From bedroom to office, the steps to success for business support company

    First Office Systems
    Managing Director John Donegan

    First Office Systems provide critical technological support to businesses throughout Kent, Sussex, London and the south east. They have provided small, medium and large operations with office assistance since 1991. With a large range of products and services designed to help business function, Nick Brandon tells us why they offer a unique service…

    Tell us the history of First Office Systems Ltd. How did it begin? What is the company ethos?
    It started in 1991 from nothing when John Donegan and Andy Brett decided to get together and form First Office Systems, initially working from their spare bedrooms!

    They originally started supplying photocopiers and fax machines to companies. Now, the business has grown organically to 25 people, plus numerous other contractors.

    Each division of the business has specialist staff in it, experts in their field, and we have various accreditations with leading vendors such as AVAYA, Canon, Gamma, Microsoft, Mitel and Samsung.

    The company ethos is simple – to constantly deliver exceptional service and give customers the wow factor with every interaction. There are more staff dedicated to technically supporting customers and resolving problems than anything else.

    How do you keep up-to-date with technology?
    We have always invested heavily in staff training, and we continue to do so to keep our people trained in the newer leading-edge solutions for our customers.

    We keep our clients well informed as soon as something becomes available – and with the instantaneousness of life that we all live with, they expect things to be deployable when they want it.

    How does your service differ from your competitors? In what way are you unique?
    Firstly, we have more technical staff available per customer than our competitors are likely to have. This means we can respond much more quickly to faults and problems – our average response rate is 58 minutes. We seriously doubt any of our competitors can compete with this.

    We have quite a few other things which differentiate us, including ISDN Trend testing and Network Fluke testers, a bespoke Computerised Management system, a permanently-manned Support Centre and our Quality Management System due to our ISO accreditation.

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    What advice would you give to smaller businesses for getting online, and how can it help them run more efficiently?
    Internet connectivity is critical in any business! It’s important to research what connectivity options there are at your premises – the broadband you see commonly advertised is not as good as is suggested, and you’d be better off opting for a better, faster connectivity with direct fibre. With the move to The Cloud, the internet connection you use becomes even more critical, as does the ‘need for speed’, reliability and bandwidth.

    What do you highly recommend to small businesses in order to help them develop?
    Marketing is of huge importance; getting new customers and keeping existing ones.

    Finding what works for your business and what is affordable is key to the success and promotion of your business.

    However, I would focus on staff. Staff and employees are the business. They are what makes it fail or succeed. So focusing on your staff, ensuring they are happy, fulfilled, empowered, challenged, rewarded and listened to is key. Of course, they have to have the right tools for the job and that is where we come in – giving your staff the tools to excel.

    We are hearing more and more about The Cloud, how can this help businesses, and how do they make the move to it?
    Every business and organisation is different, so there is a not a ‘one-size fits all’ answer on cloud technology and adoption.

    Certainly, for a new start-up, cloud technology can often be a ‘no-brainer’ as start-up costs can be low or zero and scalability is often a key consideration.

    Cloud technology should enable staff and employees to work from any location at any time so they are as agile as possible. However, there are some potential drawbacks to cloud services which need to be considered – moving software out of your premises means you relinquish control.

    Your website states that 98 per cent of your customers would rate your service as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ – what’s your secret to keeping your customers happy?
    Ensuring we go the extra mile is sometimes an over-used cliché. However, we do encourage our staff to do just that.

    Managing people’s expectations is key – things go wrong from time to time – everyone knows that life isn’t perfect.

    However, keeping customers informed is also key. We lose very few customers, and most of the ones we lose are due to acquisition or other reasons rather than dissatisfaction. Anyone who rates us as average or poor (in our surveys) is followed up by a Director to investigate the reasons and try to learn and improve for the future (part of our ISO Quality Management Procedures).

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    SALES DIRECTOR
    Nick Brandon (right)

    Do you offer frequent interaction and access to assistance at all times for clients?
    We have Account Managers whose job it is to interact regularly with customers to ensure we are doing a great job for them and covering all their needs, as well as providing honest advice.

    We do actually offer extended cover, but with any customer we still provide a Support Centre that is monitored 24/7 aside from our normal office hours. We often assist customers out of hours.

    Does the support you provide mould to fit the needs of each company, client to client?
    We are flexible – we will accommodate bespoke requests from customers as long we feel we can accommodate them properly. Sometimes a customer will require a certain SLA (Service Level Agreement), or they may have a certain bespoke requirement or term which they want us to cater for. We will always consider something reasonable within our capabilities.

    In what ways does your support stretch beyond that of the technological?
    We are in business just like our customers are in business. So we often discuss general business issues with customers if we feel we have something to offer in terms of advice, or perhaps even a referral.

    We tend to keep in mind that we do have the ability to positively affect their business, whether this is by using technology or otherwise. We are all human after all, and helping fellow human beings is a natural thing to do.

    Does the ever-changing world of technology excite you as a company? Where do you see technology leading you in the next five years?
    Yes it is exciting! It never stops changing. In this regard we are very fortunate as customers are constantly requiring our services in order to advise, assist, support, upgrade, and so on.

    Naturally, cloud and hosted technology adoption will continue to grow both in terms of IT and telecoms.

    Printing and copying are in gentle decline, and more emphasis will be placed on the way documents and data are dealt with in a business, including electronic workflow and management.

    Desktop computers are also like to decline in numbers (and arguably desk phones) as people migrate to more mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. Older software will eventually be replaced (desktop and server) as cloud adoption forces this to happen. Business Management Systems and CRM/Marketing automation is also a key area for many businesses.

    Describe First Office in five words…
    Service, excellence, professional, experts, likeable.

    First Office Systems Ltd
    01892 676000 | www.firstoffice.co.uk