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All Round Security has rolled out a high tech mobile workforce system.

The new platform is connecting field service engineers in real-time to the office as part of an end-to-end management system. With clients including Heathrow Airport, Arcadia, Mitie and Cloud FM, All Round Security install and maintain security roller shutters, doors and barriers across the UK. Since going live, the cloud-based system from Leeds-based BigChange has boosted productivity and customer service.

All Round Security had previously implemented a number of different systems but were frustrated with having to manage different systems and began the search for an all-in-one solution. With an expanding customer base and over 60,000 jobs completed in the last year, BigChange with their 5-in-1 solution and JobWatch mobile app was quickly seen as the ideal solution.

Charlie Keegan, Contracts Coordinator at All Round Security comments:

“We are always striving to provide our clients with the best possible service and as our workforce grows we required a system that can tackle our needs. With JobWatch, powered by BigChange, we have the system that we have longed for; offering real-time automatic updates, engineer tracking, 24/7 support and general ease of use”

Formed in 1986 with headquarters in Newton-Le-Willows near Warrington, All Round Security is planning to expand organically within the next 5 years.

Lee Parker, Director at All Round Security comments:

“Our challenge is to manage growth whilst maintaining our high quality service. With BigChange we have something that not only dramatically improves our business efficiency, service and productivity but also a solution that will allow us to freely expand the business thanks to the automation and ease of access via mobiles and the cloud,”

With the flexibility of JobWatch – the BigChange mobile app – All Round sees opportunities to diversify. With simple creation of new job sheets and workflows, services that are currently sub-contracted, such as electricals, or new services requested by customers, could be easily added. All Round Security contractors already use the same JobWatch app.

Parker explains:

“We’ll rely on partners for sure as we expand but whether we do it ourselves or subcontract we have, through JobWatch, a platform that is seamless as far as the customer is concerned,”

Parker believes the facilities management sector will see a change in the future with data-driven and completely integrated management of assets; a more holistic approach where Capex and Opex budgets are much more closely aligned.

Parker continued:

“With our involvement in security matters there is a strong element of trust with our clients and we foresee our role expanding as an adviser on the condition of assets and provider of an all-encompassing asset management service,”

“The beauty of BigChange is that is can be easily configured to do just about anything so we are not restricted, IT wise, in what we can offer.”

All Round Security provides a 24/7 call out service with a maximum 2 hour response time for critical sites such as hospitals and airports. With 50-strong fleet and field service engineers located countrywide, incoming service requests are logged into the BigChange schedular for optimised job allocation, route planning and scheduling.

Parker adds:

“For a mobile service operation like ours, the killer of productivity is the travel time to jobs. With improved scheduling, routing and resource allocation using BigChange scheduler software we’ve already improved engineer productivity,”

The engineers receive jobs on their rugged Samsung tablets and with vans equipped with BigChange GPS telematics, live tracking and navigation is provided. The system generates an estimated time of arrival at site so customers can be auto-alerted via email or text.

On arrival the JobWatch app guides the engineer through the correct risk assessment procedures using workflows before proceeding with the job. Using the tablet, the engineer completes their Job Card and gets an on-screen customer sign off. Time and location stamped photographs are also taken as part of a complete audit of the job.

Keegan concludes:

“Having this comprehensive and real time information at out fingertips 24/7 has really revolutionised our customer service and work output,”

“Not only can we dynamically allocate engineers to do more jobs but onsite we can be more productive through live interaction to resolve issues and get quick answers if extra work is needed; the office and customer are much better informed.”

BigChange all round security office

Last weekend’s devastating events have forced all of us to stop and think about mental health.

The tragic loss of Caroline Flack and the appalling impact of Storm Dennis on families around the country have hit us all hard.

It has made me put mental health – mine, and that of my family and colleagues – at the top of my list of priorities. We never know what disaster may befall us. We never truly know what’s going on inside someone’s head. This means we must all act with kindness and compassion towards others, and try to educate ourselves about the best way to handle a mental health crisis.

When I came in last Monday, I was determined to be the best version of myself. When you run a fast-paced technology start-up, it’s easy to race around and have a myopic focus on getting the job done. I wanted to take the time to speak to my people, and to make sure every individual knows my door is always open if they need a chat.

At 9am on Mondays, I have a call with my sales team. It is usually pretty lively, fuelled by coffee and adrenaline. I admit to getting quite heated sometimes.

