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Getting the Basics Right on Using Tech in Wholesale and Distribution

This is a time of extraordinary change for the market. Of course, the pandemic has brought about incredible shifts in how we do business. But tech advancements, customer expectations and regulatory requirements have been accelerating regardless.

From what we’ve seen at Freeman Clarke, the changes have been particularly challenging in the wholesale and distribution sectors. There are just so many associated services as logistics, transport, storage and 3PL each with its own complications and disruptions.

Margins remain tight. Yet the range of services you need to offer is increasingly broad: customers want ever-higher quality and seek specialist support across the entire supply chain.

It is possible to prosper. But only for the most competitive, well-run and efficient companies.

Growing Expectations

Warehousing and distribution have always been hugely competitive, low-margin sectors. Now the rise of ecommerce has set new standards in B2C parcel delivery standards that we are seeing reflected across the entire market. There are ever-increasing demands in terms of information, timeliness, reliability and cost.

Service level agreements (SLA) also have rising demands as B2C ecommerce has redefined market expectations. The challenge with SLAs is partly adherence and partly demonstrating adherence.

At the same time regulatory requirements have grown more complex:

For mid-market businesses, all of these expectations are not matched by generous budgets! New technology can solve all of the above issues, but the investment costs can be high.

Mid-market wholesalers and distributors can absolutely meet or even exceed customer expectations and external requirements. They just have to be incredibly strategic about technology. They need systems that guarantee ROI. They must select the best and most cost-effective suppliers, negotiate the best possible deals, and ensure that their investments deliver real financial benefits.

Start by Getting the Technology Basics Right

For ambitious mid-market companies, tech is central to success in this tough environment. So then how does a mid-market company on a limited budget use technology to drive growth and customer satisfaction?

The answer is straightforward: get the basics right. If the technology agenda is submerged in day-to-day problems, there is little time to talk about vision!

What follows if a brief list of priorities:

  1. Ownership. Tech needs a senior leader who can set strategy, be part of the business decision-making, and maintain a coherent vision for the future. Without clear ownership, expect problems.
  2. Infrastructure. Identify a sensible and appropriate configuration based on your business; don’t assume everything will be solved with off-the-shelf products. Remember that infrastructure includes hardware desktop computers, mobile devices, factory-floor devices, etc. Modern infrastructure is cloud-based, so insist upon reliable connectivity and security.
  3. Security. Cyber security is a rising problem, and it won’t go away. Make sure that you have right security protocols in place and that your staff has been properly trained. Remember that good habits start at the top: is your CFO scribbling passwords on Post-Its?
  4. Disaster planning. Disaster recovery and business continuity plans must be rehearsed and ready to go at short notice. Make sure that everybody knows who is in charge of what!
  5. Reporting. Accurate, timely reporting must be available so that managers and executives can understand what’s going on, what’s working and what’s not.
  6. Suppliers. Go through the entire list and ensure that you are getting the service you paid for and that the pricing still makes sense. Make sure that your staff is trained in external systems and understands how to tackle problems. Third-party transport management or warehouse management systems can be effective, though the quality of support and customization varies between suppliers. Are they still worth your time and money?
  7. Integration. The wholesale and distribution sector typically have multiple internal and external systems. Are all your systems effectively integrated? Meaning, is there minimal manual effort? Is anybody rekeying? Is data available to dashboards so managers can run the business hour by hour?
  8. Negotiate. When dealing with external suppliers, make sure that at every point you have the right price and service level for your company.

Once Again: Cost-Effectiveness and Ownership

Yes, we said that already. But it bears repeating. If you want to use IT to succeed in your sector, you must identify who is responsible for each and every IT project. Be very clear about who is tracking its implementation and outcome so that the benefits are realized.

And at every step, you need a focused financial argument to ensure that every single project is cost-justified before it gets authorized.

