Our lockdown story

Like any other business, March 2020 presented us a mix of concern and trepidation. We were entering the unknown and we would have to make decisions that we have never previously made.

Other than the obvious concern for the safety of our people, which was paramount, our next concern was for our clients’ ability to continue operating.

We were in a more fortunate position than many because of the diversity of our offering and the diversity of our client base. But there was some adaptation to be done, as we soon found out.

A sector-based approach

We decided to help out our clients in the hospitality sector. Because we weren’t reliant on this sector, we felt we could make a gesture to help out those who were forced to close their operations. 

We didn’t want them to feel like they had to cancel services and then start again in future, with the uncertainty and hassle that this would have brought. Nor did we want them to feel like they had to make any other difficult budgeting decisions.

The solution? We paused all billing for the 12 clients that we identified in industries including hotels, leisure, coffee shops, charity retail, and home improvements. It wasn’t just a delayed billing as has been done by others, but a cancellation of fees for the duration of their shutdown period. We were willing to do this on an open-ended basis. It turned out to be three months for some and up to six months for others. We still had the direct costs to pay, for their internet connectivity, software licences etc, but we wanted to remove any possibility of worries in relation to services that we provide.

We wanted to ensure that we rewarded our customers for their loyalty. Of course, there was a business case for this in that we didn’t want to be cancelling and then starting up again. That would be more work for everyone. It saved them an awkward conversation, or the need to avoid one. 

Support contracts really were all-inclusive

A major thing that we then dealt with was the huge uptick in demand for anything relating to remote (home) working. This had consequences for us in terms of delivery of existing support contracts, and new demand.

Firstly, in terms of helping existing clients to move to remote working, all of the labour involved in this was covered by our existing contracts. They did not pay a penny extra for advice, or for support in setting up new devices at home, or new connections to their IT and communications network. The fact that all of this demand came at once was our problem to deal with, and that’s what we did.

Fortunately, our approach is cloud by default and flexible and scalable by default, but even so, there was a period of weeks during which we were busy making this happen. 

New hardware was needed

Then there were hardware sales. Suddenly huge numbers of new laptops and printers and webcams and speakers were required. Those who had only ever had a desktop computer needed laptops that were up to date, sufficiently powerful, and secure. Those needing to print large amounts opted to upgrade from a home inkjet to a mini LaserJet; saving valuable time and effort and support. Then there were webcams to allow for higher quality videoconferencing and audio from their built-in microphones which are superior to laptop microphones – even on many high-spec machines. Likewise, with speakers, which are often low-grade on even the best of laptops. They are simply not designed to be your source of engagement with important and multi-person meetings. 

We provided one-to-one consultations with individual users on the fit-for-purpose of whatever hardware they were using. This included things like identity management and password managers. Then we helped them to remotely configure everything, and shipped them anything additional that they needed.

Our MD decided to take on the responsibility for the trips to the office and storeroom to put together the rage of hardware required, and safely doorstep-drop them at each user’s home during the full lockdown. 

With this ‘new normal’ being a long-term reality, we have now adapted our team structure and service model. Now we have one member of staff constantly doing delivery and collection of hardware at least one day per week. 

What happened to our client base?

Sadly 3 businesses closed (one was due to close soon anyway), and three downsized but stayed in business. Six of the 12 clients for who we paused billing were back up and running at full capacity by around September, which was great to see. 

We kept in touch with all of our office-based clients also. But the nature of our work is that we are generally in contact with them frequently – either for small amounts of support and user admin or to help them set up to work from home. We knew which ones were doing OK. 

What else happened?

Well, we are happy to say that our reputation seems to be bringing us new opportunities. We took on five new clients and additional work with a national charity; moving from working successfully with one branch to multiple other branches. These referrals are always a positive sign, and a pleasure to receive. Additionally, we had a referral from one business to another. And a further contract was received via our well-established reputation as G-Suite specialists. With existing customers, we benefited just by being present with them and finding out what else they needed. 

Working to our vision

We believe that our business benefited from already having a clear vision. We were able to see clearly how to adapt without deviating unnecessarily from that vision. We simply matched our resources to the changes in the type of work that our clients needed. So, now we do a collect and returns service. 

We also notice that we have naturally grown in the direction that we wanted. We charted a course from mostly B2C to 95% B2B. And we did so without turning down any work from our B2C customers. 

As long as the team shares the vision, it can and will happen. 

As long as the team shares the vision, it can and will happen

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