On this call, I promised myself I would stay calm. Who knows what people are really feeling? Who knows what might tip someone over the edge into depression or anxiety? I found myself speaking quietly, and motioning for others to lower their voices and be calm. It was a new experience and one I enjoyed.

At BigChange, we are committed to supporting those with mental health issues. We already offer access to a 24-hour counselling helpline as an employee benefit, and we pay for face-to-face therapy if required. We have switched to a 4.5-day workweek to give people more time with their families, more time to exercise, and more time for self-care. We are moving to a 4-day week in 2021.

We also recently appointed a new BigChange ambassador: Michelle Dewberry, winner of the second series of The BBC Apprentice. She is an incredible advocate for mental health awareness and has spoken to the team here about how she handled her own depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. We don’t want people to try and hide their mental health issues away, so having a vocal and charismatic ambassador championing this has been really powerful.

But I want to go even further.

Next Monday will be the first meeting of a new steering committee on mental health. People from all around the business will meet and share ideas, voice concerns, and talk about any pressures they face. We will take action on any issues we can fix.

We were also recently part of a mental health round-table, coming together with several other companies through Connect Yorkshire to talk best practice, and hear about each other’s initiatives. It’s amazing how much you can do at low or no cost, from creating mental health first-aiders in the business, to inviting organisations like Mind to come in and raise awareness across your company.

I’m not a specialist in mental health. Few people are. But that shouldn’t stop all of us from trying our best to be there for the people we care about, be they family, friends, or colleagues. It all starts with a willingness to change, and an open mind.

BigChange has appointed social housing expert David Todd to spearhead business expansion within the UK local government and social housing sectors.

Formed in 2013, Leeds-based BigChange now has over 40,000 mobile workers and back-office personnel using its pioneering all-in-one mobile workforce and job management solution which is ideal for housing repair and maintenance service operations.

Todd brings 40 years of public sector IT experience in a role as business adviser and strategist. He spent 16 years as Director of Xmbrace, later part of the Kirona Group, the provider of social housing mobile scheduling solutions acquired by Advanced last year. He is also on the board of Sovereign Property Services and Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Cloud software specialist Luminis.

Martin Port, founder and CEO of BigChange commented:

“David has extensive experience in social housing but crucially he brings unrivalled knowledge in IT solutions for managing field services in this sector. That is of course right up our street and the advice and assistance he is providing will be central to our drive into this important sector.”

BigChange already has a strong presence amongst suppliers of maintenance and repair contract services to local authorities and social housing providers. However, with an increasing trend toward direct services, Todd believes the market is ready for the transformational solutions that BigChange offer.

Todd commented:

“Up until now, BigChange has very much been a hidden secret in the social housing sector. However, with an all-in-one cloud system combining CRM, job scheduling, vehicle tracking and a mobile workforce app, it’s a solution that I’m sure will be welcomed by many.”

He continued:

“In particular BigChange offers a completely paperless way of working with total 24/7 visibility of all mobile repair and maintenance work and that will completely revolutionise social housing services”.

The BigChange mobile app, called JobWatch, has the added benefit that it can be used for in-house and sub-contracted operations simultaneously. It also offers a booking app so housing officers and residents can request and book services from the convenience on their mobile phones.

The popularity of short-term letting sites such as Airbnb has led to an explosion in new landlords, renting out their homes to generate a bit of extra income.

Yet these amateur landlords often do not comply with the rules and regulations that govern the wider lettings market.

This may all be about to change. In a landmark move, the Scottish government recently announced that local councils will have the power to enforce a licensing scheme governing short-term lets from 2021. Many of the rules have been in place since the Civic Government (Scotland) Act was published in 1982 but they have never been enforced previously.

Scotland may be the first country to take a firm stance on short-term lets but it’s likely that the rest of the UK will soon follow.

The issue is particularly pressing in cities such as Edinburgh, home to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, which seen 4.5m tourists flock to the city last year; 9 times the city’s population. In Edinburgh alone, there are 12,000 Airbnb listings, which equates to one listing for every 42 residents in the city. This number has doubled over the past three years.

One outcome of this new legislation is that Airbnb hosts, among others, will be forced to comply with safety standards in order to operate. The aim is to protect guests, ensure that properties are fit for purpose, and to professionalise this burgeoning industry.

However, this presents an administrative nightmare for many hosts. In order to keep letting rooms or properties, they must now ensure their gas and heating is maintained, checked and serviced regularly to be legally compliant.

