Gregor Heating & Renewable Energy is a South Gloucestershire business , based in Warmley, which specialises in the installation servicing and maintenance of domestic and commercial central heating and renewable energy systems. Founded in 1987, the company has built a strong reputation throughout the south-west for the reliability, cost-effectiveness and professionalism of its services.
These services include everything from boiler replacement and heat pump installation, electrical rewiring, testing and certification, to a comprehensive range of solar, ground source and air-to-air heating solutions.
Gregor’s commercial clients include housing associations, landlords and letting agents across the region. With top-quality customer service at the heart of the company’s approach, it has grown to become one of the area’s most familiar brands, and employs 64 people – many of whom are constantly on the road, fulfilling sales, service and engineering tasks.
In 2013, with a number of important tenders on the horizon and a mobile workforce increasingly hampered by slow connection speeds and inefficient systems, managing director Steve Gregor and his colleagues realised the time had come to re-evaluate the company’s ICT strategy.
“We were taking stock and realised that to be competitive with larger organisations, we needed to become more efficient in real time, giving our mobile engineers and salespeople access to key systems and information whilst on the move so that they could respond to customers’ questions more quickly,” says Steve.
“There were problems with our existing system, which was very slow. Staff on the road were taking a long time to connect via their smartphones and PDAs, and getting the information they needed up on screen could take ages. Sometimes the connections would drop out and the system would need rebooting – a nightmare situation, which sometimes resulted in losing the information and having to start again!”
An initial meeting with a Superfast Business Adviser proved to be the catalyst required to take Gregor to a higher level of customer service, upgrading to high-speed fibre connections at no extra cost and introducing the potential benefits of a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that would streamline communications more efficiently.
“You should always be improving on what you’ve got, and we knew we should be investing in our ICT systems but it was something that we’d been keeping on the back burner,” says Steve. “You can spend a lot of money on new systems – and salespeople will tell you what they think you want to hear. We make no claim to be IT experts so the chance to hear an independent voice explaining how technology could benefit us and improve our efficiencies was invaluable.”
After the initial meeting, Gregor’s Superfast Business Adviser put together a support plan, which included high-speed broadband connections and specialist advice from potential cloud field service and CRM providers.
“The most important thing was the way in which our specialist got his head around the business very quickly, and understood exactly what we needed the new system to do,” says Steve.
“The quality of his general advice was excellent, but when it came to specifics, things happened very quickly. For example we’d been told by another service provider that it would take months to get a high-speed broadband connection. It was really down to our adviser’s research that we discovered it would only take a couple of weeks – and the impact of the higher speed on system access and mobility was immediate and amazing.”
The adviser’s support was also vital when it came to choosing the right CRM provider. Having identified a number of different companies that could provide quotations, he helped Gregor narrow the field to two main contenders, who were then asked to demonstrate their systems in more detail and go through a more rigorous scoping exercise.
“Our adviser was there in the background all the time, giving us help with the right question to ask at the right time, which allowed us to challenge the suppliers on important points and fine-tune our requirements,” says Steve.
“It would have been very difficult to get to the stage we’re at now without that level of support. ICT is an absolute nightmare if it isn’t your business, and it is so easy to get sucked into expensive mistakes.”
The main benefits so far have been reflected in the time that employees are saving when it comes to remote access to core systems. Thanks to high-speed connections, they now have reliable, real-time access to essential information, and are able to answer customer queries instantly, without the frustration of dropped connections and lost data.
“Clients really expect that level of service at the point of sale these days, and it has allowed us to present a much more efficient front when we’re in the field,” says Steve. “In practical terms, it also means we can raise invoices more quickly – and that means we are paid more quickly, which is vital for cash-flow.”
Steve expects more tangible benefits to emerge when the new cloud-based field service system is deployed in April, enabling back office employees and field engineers to communicate more effectively in real-time and reducing the paper trail.
“The process of buying the new system really reflects the advantages of the independent advice we’ve received from Superfast Business,” he says. “We actually paid for two lots of scoping from our prospective providers, and it was surprising how different their responses were to our specific questions. Thanks to our adviser, we were able to ask the right additional questions and make sure that no wool was being pulled over our eyes!”
Steve says the value of independent advice is “massive”. He points out that sourcing advice from a consultant is, in itself, no guarantee of independence or a lack of bias. The reassurance that comes with impartial Superfast Business advice helps to put business owners who don’t have ICT expertise at ease when it comes to making important investment and strategic decisions.
“We’ve come this far now, and the main thing for us in the coming months is to see how the new CRM system beds down and delivers benefits,” says Steve. “Nobody likes change in an office, but the high-speed connections have really helped to get everyone on-side and ready to take advantage of the new system. They’ve seen the difference it makes just to be able to answer customer questions there and then, rather than having to get back to a client later on.”
Steve says the benefits of working with Superfast Business’s advice service are ongoing. “Sometimes, you are so involved in running your own business that you need somebody else to open your eyes to how you could be more efficient or do things differently,” he says. “At the end of the day, our adviser wants to see us develop as a company – and there must be a real buzz when they see how far we’ve come in such a short time.”
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