VIRGIN Holidays is planning aggressive cost-cutting
tactics to force agents to make all straightforward bookings on viewdata
instead of through the call centre.

Agents who ring the call centre with simple bookings
will be transferred to a helpdesk, manned by 25 staff, to book on viewdata
instead. The helpdesk will run for at least four months depending on demand.

The aim is to free up call centre staff for complicated
itineraries, particularly as the sales period is expected to be busy.

Last year agents were left hanging on the line because
call-centre staff could not cope with the booking volumes.

Head of sales Kieran Farragher said: “We’re going to
be stricter at the call centre in January and if the product is bookable by
viewdata we’ll transfer agents to the helpdesk to help them complete the sale,
rather than say no to the booking.”

The clampdown follows a 50% rise in call-centre
volumes year-on-year, which has led to an increase in staff for the peak
January sales period from 140 to more than 300.

Viewdata bookings currently make up 50% of sales, up
from 10% last year. Virgin hopes to move to 70% of bookings through viewdata
and 30% through the call centre. Currently 85% of product is bookable on
viewdata.