Listen: Virgin Phoenix rises from the Krups ashes in Limerick

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Pat Healy, Virgin Media. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

In 1964, the opening of the Krups factory in Roxboro was seen as the first major multinational initiative in the Mid West, and in 1982 the business peaked, employing 1,300 workers.

However, after 34 years in Limerick, on October 30, 1998, the then remaining 500 jobs were lost when Krups management announced the closure of the plant.

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But now Virgin Media has become the anchor tenant at the Roxboro site bringing 387 people onsite.

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Walking through the ‘shop floor’ of the customer call centre,  Pat Healy explains that the Limerick base is a key site in the firm’s global network.

“This is seen as a bit of a jewel in the crown within Virgin Media and that buzz that you feel is an important part because if that isn’t there, within the context of an environment, then there is something wrong.

“So we put a lot of time and focus into the people and making sure that if we give them the tools that they need, then we are making it easier for them to do what we need for the customers.”

“We are conscious of the type of people that we try to bring in. Not everyone is suited to Virgin Media, but there is a certain type of personality we want. Outgoing, someone who can have fun and enjoy themselves.

“Work is an important part of it, but if you are here because you feel you have to be here then that will come across when you talk to your customers – so it is really important that people enjoy the job and we are selective in that.”

On the work done onsite, Pat explains that ‘Project Lightning’ is the rollout of broadband to the towns of Ireland.

Pat Healy, Virgin Media. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

“We have done a lot of that in 2018 with about 100,000 homes added to the footprint.”

From phone advice to online messaging, employees at the Limerick site have to communicate with customers in every age group.

Amongst the many functions of the ‘jewel in the crown’, Pat reveals that “there is a fraud and revenue assurance team here and they support both the Irish and the UK market.

“Every Virgin Media mobile phone bought during Black Friday, during the run up to Christmas or in the January sales, will go through a credit check and are confirmed through the centre in Limerick.”

Having joined the firm last November, Pat cut his teeth in the industry in Dell in Limerick during the 90s. and then in Shannon with a software company, Version One.

Offering his perception of the Mid West, Pat said that within the last eight or nine years it has changed greatly.

“I think the local Chamber has done a great job within that time. The Limerick Twenty Thirty is an exciting proposition and if we get 100 per cent of that delivered I think we will be in a very different place.

“If  Limerick is doing well, then it is inevitable that the rest of the Mid West will do well.

“I think Dublin is at saturation level. There are options, even within the Virgin media world and we have centres in Dublin, but we are looking into making the Limerick centre something special.

“There is a definite agreement at the senior management team to invest in Limerick and make it into something that stands out within Virgin Media and the local community.”

On the challenge of recruitment and retention, Pat said that while the branding will attract the talent, “we still need to get the branding and awareness in Limerick stronger.

“The perception of the company in Limerick and the region of being a good employer and somewhere people want to work, that’s something we will continue to develop.”

Not just offering customer care support, the Limerick Virgin Media site also has a software development hub with open positions.

They are supporting Liberty Global in Europe in research and development and software support.

“That is one that we are growing at the moment and we literally have eight open jobs that we need to fill,” said Pat.

137 people joined the Limerick Virgin Media team in 2018.

“It’s under the radar. That is 137 people that there wasn’t a jobs announcement for, it just happened.”

The only issue facing Pat and his team is expanding the footprint of the Limerick site.

“We are pretty much at capacity but we have lots of plans to bring more to Limerick so that is something that we have been talking to the LEDP about on how we do it.”

Pat explains that remaining at the Roxboro site, despite the space constraints is important for their corporate social responsibility.

“All the rent that is paid from Virgin Media to the LEDP is reinvested back into the regeneration of the Southside of Limerick so we are conscious that it is a strong message for us.”

“Realising what 2019 to 2020 looks like is what gets me out of bed in the morning because we have great ambitions.”

“For the important decision for the next generation, I will say that your CAO form will not define you as a person.

(Think that) ‘I am kind of on this journey which is life rather than my education and I get to enjoy it along the way.’

“Look for the opportunities and leave the naysayers to one side and accept that you are going to make mistakes.

“Whether that is in something like your CAO application or life in general – you will get it wrong,

“But the big thing is (to ask) ‘did I learn from it and am I better off?”