To reduce the burden, landlords can now use the BigChange platform to connect with experienced tradespeople, such as Registered Gas Safe engineers to service their boiler. All work will be logged on the system, providing a transparent “paper trail” to prove the landlord is fully compliant.

Michael Cairns, BigChange customer and company director at celsiusplumbers.com and founder of safehostbnb.co.uk, believes this could be a great time-saver for hosts.

He comments:

“The software will automatically book in an appointment and follow-up appointments, which takes the pressure off the landlord/hosts so they can focus on other tasks.”

Michael continued:

“They can do this safe in the knowledge they are legally complying with new licensing laws, which will demand that all certification safety checks are up to date and above board.”

It takes a lot of time to manage an Airbnb property or other short-term let and many businesses have been created to help ease the administrative burden. From property maintenance to restocking to cleaning to dealing with booking queries and responses to visitor questions, outsourcing agencies have helped lighten the load.

Michael added:

“BigChange’s platform is another helping hand for these hosts.”

He continued:

“Given the number of short-term lets in the South of England, it is likely the licensing scheme will be rolled out in the UK in the not-so-distant future,”

Michael concluded:

“This creates a big opportunity for businesses to jump on board and make life easier for landlords/hosts to be safety compliant.”

As an entrepreneur, you work tirelessly to create a business that wows your customers, boosts your colleagues and supports your partners.

I’m a perfectionist, and I’m always dreaming up new ways to improve our offering, and make life even better for the team.

But sometimes, there are things outside your control that interfere with your ability to be at your best.

Here at BigChange, I’ve done all I can to create a wonderful place to work. We have state-of-the-art coffee machines, an illustrator has created the artwork for our walls, we sit on Herman Miller chairs, and we have a chill-out space that everyone loves. We have introduced a 4.5-day work week for the whole team. We run motivational Mondays every month, bringing in top inspirational speakers, and put on loads of events each year to keep morale high.

But there is one thing that undermines all my efforts to have the perfect workplace: the loos.

We rent our offices and, under the terms of our contract, the landlord is responsible for maintaining certain common areas used by multiple tenants. The toilets fall under the landlord’s jurisdiction.

They are a disgrace.

These toilets haven’t been updated in 20 years. The tiling is old and worn. The sink leaks all over the floor, creating a major hazard. The cubicles are flimsy. The toilets themselves are cheap and nasty. The loo seats are always breaking, leaving a loo out of order – not a good thing when there are only two, plus a disabled toilet, and hundreds of people need to share the facility.

We have been in our new premises for a year and a half. I’ve lost count of the complaints lodged and tickets raised. All our pleas have gone unheard. This is despite the fact we pay a hefty service charge, which is supposed to go towards maintenance.

I believe that your toilets are as important – if not more important – than your office. They contribute to the overall impression of your company. Do you have a bright clean office? Great. Do you have clean and inviting loos? Even better. There is nothing worse than being subjected to a miserable WC.

I feel ashamed when visitors come and ask to use the facilities. They leave our clean and inviting office and have to step into a wet, dank nightmare.

The irony is that our landlord is a company called The Canal & River Trust. You would think that water and sewage would be a priority. This is the same company that owns the Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. The dam nearly collapsed last year and nearby residents were all evacuated. I guess we should count ourselves lucky we only have a leaky sink to contend with.

This week I was at a roundtable event where I met a man who is as passionate about toilets as I am. Chris Brown is the managing director of Aaztec Cubicles, which creates the most beautiful bathrooms on behalf of organisations across the UK – from swimming baths to government buildings. He kindly listened while I vented my frustrations about our toilet problem.

The worst thing about all this is: I shouldn’t be obsessing about the state of the office loos. I should be spending my time on more worthwhile issues. Fighting with my landlord is a waste of my time, and distracts me from my real job: growing and improving my business. So I’m going to try and put it out of my mind, for now. Or perhaps I’ll grab a sledgehammer and smash the toilette up.

Just kidding…

Gritting company AA Salt has doubled the productivity of its gritting operators following the introduction of a cloud-based mobile workforce system from BigChange.

Operators equipped with rugged tablets use a mobile app that synchronises in real time with back office management software as part of a 5 in 1 solution for paperless working.