The Future is More Tech

We don’t see warehousing and distribution as getting simpler, in fact, we’re seeing every indication it will become more sophisticated and demanding. We’ll see more AI for route-planning, more chatbots for customer services. Autonomous delivery is just a matter of time.

Some of these technologies will be costly, and mergers will likely put a further squeeze on mid-tier players. But the best companies will prosper. In our experience, the best the companies are the ones with their IT clearly wedded to business goals, the ones using IT to reduce costs, improve service and to focus (or create!) their own points-of-difference.

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients to use technology to beat their competition.

The 6 Ways Technology Is Crucial to Logistical Success

“Logistics” is a big word. It encompasses wholesaling, distribution, carriage, warehousing, transportation, 3PL, storage and more!

More importantly, each aspect is part of an increasingly competitive market. So how do you capitalize on the opportunities?

For such a complicated sector, the answer is simple: Digital. Get your systems in order and you’ve greatly increased your profitability.

In our experience, there are six key areas in which technology is integral to logistical success:

  1. Cost reduction. Technology is like any other part of a business in that all investments need a well-defined ROI. But in logistics, the narrow margins make tech costs even more of an issue. Thus you have to minimize tech costs while also using technology to save money, for example through process efficiency and clarity of information.
  2. Automated tracking. The key to an efficient operation is real-time tracking. The tracking must be both internal and external to customers and suppliers. This can be complex, involving web portals and an array of mobile and handheld devices. Plus customer expectations keep getting higher. But it’s definitely achievable with the right technology leadership.
  3. Streamlined processes. To keep costs down, it’s critical to have a seamless integration and standardization of internal and external processes. When it’s done right, it also minimizes errors and maximizes simplicity. The focus must be on scalability and achieving tight connections between customers and suppliers.
  4. Flexibility. With logistics, “flexibility” means both expansion and contraction. You must be able to rapidly and efficiently take on new business or acquisitions. And you must be equally efficient when taking down operations in order to maintain profitability, providing financial stability and confidence at every point of the business cycle.
  5. Disaster planning. Technology outages—whether due to cyberattacks, some natural event, or a freak accident—will happen if you don’t prepare for them. An outage can lead to major losses and lawsuits, as well as reputational damage. The necessary preparations need not be expensive or even that complicated (think: two-factor authentication), but they do need to be properly configured and rolled out.
  6. Strategy. However clear your business strategy, you won’t get far unless you have a clear tech strategy to match. That means understanding:

Of course, this is a particularly difficult moment for businesses. But we believe that the current stresses are only accelerated existing problems. Less efficient businesses are struggling, while those with better technology leadership are scaling up. These six areas are the right place to start if you’re looking to see how you can do better.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

The 3 Key Ways to Transform Your Business with Technology

The lockdown created an urgent need for many businesses to switch to home offices. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable: getting people connected and working from home didn’t hurt so much.

But for many mid-market business leaders, the rush to telecommuting exposed troubling strategic challenges:

For nearly every mid-market business, security issues became even more acute. The lockdown quickly exposed weak and out-dated security and authorization processes. The result? Companies are falling prey to cyberattacks. Or at best they will struggle to demonstrate regulatory compliance.

These issues call for transformational changes. And although they won’t be easy, they’re not as hard as you might think.

Transformation 1: Using IT infrastructure to add value

Companies need to ensure that their IT infrastructure matches their business strategy.

For example, we often recommend outsourcing basic IT support of cloud services. This frees up in-house people to focus on value-adding activities. Depending on your own company strategy, it may be better to in-source strategic software development, business process improvement, back-office systems configuration or data analysis.

Transformation 2: Integrated systems, processes and controls

It can feel daunting to move away from legacy ways of working. But simple, well-structured processes and systems cost less, improve customer service, and allow for compliance and business continuity planning.

If your systems and data are rationalized, you can integrate with external services, so as we mentioned above, outsourcing can become part of your strategy.

And, for many business service providers, your ability to integrate with your clients’ systems provides a point of difference and creates a barrier to exit.

