We approached the founder and managing director of Office Technology Ltd. with a few questions to learn more about the company and their approach to customers (interview in September, 2017)
What were the challenges you encountered during Office Technology’s early years? What lessons did you learn from them?
The greatest initial challenge was being a new company having to get new customers. We had to go the extra mile and provide a better service than the established companies. We did this by offering a very personal service and giving our customers mobile phone numbers for the senior people to contact if they needed to. We also promised that the people that they spoke with would be in a position to make a decision to sort their issue.
We quickly discovered that our established competitors had no interest in doing this and this was a major advantage for us.
This is something that we continue to offer today and are very happy to do so.
How different are client demands now compared to when you were starting?
When we started in 1992 the product we were selling was very different as the photocopiers were only copiers and did not integrate with the customers IT infrastructure. Therefore the machines were both less mission critical and less critical to the users. Now our machines are multifunctional, integrate with companies software and specifically with their internal processes. Therefore service is more important than ever because in many cases when the machine goes down, companies cannot complete vital internal processes. We realise this and over the years our service department has evolved with the changing market. We now also deploy sophisticated machine monitoring software which informs us of a possible machine issue before the customer is aware of it. This allows us to be proactive rather than reactive in our service offering.
How do you keep up with the fast-paced changes in the technology world?
Technology is changing now, faster than ever. For us to be a partner with Canon, a worldwide technology leader, is invaluable.
Through their continual training programmes, both our sales and technical personnel are kept at the cutting edge of technology.
What were some noteworthy trends or changes in the office technology sphere in the past 25 years?
25 years ago we sold standalone photocopiers. They neither connected with companies networks nor integrated with their software applications. The machines were simple and performed one function only, photocopying. Since then our devices have changed radically. They are now copiers, printers, scanners, storage devices, web browsers, document servers and software platforms. They integrate seamlessly with company processes, whether that be document security, document management or invoice processing. Because of this we now, more than ever, work in close partnership with our customers to ensure that their systems remain operational at all times.
What sets your company apart from its competitors?
All companies expect good customer service as a minimum requirement. IT ticketing, CRM packages and helpdesks have helped in this matter but can lead to a level of inflexibility as personalities are taken out of the equation. In a drive for operational efficiencies a lot of companies forget the fact that business is all about people. As we have evolved our systems we have been very careful to keep the personal relationship at the heart of our business. We know our customers and can work with their requirements in a flexible manner. In urgent situations our systems are flexible enough to work outside of the normal parameters to resolve our customers issues rapidly. We operate a flat hierarchy so that when required customers can contact a person of authority who can action their request to bring about a rapid resolution to their issue. We have not forgotten the important fact, that “business is all about people”.
What advice can you give to aspiring business owners who are hoping to build a trusted Irish company like Office Technology?
To be successful you require a number of factors. A great team of people who are passionate about what they are doing, who know their products, competitors, marketplace and most of all want to genuinely help potential customers find solutions to their business issues. You need a great product, that is constantly keeping up with a rapidly changing marketplace. You need integrity and be willing to work in close partnership with your customers to achieve for them their desired outcomes. When issues occur, which they will, you need to be honest, explain and resolve them, even if this costs you money. Reputation is everything and is hard won, but easily lost. You must keep your customer at the centre of everything that you do. Business is tough and the sooner you realise this, the easier it gets! You must never give up, never.
At Office Technology, we are looking forward to another 25 years of serving Irish businesses!
Wishing you all the best in your business endeavours.
Pat Duffy, MD