Curtain raised on more than 50 new Sunderland jobs

Frazer Hoyle head of ATG customer contact services, Ben Phillips General Manager Sunderland Empire and Coun Paul Watson Leader of Sunderland City Council.

Frazer Hoyle head of ATG customer contact services, Ben Phillips General Manager Sunderland Empire and Coun Paul Watson Leader of Sunderland City Council.

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A new call centre has proved just the ticket after bringing more than 50 jobs to Sunderland city centre.

Today saw the first day of business at the Ambassador Theatre Group’s (ATG) contact centre at the Sunderland Empire.

Clare Millar Contact Centre Manager (left) and Duty Manager Natalie Goode

Clare Millar Contact Centre Manager (left) and Duty Manager Natalie Goode

It’s the first time the national theatre group, which operates 39 UK venues, has opened a contact centre outside of London.

Frazer Hoyle, head of customer contact services for the group, says Sunderland was chosen for the venture - which will handle 60per cent of the company’s ticket sales - because of the city’s love of theatre, the friendliness of its people and our accent.

Since ATG announced they would be bringing the contact centre to Sunderland, more than 130 applicants applied for the 50 posts currently in place, with further interviews still taking place.

“The response has been beyond what we ever expected,” explained Frazer. “The people here have been so keen, so enthusiastic and have displayed such a passion for working in this building. It was so refreshing and made life so much easier for us, we had a choice of people to employ.

Frazer Hoyle head of ATG customer contact services, Ben Phillips General Manager Sunderland Empire and Coun Paul Watson Leader of Sunderland City Council.

Frazer Hoyle head of ATG customer contact services, Ben Phillips General Manager Sunderland Empire and Coun Paul Watson Leader of Sunderland City Council.

“Sunderland appealed because lots of people here have contact centre experience, we had this wonderful space to work with, and the people have a friendly accent that people trust.”

The centre has been created in the theatre’s former hospitality suite, bringing an influx of new jobs to the city centre.

Paul Watson, leader of the council, who owns the theatre, said: “The contact centre is a double whammy: not only has it created new jobs, it also brings great footfall to the city centre. Hopefully the success of this contact centre will attract further business. In terms of job creation in the call centre sector, as far as I remember, this is the biggest jump in one go.”

He added: “Sunderland is an ideal venue for ATG’s new contact centre because it is a major player in the UK’s contact centre industry. This sector employs around 14,000 people in Sunderland and generates more than £200 million annually for the local economy. As ATG now know, this city has a reputation for skilled, friendly staff and a can-do attitude.”

Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s great to see the start of the Empire Theatre’s contact centre. The theatre already brings an enormous amount to the people and the economy of the city centre, and its contact centre will bring new jobs and add to the buzz of the city centre.”

Clare Millar is one of the new employees and this week starts her role as contact centre manager. “I know it’s a cliché, but I love theatre so to be contact centre manager at the Empire is great,” she said.

“Everyone always asks if they can have free tickets when I say where I work, it adds to the excitement of the role that people love this theatre so much.”

Natalie Goode, from Ashbrooke, joined the contact centre after previously working at the theatre’s box office.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the company, so when these job roles became available it was perfect,” she said. “It’s great coming to work in this building every day.”