Finally, this transformation creates a platform for adoption of AI/ML and for creating new online channels.

Transformation 3: Innovation and digital initiatives

Both consumers and business clients expect almost all products and services to be online. Most innovations now have digital at their heart, and digital experiences are now practically inseparable from your customers’ experience of your brand.

This tech is much more than a necessary evil. To create a high-value and agile business, CEOs must embrace tech as part of their strategy.

These are uncertain times. But many CEOs see opportunities to restructure their business, to enter new markets, and to scale up. The above three transformations offer an approach to plan for your own breakthrough.

Need help? Many CEOs work with Freeman Clarke because we take on uncomfortable changes and challenges with reassurance and guidance. Transformational change requires experienced and expert IT leadership.

We are the largest and most experienced team of IT leaders. If you want to know more about how we can help, then get in touch.

Visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic. You may also want to look at our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Bitcoin and Blockchain: The Next Big Thing(s)?

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the underlying technology promise to change the business world. It’s easy to be cynical about this, when so much that promises sweeping change turns out to be hype. Still, we should pay attention: technology has indeed changed the business world many times, even after cynics have dismissed it!

So what is Bitcoin, exactly? And what is Blockchain? And why are they important to business? Read this briefing to see how you can position your business to take advantage.

Or watch our short video to understand the reality, the potential and the barriers.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How Systems & Digital Drive Business Value for Private Equity (PE)

Private Equity (PE) ownership of mid-market companies is increasing. Of course, PE investors are driven by valuations, and these days IT/tech is at the heart of business value.

In the PE space, there are four areas where IT strategy and execution drive value:

1. Building in scalability

PE houses building an integrated group of companies will often aim for one of the companies to be the “platform” onto which they can add other companies.

The platform company will have well-implemented processes and technology. It will provide good service at low cost, and provide clear, flexible and timely management information. It will have the capability to grow and deliver high margins.

Most importantly the platform company may be valued at twice the multiple of the others due to its ability to assimilate and support acquisitions.

2. Due Diligence

IT/tech due diligence in mid-market deals is often overlooked. Or it’s a box-checking exercise, because traditional DD providers use lengthy old-fashioned checklists. These provide limited real value and lack commercial insight (and are often hugely over-priced!).

More thorough DD providers carefully check the basics: security, compliance, risks, legal exposures, contracts, people, suppliers and costs. But in the mid-market, DD expectations need to be realistic. Most importantly, value-focused buyers use DD to gain insight into future opportunities in addition to the risks.

3. Enabling Marketing Innovations

These days almost every marketing innovation has its roots in technology – businesses and consumers are increasingly finding, choosing and buying products and services online.

Brands that want to engage with consumers will tend to do so by establishing a 1-to-1 relationship. They offer immersive digital experiences that provide value to the consumer and insight and lock-in for themselves.

For B2B suppliers, the ability to integrate your systems with your clients is critical, and areas like security and reliability can enable you to acquire and retain high-value corporate clients.

These marketing innovations make mid-market businesses more attractive to PE.

4. Digital Transformation

These days, a company’s size is no indication of its ability to transform the entire market. Even a smaller company can radically improve its internal operations and valuation using digital technology.

For PE-owned businesses, or businesses looking to maximise their value to PE houses, digital transformation can be invaluable. Read our article on the four types of digital transformation and how to get started on using tech to make fundamental improvements to your mid-market business.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Get Real: How Does Tech Fuel Business Growth?

We recently launched Freeman Clarke in the US and hosted an event at the Norwood Club in Chelsea. We invited 3 panelists to discuss how technology fuels business growth. The panellists; Matt Pritchard, Ramin Behesti and Jonathan Giaramita who all work within different industries, job roles and business sizes, came to conclusion that despite these variables, the driver to successful growth through technology was down to people, process and organisational challenges.

