,000 to 50,000
Transport and logistics
Image of Helping Etihad Airways’ Contact Centres work in perfect harmony


With three separate contact centres spread across the UAE and UK, Etihad Airways wanted to make sure they were giving every customer who called them the best experience possible. And that meant making every centre work together.

So, when Alex Holcroft was asked to lead the airline’s contact centre transformation programme, he saw a huge opportunity to join up operations in the cloud. With our help, Alex made sure that customers from 40 countries got a first class experience in 16 different languages.

The challenge  

Etihad Airways is a truly international business. Along with serving its own routes, it’s got minority stakes in seven international airlines. And its contact centres are a vital part of its operations.

As the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates we want passengers to feel like our guests from the very first call, wherever they are.”

Ruth Birkin
Head of Global Contact Centres, Etihad Airways

The airline’s three contact centres are spread across two countries. With two in the UAE (one in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain), and a third in Manchester, UK, this created a whole new challenge for the business.

“Those contact centres were run as individual sites,” explains Etihad Airways project manager, Alex Holcroft, “There was no sense of a single contact centre servicing the entire business.”

The airline needed a way to bring its contact centres together, making sure that customers received the best service possible, whoever they spoke to. Doing so could also make it easier to integrate new centres that came on board via future acquisitions.

The solution

The airline’s plan was to bring together its three contact centres into one virtual entity. To make it happen, it chose our Cloud Contact Cisco platform, delivered from the cloud, on pay-as-you go terms. “With BT and Cisco cloud-based technologies we’re consuming the contact centre as a service,” says Chief Information and Technology Officer, Robert Webb.

With BT and Cisco technology supporting them, the airline could put all inbound calls into a single queue. And that had big benefits from the word go. “We’re able to use our 450 multi-lingual agents around our centres much more effectively,” says Ruth, “We’ve already started to see a 10 per cent increase in their efficiency.”

The BT Cloud Contact Cisco platform comes with a complete set of advanced features, including IVR, call recording, multichannel call handling and workforce optimisation. “This is really a set of next generation capabilities that’s critical to the success of interactions with our guests around the world,” says Robert.

Our Inbound Contact Global means callers from 40 countries can be directed to one of 16 language teams across the three contact centres. And precision queuing uses logic to go beyond skills-based routing. “When the call comes in, precision queuing routes that guest to exactly the right agent. They may be in Manchester or they may be here in the UAE,” explains Ruth.

As well as our Cloud Contact Cisco platform, our IP Connect Global network carries voice and data between the three contact centres and connects them with our Cloud Compute hosting sites in Amsterdam and Manchester.

The result

Joining up its three contact centres has done more than just improve customer service and make operations more efficient. It’s sped up expansion efforts too. When Etihad started its Abu Dhabi to Madrid route in 2015, virtualisation meant complex issues like setting up Spanish menus on its global IVR systems was easy. The same goes for ordering and testing new numbers.

“When we make such requests to BT it all happens quickly and smoothly,” says Ruth. “We really look to BT to be able to support us in all the markets we operate in.”

And it’s not just the consumer side of the business it’s affected. Etihad Cargo accounts for some 20 per cent of the airline’s income. Alistair Burrows, Head of Contact Centres at Etihad Cargo, says: “Any contact with our cargo customers is of immense importance to us. It doesn’t just represent one airline ticket. It can represent millions and millions of dollars of annual revenue.”

With workforce optimisation on our Cloud Contact Cisco platform, the cargo team could seriously raise its game when it comes to customer responses. Customers in the cargo environment tend to abandon calls within 10 seconds. So if a call’s not answered swiftly, the company will probably lose the business; that’s why forecasting and rostering have to be precise. “The transformation has enabled us to automate tasks that were previously manual, like rostering and call volume forecasting,” says Alistair.

Our Optimise Contact gives each of the three contact centres essential insight and management information. With it, Etihad Airways can better equip their agents where they’re needed most to make operations more efficient and reduce their costs. “The tools and technology that agents have on their desktops really put them in control of their work,” says Ruth.

If the cargo team has a tough day the answers are immediately available from the system. Alistair says: “With the intelligence that’s been delivered through this technology, we’ve been able to increase productivity to 75 per cent.”

I think we’ve made a significant difference to the business. We’ve given them a huge amount of tangible benefit.”

Alex Holcroft
Project Manager, Etihad Airways

During the transformation, our Advise Contact professional services consultants helped Etihad Airways work out their desired customer experience and develop new call flow roadmaps. They also provided project management to make sure everything ran smoothly. “Our speed of answer has improved by 30 per cent since we virtualised,” says Ruth.

Etihad Airways guest numbers saw double-digit annual percentage increases between 2012 and 2015, reaching a record of 15 million. Robert Webb concludes: “Etihad Airways is re-imagining the digital guest experience. In a fantastic partnership with BT and Cisco, we’re leveraging technology innovation and each other’s strengths and guest orientation.”