A Newport customer service team manager is in line for a top industry award.

Rachel Harper, 37, joined Lloyds Banking Group as a telephony agent following her A-levels and has seen her career grow to become senior team manager of Core Banking and Moments of Truth in Newport.

Rachel is just one of the nominees for the 20th Welsh Contact Centre Awards, organised by the Welsh Contact Centre Forum. The awards ceremony will be held in March’s at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The awards, sponsored by Centric Recruitment, celebrate both individuals and companies for their contribution to the industry over the year.

Rachel said: “My team supports customers at first touch with vulnerabilities such as family bereavement, cancer and British Sign Language. I’ve worked hard over the past 18 years to develop my own confidence and to actively represent women in leadership roles. To win such an award would be an honour and would corroborate that my plan and leadership style is a successful one.”

Against a backdrop of predictions that robots could replace humans at the customer service coalface, the contact centre industry has grown to contribute £650m annually to the Welsh economy.

Sandra Busby, managing director of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, said: “Automation isn’t a new thing in contact centres. Over the past two decades, the Welsh contact centre workforce has grown from 10,000 to 32,000 employees.

“While we’ll continue to see basic interactions go to the bots, employees like the ones nominated will see their skills called upon for more complex customer service situations. It’d take robots a century to replicate the empathy of a customer service agent, but we will see them play a supporting role to humans, providing data to agents which can help customer engagements run even more smoothly. This is an industry which continues to innovate and adapt and I can’t wait to celebrate its achievements in March.”

More than 700 guests will include finalists in 16 categories from organisations including Virgin Atlantic, HSBC, BT, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, V12 Finance, Admiral, EE and Molson Coors.

The awards ceremony has previously been hosted by celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr, David Walliams and Rob Brydon, but 2018’s star turn is a closely guarded secret.

Dave Matthews, operations director at Centric Recruitment, said: “The contact centre sector in Wales is one of substantial growth and Centric is proud to be headline sponsor of the awards at this year’s 20th anniversary ceremony. The Welsh Contact Centre Forum is hugely respected in our industry and their values align with those of Centric in terms of quality and service delivery.”

Other sponsors currently include Deloitte, HSBC, Aegis, Legal & General, Red Recruitment, V12 Finance, CGI, Yolk Recruitment, Premier CX, Cardiff & Vale College and Conduit.