We filmed a quick interview with each of the panellists before the event to get their opinion on the subject matter – and their take on how technology has affected their business.

Matt Pritchard, VP Digital and Innovation, Campbell’s Soup Company

Ramin Beheshti, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Dow Jones

Jonathan Giaramita, CFO, The BP Group

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Digital Transformation – 10 ways to start

Ambitious business owners will always to improve the way their organisation functions. Digital transformation is just one way. It enables a business to function more efficiently and in the long term with greater cost savings. But to see any of these transformations occur there is a requirement for a solid IT strategy that fits in with the overall business strategy and an experienced technical leader to help you get there.

So what exactly is Digital Transformation?

For our clients, Digital Transformation simply means using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. That’s different to just an upgrade or fixing some niggling problems. It means: using IT to make a significant change for the better.

That may just mean simple IT done well – that’s surprisingly rare! Or it may mean genuine technology innovation, something that is breaking new (or new’ish) ground.

We simplify this issue by defining 4 different kinds of transformation:

1. Market break-through
2. Wow customers
3. Internal redesign
4. Tame the risks

For an explanation about the 4 types, read our original post.

Visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke could support your business contact us now for a no-strings conversation.

Digital Transformations – Internal Redesigns and Risk Management

This is the final post in our four-part series on Digital Transformation. For a more in-depth definition of Digital Transformation and its four types, read the first post. 

For many companies, the technology strategy begins and ends with technical details in which the Board has little interest. The absence of experienced IT leaders with vision means that the IT slot on the agenda is a wearisome discussion of details, issues and gripes.

But IT genuinely has the ability to transform a business. There are radical new ways to grow the business, to serve customers better, and to make more profit. Businesses that can connect with these benefits are, understandably, valued far higher than their low-tech competitors.

For our clients, Digital Transformation simply means using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. It’s more than just an upgrade or fixing niggling problems. It means using IT to make a significant change for the better.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It may just mean simple IT done well—which is surprisingly rare! Or it may mean genuine technology innovation, something breaking new ground.

For one of our clients (discussed below) Digital Transformation not only radically improved how the business worked, it reduced IT spending by 75%! Other clients halved delivery times or became vastly more competitive with more accurate risk calculations and pricing.

We break down Digital Transformation into four categories:

  1. Market breakthrough
  2. Wowing customers 
  3. Internal redesign
  4. Risk reduction

In this post, we’ll discuss internal redesigns and risk reduction.

Growing Pains—When Problems Often Start

Entrepreneurs naturally focus on seizing opportunities. They tend not to worry too much about the details.

But when company revenue turns from millions to tens of millions, organizational issues build up. Typically, people’s jobs become progressively less productive. There is increasing reliance on individuals, and often there is friction between people because the processes have been designed ad hoc.

Most importantly, many employees begin to see these issues as normal, and they see handling these problems as the purpose of their job.

People stop complaining about how much time they spend in Excel processing an order; instead they ask for more Excel training. Meanwhile everyone seems to have forgotten that order processing should be entirely automated.

Three Main Opportunities

A useful way to navigate Digital Transformation is to consider three specific opportunities:

  1. Integrate with suppliers and customers. For many companies, integrating with their suppliers is the best way to reduce waste. Their ability to understand and integrate with customers is their biggest way to provide great service and differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
  2. Address “swivel-chair” users. Often employees spend their time switching between one system and another. We call this the “swivel-chair” problem. Often these manual tasks are complicated, and these employees may seem indispensable—but they are not really adding value. Free up their expertise with properly integrated systems or with software robots.
  3. Better decisions with real-time, accurate data. It’s impossible to make intelligent, informed decisions without real-time, accurate data. And in many cases decision-making can be simplified with simple rules-based automation or more sophisticated AI and machine learning.

