Comm-Tech in bold move for the future

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The distributor and Vodafone platinum partner recently completed a £300,000 move to a new high-tech premises. Jasper Jackson talks to the company’s top brass about the Comm-Tech story to date, its sister firms and its plans for future growth

Comm-Tech Voice and Data managing director Justin Millar (pictured right) is proud of his firm’s new shiny, hightech Norwich city centre office. It’s not at all bad for a business that started from an office in an old petrol station.

Since October, the building has been home to the Vodafone platinum partner and its two sister companies, white-label fixed-line provider Juice Telecom and handset recycling division RPC Recycle.

The three businesses make up the Conrad Global Group, which was formed in 2010 as a holding company to accommodate the different strands of the business.

The new 12,000 sq ft office is called Communications Centre and houses 75 staff, three conference meeting rooms and a demo centre for showing off new products from partners such as BlackBerry and Vodafone.

A mural on the wall of Communications Centre’s lobby depicts Comm-Tech’s growth from petrol station to a group with an annual turnover of £17 million. It was painted by artist Jenny Leonard who also recently produced work that now hangs in British Airways’s headquarters in Harmondsworth.

The story to date

Before the move to Norwich, Comm- Tech was based in the small village of Martham, near Great Yarmouth. Comm-Tech was started in 1986 by Millar’s father, formerly a granite quarry owner in the Midlands, from a small office at Martham Service Station.

The company initially concentrated on selling mobile communications to haulage and off-shore firms in the area. It soon grew to occupy the whole of the former petrol station. Comm-Tech developed a customer base of larger business such as agricultural buying group Anglia Farmers, which is the largest account signed by a Vodafone partner, with 9,000 mobiles.

Comm-Tech has also developed a client base in the ‘blue-light’ sector of emergency services. Clients include East of England Ambulance Service, which employs nearly 4,000 people.

The group of companies has grown steadily. Between 2009 and 2010 turnover increased by more than 75 per cent from £8.2 million to £14.6 million.

During 2010 and 2011 it grew by another 16 per cent to £17 million. Comm-Tech itself contributed £3.5 million of the group’s turnover, and is the most profitable part of the group.

Comm-Tech now manages around 26,000 connections. Eighty per cent are on Vodafone with the remainder on O2. The focus on Vodafone is because the network has better coverage in Norfolk.

Recipe for success

Vodafone head of partner services Tony Bailey says it has been a “pleasure” to have Comm-Tech as a platinum partner since Vodafone Partner Services was set up in late 2010.

“Comm-Tech is known for providing excellent service to its customers,” says Bailey. “This was recognised at last year’s Vodafone partner of the year event, at which it picked up the award for best customer retention.”

Millar says Comm- Tech’s low churn rate of two per cent has been a significant factor in Comm Tech’s expansion. The low churn rate is attributed to slick customer management from support teams trained to deal with each client individually with the aid of manuals specifically written for each client.

“We have manuals designed for the specific customers for how that customer works. For any order that comes in on our portal, there would be an online manual specific to that customer for our support people to consult,” Millar says.

Sales director Tye Jennis (pictured left) adds: “The emphasis has always been on the management ensuring the staff know what they are doing. Now, providing they follow the manual,they can’t go wrong.”

Comm-Tech is now chasing a monthly connection rate of 500 and has developed a telesales team tasked with bringing in new business.

Jennis says that this team will be separate from the rest of Comm-Tech’s sales operation to ensure that existing customers don’t start receiving sales calls which they might not react well to.

Jennis also expects existing customers to contribute to growth. Much of the firm’s previous growth has come through referrals from existing customers, and even in these straitened times, some of Comm-Tech’s large customers continue to expand.

More customer service staff have also been taken on to ensure that support for existing customers is not neglected.

“We don’t want people working flat out at full capacity,” says Millar. “If they work at 70 per cent of capacity that’s fine.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 511 (April 9, 2012).

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