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Improving customer focus actually means more business

Every organisation talks about the importance of customer focus, but how do you put this into practice? Richard Blanford and his team at Fordway are seeing results from a series of changes across the organisation.
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This month I’ve spent a lot of time out and about with our sales team as part of a company-wide initiative to prioritise understanding and delighting through improved customer focus.

It all stems from the review of our company values, which I discussed in my December post. One of the three values we agreed on was “adapt and thrive”, which ensures that we continually look for new ways to address the issues we and our clients face.

For me, that meant having a better understanding of our customers’ evolving requirements. A lot of my time is spent on defining where Fordway is going and why, and ensuring that all our staff and partners fully understand what this means for them and what we require of them.

I need to know as much as possible about the issues our customers are facing so we can develop better services – whether that’s improving the way we do things or searching out innovative technology from new, disruptive companies. It also gives me a better sense of how well we’re performing and where we need to improve, which links to another of our values, “great results every time”.

To make this happen, I’ve committed to setting aside one day a week when members of our sales team can take me to meetings with current and potential customers. They’ve been quick to take me up on it, which in recent weeks has taken me around the country from Bristol to Leeds and most points in between.

Customers have responded positively as they see it as adding value to what we provide to them, particularly if they’d like another opinion on issues which are strategically important to their organisation. After 25 years in the industry, I’ve probably seen most issues before and can often help with the challenges they are facing.

Some of the needs we’ve uncovered through the customer focus are already feeding through into new product and service offerings, such as a new cloud phone service hosted from our data centres to complement our existing cloud desktop services.

We’ve also introduced a way of automatically identifying and backing up information saved across an entire organisation’s mobile devices, controlled from a central point, so that if the worst happens and the device is lost or stolen, all that information isn’t lost too. It also greatly assists with ensuring organisations are compliant with the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which come into force in May 2018 and carry significant penalties for businesses and their leaders if breached.

Based on these discussions we’ve also restructured our sales team and added new roles to help us improve our customer service. Maintaining growth is all about winning new business from prospective and current customers – if we’re going to achieve our growth targets the new business team need to keep their focus on their prospects rather than sorting out customer queries with orders already fulfilled. But they could only do that if they knew someone else was doing that job. So we’ve added an internal customer services team to work alongside them to handle customer enquiries, on-boarding new customers, incidental add-on sales and contract renewals to ensure all the small but vital details are taken care of properly.

We’ve also invested in customer service awareness training for everyone in Fordway to ensure we all understand what’s important to our customers and our teams have the skills and autonomy to deliver what they need.

We’re already seeing results from this improved focus, from contract renewals to new business wins. Based on more regular contact with our customer services team and regular conversations with them, one of the customers I met recently, and who previously only used us to install new hardware, has now appointed us to host and run their IT service for all their offices across the UK.  We’ve also won a small but significant contract with a construction joint venture through nurturing relationships with key individuals as they’ve moved from one project to the next.

We’re making sure I share these successes and others with everyone across the business, so they can see that all their hard work and the changes they’ve gone through are paying off.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Richard Blanford

Richard Blanford set up Fordway in 1991 and grew it through winning and delivering increasingly larger contracts. In 2011 he led a major investment in infrastructure, staff and training to enable Fordway to offer managed cloud services, which now provide approximately half the company’s total revenues.

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