If you've ever had to contact East Coast by post since 2011 you will have noticed their customer relations address is based in Plymouth which seems odd for a company based in York that doesn't go anywhere near Devon. This was due to East Coast outsourcing the contact centre to reduce costs. Previously the contact centre was based in Newcastle and had been since at least the GNER days.

Virgin Trains East Coast announced recently that they're taking customer relations back in house and moving back to Newcastle. The original Newcastle contact centre has now been converted into a hotel but they were able to find some office space suitable for their needs belonging to Virgin Money. Virgin Money have a main base in the Gosforth area of Newcastle which they gained when they took over Northern Rock.

As well as taking over the customer relations functions in Plymouth the Newcastle office will also take over the call centre based in Mumbai, India. There's been no mention whether web support, currently based in Wolverhamption, will be moving to Newcastle too.

It's good news for employment in the north east and I suspect it'll also result in better customer service as when an organisation takes customer relations back in house it shows they have a commitment to improving the customer experience. I hope this results in improved response times to customer enquiries, complaints and delay repay plus staff being empowered to go the extra mile when things go wrong rather than sticking to the book and offering the minimum compensation.

I had good experiences from the last time customer relations was based in Newcastle, response times were faster, replies seemed more personalised and if you were inconvenienced they'd often offer you something beyond the minimum required compensation.

So generally I see this as a positive development but remember it may not be good news for everyone. Depending on the workload of the outsourcing company they may have to make some of their staff redundant. If that happens then hopefully they are quick to find new jobs and any who want to work in Newcastle are given the opportunity to do so.

Note: the Newcastle contact centre originally belonged to GNER and then was taken over by National Express when they won the East Coast mainline franchise. As National Express ran the contact centre as a separate company (National Express Services Ltd) to their rail franchise (NXEC Trains Ltd) when NXEC lost their rail franchise they were still contracted to provide the contact centre to East Coast. Therefore you had a few years when National Express was still doing customer relations on behalf of East Coast until they decided to close the contact centre in 2011.