Retailers are struggling to get in touch with Smiths News after its call centre in Pune, India was allegedly ordered to shut over coronavirus fears.

The move also coincided with a widespread technical error on its app SNapp, which stopped working for users. The news wholesaler is understood to be re-routing all retailer calls through its UK call centre in Wednesbury where it has delayed current plans to cut staff and move operations to the Smiths News India call centre.

SNapp is understood to now be operational on Apple and desktop devices, though issues remain for Android mobile device users.

Coronavirus: Government support for retailers

The Maharashtra state government in Western India had announced further restrictions on businesses and people on 22 March including all private offices.

Simon Gage, publisher & retailer services director at Smiths News told betterRetailing: “Smiths News has implemented its contingency plans both in the UK and in India. This involves home working in India and increased handling in the UK for customer services. It also means that the normal capacity is not available and customers may have longer waiting times if calling in. It would help if customers only used the phone for important service issues rather than making claims or alterations. SNapp online and the IOS App are fully operational and have had no incidents of late. The android version of the app is offline at the moment following a google update last week that has caused some stability issues, we are working hard to resolve those issues. Any android user can access SNapp over the internet via https://www.snapponline.co.uk/ . Smiths News will continue to deliver all newspapers and magazines as normal through this period and appreciates our customers support and patience in these very difficult times.”

Meanwhile, the NFRN’s retailer helpline, NFRN Connect was also shut down after the trade group’s new headquarters in Durham was closed following the government’s mandatory lockdown of staff without key worker status.

NFRN news operations manager Peter Williamson reassured that systems were now in place so that staff could again begin fielding retailer calls, with a full rollout of home working for NFRN Connect call centre staff to continue throughout the week.

Coronavirus: Vape shops ordered to close

Williamson advised Smiths News customers: “It’s important we’re patient and understanding in these unprecedented times, we’re in close contact with Smiths News to make sure this is resolved.”

NFRN members looking to use the Connect help line can also request help via email at Connect@NFRN.org.uk

The call centre in India was first announced by Smiths News in May last year in order to cut costs and improve customer service for retailers. The NFRN subsequently visited the site in November 2019.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Retailer Support Hub and Live News Feed

Follow our coronavirus live feed for all the latest news and expert industry advice for the independent retail sector:

Latest coronavirus news and advice for retailers