Internal Redesign

In some cases, it’s possible to bring about genuine transformation via a well-engineered top-to-bottom system replacement program.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the go-to trade association for all UK retailers. Their membership encompasses over 70% of the UK retail industry (by turnover). With its twenty-five years history, BRC had a number of inefficient systems. Over the last two years, they have been through a complete systems transformation project with impressive results.

BRC’s CEO Helen Dickinson summarizes their objectives: “We had systems and ways of working that were deeply embedded but not always efficient. Several areas of our business were caught up in this problem, and it impacted people’s attitude to their work. Many aspects of our business are about publishing, and our website was completely out of date. Not only did it fail to project our brand, but publishing content was difficult and time-consuming. Our working practices were looking old-fashioned—lots of expensive office space and everyone chained to their desks. It was time for a major overhaul.”

Freeman Clarke’s Principal David Webb became BRC’s CIO. Over a two-year period he shaped, planned and delivered a program of changes. Webb explains:

“Real change is about systems and how people work, so a large part of this project was ensuring effective communication and that people were on board. For example, once we had created a more effective website and publishing system, we had to work out how to take BRC’s brilliant content and turn it into things people want to read, watch or listen to. This meant new ways of working as well as new roles and new attitudes.”

With Webb’s guidance, BRC replaced every system in the business. BRC also moved to modern offices and reduced office space by 30% with flex-time. To ease staff through the transition, they invested in workshops and discussions.

“The results speak for themselves,” Webb says. “The old systems were not fit. Overall IT costs were 10% of revenue. Now it’s 2.5%!”

Chillisauce is an example of how a Freeman Clarke Principal removed swivel-chair problems and improved integration with suppliers—and radically improved their customer experience at the same time.

Chillisauce is an events agency that specializes in bachelor and bachelorette parties. It offers a choice from over 5,000 different activities in seventy cities worldwide. Customers use their website to select all the components of their own event including activities, locations, hotels and transport.

James Baddiley, CEO of Chillisauce, explains their challenge: “Our website was just an online brochure. If a customer wanted to actually book an event they had to call us. We would craft the event with them over the phone, and we would liaise with the suppliers manually. We’d communicate with the customer through emails, and at the end, hopefully they would book!”

Another problem was their inflexible website. It was a major undertaking to add or change a product.

“A bachelor or bachelorette party is a major event for people,” Baddiley says. “We want to make it fun and offer the best experience and the best options on the market.”

Freeman Clarke Principal Tony Tinnirello advised Chillisauce to transform the entire fulfilment activity. Tinnirello explains:

“We implemented a suite of new cloud-based systems. And we used sophisticated technology to link them all together. So the entire process is far less manual, far faster and less error-prone. Customers can create their event online, book, and then check the status of each element as it takes shape. Critically, we generate prices dynamically so customers can see the price right in front of them—that’s very rare in this market.”

The system now also provides Chillisauce with a wealth of data. They can check revenue and margins on every product, ensure they are meeting service targets, and deal with any issues rapidly.

“In particular,” says Tinnirello, “this has been a huge time saver for the accounts department.”

Risk Reduction

Digital Transformation can transform a business by addressing risk management. By understanding risk in specific contracts, products or customers, you can price more accurately and competitively. Provision for risk can be applied more specifically, perhaps by more sophisticated analysis of a company’s own existing data, or by combining data from multiple systems, and potentially third-party data as well.

In some cases, the transformation may be achieved via a more timely application of existing risk processes. For example, real-time calculation may allow more accurate pricing for sales people on the phone or for online customers. Prices can be adjusted dynamically to reflect customer credit risk.

Accurate risk reporting also frees up time at the executive level. If simple risk data is available in real-time, then the Board can take measures to adjust as a routine activity. Automated rules engines or AI can pick out patterns or raise alerts when thresholds are near or are breached.  Simply having hard facts readily available reduces the level of anxiety!

For companies heavily reliant on IT, well-structured systems ensure resiliency when disaster strikes.

