We?re a systems developer, we?re a licensed telecoms company and we?re a service provider for everything from technical support to regulatory compliance to professional services and a lot more. We can offer all the big company deliverables from a self-sufficient, lower overhead, more agile team that?s a fraction of the size. “Compact”, rather than small, better describes our organisation. We?re not alone. New technology and ?digitisation? are sweeping through organisations of all types, bringing automation, faster decision-making and more responsive service delivery to smaller businesses that now find they can compete at a higher level ? fighting above their weight. Other factors are helping to level the playing field, as well. For example, procurement systems, buying groups and more frequent use of the competitive tender are helping to identify best value for money, irrespective of company size. In the public sector, for example, the government-backed G-Cloud Procurement framework gives public sector bodies access to a broader range of usually smaller suppliers, offering more choice without being locked-in to the contracts and prohibitive costs often demanded by the bigger vendors. Foehn has been listed as an accredited supplier on the G-cloud platform for seven years and has witnessed the rapid rise in small business participants. Gone are the days when IT managers bought “Big Blue” (IBM), a global giant and a choice that couldn?t be criticised. IT managers wishing to protect themselves and their organisations used it as a kind of big-brand “insurance”. Things have changed, though, and it?s now commonplace to learn of smaller, agile, service providers competing and winning against the big players. Undoubtedly, costs, responsiveness and service quality all play a part in building competitive advantage of the smaller business. By far the biggest impetus, though, comes from a closer customer relationship, built around people – something the big provider simply can?t match. At Foehn for example, everyone from the CTO down knows our customers, not just the sales and customer support teams. Our development team is exposed directly to the client and understands their needs and wants first hand. Throughout our team, this proximity to the client creates better communication, better understanding and greater availability. In the words of one of our clients, we?re “always there”, unlike the bigger service providers who, according to customers who leave them to join Foehn, are “never there”. Difficulties in contacting support, frequent changes in team members, slow response times, unnecessary process ? these are the hall marks of a provider who is too big to care. Customer “intimacy” is something they find difficult. You may say, “what?s new about that?” The age-old assertion that “business is about people” has always emphasised that relationships count. But, for those of us in the business of communications, with a magnifying glass on the customer-provider interface, it is clear that the last few years have seen a cultural change that believes in the power of collaboration and has initiated a new genre of application for the purpose. Microsoft Teams, Cisco Slack and a dozen other collaboration tools are bringing customer and provider closer together. This collaborative relationship between the two parties is no longer a “nice-to-have”. It?s recognised as critical to success and a tangible asset in return on investment. Furthermore, it?s the more agile, smaller supplier that is best placed to deliver this collaboration. None less than Goldman Sachs agrees with this. Their small business initiative ?10,000 Small Businesses? was established to help and grow ambitious smaller organisations. A study of the participants identifies the three common advantages of being small. Firstly, low overheads keeping costs competitive. Secondly, availability of automation technology and the resulting disproportionate gain in productivity from small teams. Most importantly, though, the third highlights the ability of a small businesses to get closer to the customer, understand their needs and build a relationship. Twenty years ago, the telephony industry was dominated by large players, who kept prices artificially high, and smaller companies who could not offer the full range of services. Now, it?s all about engagement and customer experience through a range of cloud communications applications. James Passingham, our CTO, had the vision to fix that with easy to use products, transparent pricing and a full suite of professional services we offer today. We do all this from in-house resources and can, therefore, support the all-important customer relationship. Foehn are large enough to deliver and small enough to care. If you want to see what this all means in real terms, take a look at our case studies at www.foehn.co.uk
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