It is still with great emotion that I site and write this post on Linkedin, but feel that it’s also good to look back at what Thomas Cook has done for me in my personal life and development over the 12 years and 3 weeks of employment.
At the age of 21, I started working at Thomas Cook after being self-employed as a Customer Helpdesk Advisor in our Larbert Contact Centre it was during this time, Thomas Cook were just starting to prepare for jobs to move there as part of the merger of MyTravel.
I can still remember to this day the people in the group and in fact I became the last person in the group to still work at Thomas Cook right through to the end.
At the time when I first started, it was a simple 1 system we got to learn, TravelCat I can to this day still remember how it’s used it was that easy.
The role then was to support and answer call’s from customers who had already booked with us and had questions, wanted to make payments, amend their holidays etc.
Not long after this, I then went on to learn even more systems one being ‘TOS’ which at the time was the tour operator system to be able to make changes to bookings as a ‘first call resolution’.
Sometime after this, I had then moved onto working with the ‘Mission Control’ team, this was a great experience as a Real Time Analyst where I would work to protect the PCA (Percentage of Calls Answered) and to make sure we were meeting business targets and ensuring we do the best actions for the calls coming in.
At that time as well, I completed testing for the role out of GAD (Genesys Desktop) as we were making the move of our telephony systems and then went on to provide support to end-users.
Back then I was in a seconded role and it was also a difficult time for Thomas Cook where I remember a number of friends were made ‘redundant’ due to being on a tempory contract and the business had to let them go along with removing seconded roles which I was part of back to their original roles.
From there, I also received additional training to handle Flexibletrips Admin calls, this time it was not just direct customers I was dealing with but also travel agents across the UK supporting with questions and amendments to their holiday using Travlink. I still remember the days, of when there was a number of system issues and you would dread having to manually load everything onto the system.
After this, major changes were being made to how the contact centres operate and removing a split of the sales team and service teams to combine them as a multiskilled team so one call could be booking a holiday for a customer and the next could be amending a holiday that was already booked. I was lucky enough to get placed into the Off-Phone Admin Team where we were doing off-phone support for bookings, investigating errors and where needed write-offs, contacting customers with operational changes and more. Another highlight in that role was the Live Chat service which was introduced, I can still remember taking a number of chats at the same time to answer questions!
Following this and during this time in 2011, it was then announced that the Bradford Office would be shutting down and roles would be split between Larbert and Peterborough and Customer Relations who deal with post-holiday complaints was being moved to Larbert and I jumped at the chance.
At first, I was handling complaints when it moved to Larbert in 2013, but not long after that I went onto do a support role for the Customer Relations team which involved liaising with our Airline colleagues based at the Manchester hanger to provide information to agents about flight delays and if compensation would be payable for the delays.
Along with this, I also liaised and investigated complaints that were escalated to the CAA and ABTA which was a mix of pre and post-travel bookings. I also provided support to managers in the contact centre where needed which brings me on to the next part.
I was lucky enough to be asked to provide and take over the work to improve Matsoft into our Customer Relations team which involved working with management and development teams, the biggest highlight was to introduce new functionality to simplify and handle flight delay claims all within the one system.
Following this, I then worked on the roll-out and continuous development of Dynamics 365 to the Customer Relations team, internally known as Cview which lead to a major change in my life.
Back in August 2018 I applied for a new role as a CRM Strategic Product Owner, not expecting that I would get it since I have no project manager qualifications. Not long after applying for this the sad news was given in Larbert that the jobs would be outsourced to Webhelp.
A few days later I got confirmation that I was successful in my role and straight away started to make arrangements to move to Peterborough where my role was based.
I had a very emotional day in late September 2018 I had my last day in the Larbert office, with such a lovely send off with so many people I worked with who were my friends.
October 2018 I started the new role and seen the major upgrade to Dynamics 365 v9.1 working along side IT and Business. Following on from that was then working with the business areas and development teams for the roadmap to be in place.
August 2019 we were at the stages of the plans being in place for the new financial year, which at Thomas Cook was October and we had so many plans’s for the system on how it could be improved and not only that become the true group system for the business areas something I was ready to work on and rather excited to be involved in.
During my time I was also very lucky to be part of a ‘SAT’ team (Special Assistance Team) who at times of crisis would be deployed to assist customers. With this I was lucky enough to be deployed for Hurrican Matthew to Cayo Coco in 2016 to support our local iDM Team for everyone to be sent back to Holguin who were moved from there due to the forecasted direct hit. The following year 2017, Hurricane Irma came and caused so much damage I was deployed to Varadero to support with the rescue flights to bring all of our customers home to the UK. Most recently, August 2019 I was sent to Orlando in advance of Hurricane Doriane which was forecast to be a direct hit the hurricane did turn and avoided Orlando so the role became a customer service role helping customers with the two days of the airports being closed and assisting them with he new flights along with working at the airport right up until I got on an aircraft to fly home.
Now September arrives, we had no idea what it would bring, the great pain September would bring.
We had no idea what was going to happen to the business, even on the 22nd September the day that will never be forgotten we had high hopes that something, anything would be sorted which would secure the future of Thomas Cook.
I along with many of my colleagues could get no sleep I was chatting with people across the business both on Facebook and Twitter, the passion we all had was there it could be seen by the world.
That evening it was impossible for myself and many others to get any sleep at all we were wide awake with the hope that an announcement would be made confirming the company had been saved, then suddenly at 02:03 on the 23rd September, our worlds came crashing down when the CAA and FCO closely followed by the BBC announced that Thomas Cook had ceased trading.
A few hours later, at 7am I arrived in the office in Peterborough because I had absolutely no sleep I wanted to be with people, my friends the Thomas Cook family to support each other and await the ‘town hall’ to hear what was going to happen.
At that time it was announced that we had no job, the company we loved is no more. As you can imagine it was very emotional and tears from everyone.
Around 12pm, I walked out of the building at Thomas Cook HQ for the very last time with colleagues all supporting each other.
The 12 years I had at Thomas Cook were amazing, I had so many opportunities to develop myself personally, I made so many close friends whom I will never forget and had the best time even with a number of ups and downs that we all went through.
Even after the collapse, the support from local businesses has been amazing, the support from everyone we worked with is also amazing and so nice to see as we get through the heartbreak together.
People may say it was a business and we will move on, but for me and everyone I worked with, it was not just a business, we were all a family. We had high hopes that we would pull through, we would have done anything we could to save the business.
Thomas Cook, I think you for the 12 years, the experiences you have given me and the friends I have made.