Expert Articles Strategy and policy

Using systems to help your business prosper

When we started EasylifeIT in 2006, my business partner insisted that we had strong systems in place from day one. More than a decade on and having seen the company flourish over that period, I appreciate more than ever how sound that advice was. It’s something I’m passionate about when I work with clients because I know from my own experience that it delivers results.

Despite having worked in the IT industry, but unlike many of my peers, I am a firm believer that not every problem requires an IT solution. However, when it comes to driving customer service and sales efforts, I am completely sold on the value of systems.

Back in 2006, the cost of deploying such a system in house was verging on prohibitive, especially for a small business. This is no longer the case.

The turning point has been the emergence of cloud services. The availability of enterprise class software such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at a modest monthly cost has enabled a step change. No server is required, just a good broadband connection. With today’s increasingly mobile and flexible workforce, this also makes it perfect for distributed teams. Looking back to our start-up days and the pain and cost of deployment, I am almost jealous!

What we do and why we do it this way

One of my main drivers for starting EasylifeIT was because I had observed that there was significant room for better service in our industry. I was fed up with; hours spent listening to a recorded voice assuring me how valuable my call was, promised calls not returned, quotes that took days or weeks to arrive. We wanted to behave fundamentally differently, but we knew only good systems would ensure our team could cope as we grew.

We decided early on that we would not use voicemail, preferring instead to ensure that the phone would always be answered by a human being. We also set ourselves the objective of always returning a call or providing information when promised and ensuring effective communication with the customer. Finally and crucially, in a world where the concept of “customer service” seems to reach no further than the mission statement, we needed to deliver truly outstanding responsiveness and service.

The technology we used to underpin our ethos

As a Microsoft partner in 2006, we had an obvious choice of software in front of us. We selected Microsoft Exchange for email and Microsoft Dynamics for customer management. Once we started to use the systems and tweaked them to meet our needs, the two products simply revolutionised the way we worked. The communications were excellent, with diary sharing and live mobile phone access to not only email but also diaries and contacts. Today, we use Microsoft Office 365 for email and a host of other useful data storage and sharing purposes.

On the CRM side, we continue to benefit from using Microsoft Dynamics. Incoming customer issues are raised as a case. Telephone calls, messages, tasks and appointments are attached and workflows trigger reminders and emails to ensure that promised actions are not forgotten. The customer is kept informed of progress.

At any time or location, the complete history of any issue is available, including actions taken and notes. This prevents repetition and has virtually eliminated the frustration that all of us are familiar with. Having to repeat the same things time again just because you can’t reach the same person on the other end of the phone is not something our customers should or can expect.

Understanding the value of doing the right thing

Not every good decision can be justified using purely financial measures. In 2006, if we had looked only at the figures, it is possible we would not have taken the approach we did. However, we believed that being easy to do business with and building a reputation for sound, reliable advice would pay back in the long run. I am happy to say that this belief has been borne out.

However, a downside of today’s proliferation of affordable cloud services is that there is now a bewildering array of choices. The trick is finding the right ones to solve the challenges your business needs to address. Looking back on our own experiences, we believe investing the time in getting those decisions right pays dividends.