Employees of the British Retail Consortium were once locked out of the offices for three weeks after a fire. Thus, with good reason, their transformation project included business continuity plans. The tragic London Bridge terror attack in June 2017 put this to the test, as their office was again unavailable for several days. But this time they were able to continue working without interruption.

How to Start Your Digital Transformation

In our experience mid-sized businesses often have a huge advantage over their larger competitors in this kind of transformation. Larger businesses have layers of managers who are deeply entrenched in existing ways of working, and the changing their ways of working can be a huge task.

For ambitious mid-market businesses, the Board can personally see and hear what is happening with customers, and the company is small enough to make rapid decisions and changes. Of course, a major change is never simple, but the scale of effort increases greatly for larger companies.

The best way for ambitious mid-market businesses is to start with a blank sheet of paper and design the framework you really want. The following questions are a great way to kick start a Board workshop:

  1. How much of your cost is not directly related to winning customers and fulfilling their needs?
  2. How many experts do you have locked into swivel-chair roles where they simply manage systems and data, and help other people around the business to do the same?
  3. How could you integrate with your customers’ activities?
  4. How could you remove waste from your business by integrating with your suppliers or partners?
  5. How much is it worth to you to correctly quantify risk at a supplier, customer or product level?
  6. How much would it be worth if you were able to reduce the risk of a major outage affecting your business?
  7. How can you remove the barriers to enable you to lead this transformation?
Visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

Digital Transformation: Wow Your Customers!

Digital Transformation: Wow Your Customers!

This is the third in our four-part series on Digital Transformation. For a more in-depth definition of Digital Transformation and its four types, read the first post.

 All too often, IT is a race to the middle. The Board exhausts itself with maintenance and whack-a-mole problems, and the aim becomes simply to provide basic services at minimum cost.

But IT can be an engine for growth. This is Digital Transformation—using IT to make a significant change for the better. It may just mean simple IT done well (which is surprisingly rare!). Or it may mean genuine innovation, using technology to break new ground.

Either way, these opportunities should be the focus of the Board’s discussions about IT. A good IT strategy is aligned with the business strategy. And that means IT should be tightly connected to marketing, sales and service.

When all this is executed well, IT has the ability to transform a business, giving it an advantage over the competition and significantly raising its value.

We simplify this issue by defining four different kinds of transformation:

  1. Market breakthrough
  2. Wowing customers
  3. Internal redesign
  4. Risk reduction

So let’s talk about how you can wow your customers.

Start Thinking About What’s Best for Your Customers, Not for You

Too often companies create a series of steps to suit themselves—but not their customers. But it may not suit them. And as a business grows and becomes more complicated, it can become more difficult to see this for what it is.

Think about how time-consuming it can be just to open a new bank account.

Want to get your car serviced? Spend ten minutes on hold, wait two weeks for your appointment, then spend half an hour each way driving to the garage.

Buy a product online? You’ll be plagued by ads for the same product.

All of these are examples of how companies use IT to do what’s best for themselves and not their customers.

However, when done properly, digital technology offers ways to find and engage with customers in more personal and relevant ways; to offer them genuine value-adds; or to allow them to interact with you how they want to.

Avoid Competing on Price

Small improvements allow you to stand out from the crowd. And this presents a critical business advantage because it allows you to “de-commoditize” your products or services and to avoid competing purely on price.

Many customers are short of time and frustrated by inflexible suppliers; in this case quality and convenience can matter more than price. Similarly, simple support mechanisms, reliable delivery and streamlined follow-on services can be more important than price.

Many people don’t get around to making purchases or switching suppliers—not because they’re saving money, but because they are simply not approached in the right way, at the right time, with the right product.

Wow Your Customers

Without changing the underlying business model or products or services, new technology provides ways to transform how you engage with your customers and how they experience your brand.

This kind of Digital Transformation is all about:

This area of technology can seem like an arms race, with companies constantly offering more, and customers constantly wanting more. Some examples:

In this environment, how do you wow your customers? By thinking about their needs, rather than your own.

