Shaped by you

Partner view: Looking beyond lockdown

Vodafone partner Excalibur won a Christmas draw to write an article for VISION’s Shaped By You section. CEO Peter Boucher discusses how to guide your customers through the recovery.

About Excalibur

Excalibur is a leading communications and IT company based in South West England that supports over 4,000 clients nationwide. Using the very best providers in the industry, Excalibur develops first-class solutions that improve operational efficiency, enable growth and increased profitability. Focused on staff and customer engagement, Excalibur was named in the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For in 2017, 2018 and 2020. The company also holds the Federation of Small Business South West Wellbeing Award for 2020. Accreditations include: Vodafone Total Communications Partner, Microsoft Gold Partner, HP Gold Partner, ISO 27001, Investors in People Gold and Google for Education Partner.

About the Author

Peter Boucher, CEO

Peter Boucher has worked in technology and telecoms for over 25 years, with Vodafone, Addison Lee and SelfTrade, after starting his career in FMCG marketing at Kraft and Unilever.  He joined Excalibur Communications in 2017 as CEO, with the goal of scaling-up the business. Peter led the 2018 MBO and made a series of investments to expand Excalibur’s IT, mobile, fixed line and education businesses to build a £9 million plus turnover company. Peter is a board member of Business West and a governor of Swindon College.  

Looking beyond lockdown

Excalibur Communications has been operating since 1992, moving from owning retail stores to where we are now – a converged Telco and IT business focusing on managing cloud transitions for Small to Medium-sized organisations. We have experienced and helped manage numerous changes in technology. We were early on Microsoft 365, Vodafone OneNet and VOIP, but often felt customers weren’t moving fast enough or changing how they worked. Planning their communications approach for the future was generally put off and they survived on the ‘old tech’ – copper phone wires, slow internet and on-premise equipment. They were guilty of putting phones on desks that were seldom used alongside a PC that was strapped to it! Then Covid happened. Some of our customers operated in obviously traumatised sectors like Retail and Hospitality, but most weren’t. It has been incredible to see how they and we responded to the crisis and are now starting to prepare for the predicted 2021 upturn.

Planning for Recovery

We are now experiencing what I term as Phase 3 of Crisis – planning for recovery. Phase 1 being Lockdown/Furlough and Phase 2 the Stop Start of last Autumn. While people are currently exhausted and demoralised by Lockdown 3, there are small but encouraging signals that the economy is powering up again. Customers (current and potential) are booking meetings again, in the more efficient and now acceptable video format. Pipelines are starting to build. It is a little lumpy and decisions stall and falter, but bit-by-bit an encouraging number of customers are starting to move forward. This recovery Phase 3 will be challenging. Progress will be slow, liable to slip-back and we have work to do with customers that still ‘can’t or won’t’ think ahead. In response, we have placed additional emphasis on greater customer interaction, with a focus on selling ‘planning’ and ‘advice’ more than immediate sales.This gentler, more service-led approach feels right and seems to be working. Here are some examples: Read more...

Customer engagement

With a greater focus on customer interactions, Excalibur has created more special Technical Service managers. Their role is to proactively engage with key customers and provide more planning and advice services. Although they are not salespeople and do not have a target, they are already showing a return on investment that makes my salespeople blush! As we exit this horrible pandemic, I believe how we approach our customers, including ‘Selling through Service’, will become more important than ever. I agree with Warren Buffett when he said: “You get the customers you deserve.” We all sell and serve products that can be bought from almost anywhere – it is the relationships you have with customers where the magic happens. So, amidst the current gloom, I remain optimistic that we will not only drive a strong recovery, but also change how this industry operates so that it gets the facelift it needs. That means less ‘Push’ and more ‘Pull’ as we help customers plan ahead.

Kathy Quashie Head of Indirect Business at Vodafone UK

We are truly #BetterTogether

Excalibur has a long-standing relationship with Vodafone, offering our entire portfolio to the UK market. We have seen strong revenue performance on both mobile and fixed, with strong pipeline opportunities. Excalibur is also fully engaged in all initiatives and strategy and continues to invest in its people and customers to ensure a great customer experience. I’m excited about future opportunities and know that between Excalibur and Vodafone, we have a strong embedded relationship.