Sleeperz is a lifestyle budget hotel group that believes in friendly service, stylish design, great value and a comfortable night’s sleep. Sleeperz wants to wow its customers by streamlining its customer experience.

CEO David Myers explains: “The hospitality sector is highly competitive and fairly low-tech. We want to provide a best-in-class service for our customers. For example, the check-in and check-out processes can start to look quite antiquated—line up, fill in forms, get a key or your receipt. We want to provide a more modern experience, to match or exceed the best in the business.”

Freeman Clarke Principal John Cawrey is Sleeperz’s CIO.

“We are researching solutions to allow guests to self-check-in and check-out using a tablet embedded in a pedestal kiosk,” Cawrey says. “Or even allowing guests to check-in before they arrive using their own mobile phone or tablet. They could use their phone as a key, so they can arrive and go straight to their room if they like.”

Myers adds: “This allows us to focus customer service where it matters. We can still have staff who can help guests who want to deal with a person or who have a problem. Or they can make you a coffee while you check yourself in.”

Another client, ComXo, provides outsourced switchboard services to large professional firms. IT is paramount to delivering the exceptional client experience that ComXo is known for.

Andrew Try, Managing Director of ComXo explains:

“Providing outsourced switchboard to large companies is very complex. It requires a multitude of sophisticated technologies. Our goal is to achieve an integration that delivers a seamless service to the companies’ employees and clients alike. Our technologies enable us to deliver a highly personalized service, even to the largest businesses with over 30,000 staff, at a global level.”

Freeman Clarke Principal Steve Clarke is ComXo’s CTO. For several years, he has created a strategy and overseen the delivery of technology.

“ComXo delivers a bespoke service for each of their clients,” Clarke says. “ComXo’s team of Virtual Personal Assistants are experts on each of their customers. Off-the-shelf software is therefore not the right solution.”

Clarke has helped ComXo develop technologies that enable staff to work remotely; whether in their offices, at their clients’ offices, or at home. This helps to manage costs and enables employees to achieve a better work-life balance.

“We have also created an automated billing platform that reduces costs and provides a better service for clients,” Clarke continues. “For instance, when clients use ComXo’s Muiltivoice conference system, calls are tagged with a cost code which appears on the client’s bill. That enables professional services firms to bill accordingly. It’s particularly beneficial to firms of attorneys who form a large part of the ComXo’s client base.”

With their IT, ComXo is able to stand out from the competition and punch above their weight, working for large firms and major corporations. They stay focused on transformative projects that make a major difference to their clients.

Where You Can Start

The best way for ambitious mid-market businesses is to think about your real customers’ needs and to work backwards from there. Start with a blank sheet of paper and work out what your customers really value—which might not be the same as what you currently give them! Think of it from their perspective.

The good news is that in our experience mid-sized businesses often have a huge advantage over their larger competitors in this kind of transformation. There are fewer layers between the directors and the customers; directors can see and hear what customers are saying. And the company is small enough to make rapid decisions and changes.

The following questions can be a useful kickstart for a Board workshop on Digital Transformation:

  1. What is it that your market really needs?
  2. What do you customers really care about and value?
  3. If you started with a blank sheet of paper, how would you do things differently?
  4. What are the barriers to solving the above questions, and how might IT remove them?

ComXo and Sleeperz wow their customers by thinking about their needs and employing transformative technology. With the right planning, you can wow your customers as well!

Visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

What is Digital Transformation and Where Do You Start?

Everyone is talking about Digital Transformation…what does it mean?

If you’re interested in learning how Digital Transformation can transform your business have a listen to this short video by Graeme Freeman (Co-Founder and Director at Freeman Clarke). He talks about 4 types of Digital Transformation and 3 good places to start.

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Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

Plain English board-level briefings focused on technology strategies to deliver competitive advantage and business success.

* Please enter an email address
newnewsletterrecipient

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.