The productivity gains, which are due to improved routing and job scheduling using BigChange Schedular software and greater efficiency through the elimination of paperwork. As part of the system the fleet is also fitted with GPS tracking so gritting operations can be monitored 24/7 and this, coupled with live status reports from gritting operators, has allowed AA Salt to boost customer service.

Still a family-run business, AA Salt was founded in 2002 to provide gritting services across the Hereford and Worcester area. Today with a fleet of 14 vehicles, the company specialises in providing commercial gritting and snow clearing services to an area that now extends from the West Midlands to Gloucestershire.

Ben Tanner comments:

“As demand for our gritting service increased we knew we had to automate more”

Sales and Operations Director, AA Salt explained:

“When the Beast from the East hit the country in 2019 we had just started using BigChange. Without the system we would never have coped with the demand and BigChange has basically allowed us to double our business.”

Tanner added:

“Productivity gains have been very substantial thanks to BigChange. Through work optimisation and digital reporting we reckon we are saving 5 minutes per job and reducing driving time by a total of 4 hours each night. From just 100 jobs a night we can now do up to 450.”

AA Salt clear and grit private roads and estates such as car parks at retail sites, universities and industrial estates. Jobs are scheduled and allocated in BigChange and allocated with jobs sent directly to gritting operators’ tablets. AA Salt has mapped and geofenced each site and using the BigChange JobWatch app, operators can see job specifications and notify of any issues with time and location referenced photographs on location.

AA Salt has seen a significant improvement is customer service as a result of the real time data now being received. Now all gritting reports are live and accessible to customers through the JobWatch web portal. Previously records of work done was very limited and the company did not have the job reporting capability required by some potential key customers.

Tanner continued:

“We needed to take the business up to the next level and BigChange has given us the capability to offer reports on par with larger competitors,”

The system has also given AA Salt greater confidence in expanding the business whilst retaining high levels of service. Now winning contracts with national facilities management companies and landowners, the company occasionally relies on contractors for out of area work as far afield as Winchester and Nottingham.

Tanner concluded:

“Previously we were too nervous to outsource work but that has changed with JobWatch. Now if we need to contract out the contractor can use exactly the same JobWatch app on their mobile phone so we can have the same level of control and seamless reporting to the customer.”

One topic that I return to again and again in this blog is the importance of going above and beyond for customers.

It’s the one thing that every company can do, that gives them an edge.

I am obsessed with customer service. Not just because it’s good for business but because I genuinely love my customers. I’ve never regretted a single second that I have spent making life a little easier for our users or talking about ways to improve.

I’d like to tell you a story about something that happened to me last week. It might sound like a shaggy dog tale but bear with me.

At BigChange, we use our Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand whether we are truly bringing value to customers. It indicates a customer’s willingness to recommend your brand. Recently, we noticed one customer – who has been with BigChange for many years – had given us a neutral NPS score.

When I dug a little deeper, it turned out that they were still only using part of the system that they had signed up for over two years ago. They weren’t using all our new features and hadn’t been looking closely at the updates. This company had also taken on a new starter, who was now the main BigChange contact there. This new hire had given us the NPS score.

There was only one thing to do. I decided to go and meet him and find out how we could improve his experience of our system. The only hitch was that the company was based in Milford Haven in South West Wales.

I shan’t go into a long rant about the poor state of transport links in this part of the world – that is for another blog, about how improving the rail lines and roads would supercharge business growth in Wales. I set off at 5pm on Tuesday, naively thinking I would have a smooth journey.

I decided to get the train from Wakefield. I love to travel by train, as it gives me a chance to work. The closest I could get to my destination from here was Cardiff that evening. I have a railcard because of my hearing disability, so I got a good rate for a seat in first class. Nevertheless, the train was filthy on the Birmingham to Cardiff leg. The journey was so bumpy that it was hard to work. One particularly violent jolt sent my dinner – sushi and an entire pot of soy sauce – all over my suit. I was completely splattered.

I stayed overnight in Cardiff, as my meeting was the following morning in Milford Haven. The train from Cardiff to Swansea took an hour. From there, it was a two-hour train or a 1.5-hour taxi to Milford Haven. I was pushed for time so I flagged a cab. She told me it would cost me £150 to go 60 miles!

I negotiated her down to £100 and when we set off, she began driving at breakneck speed. When I told her to slow down, she said: “What do you expect for £100?”

She needed to stop to use a loo, so we pulled in at a truck stop. I bought us both a hot drink. She hit the gas so hard when we left that my tea ended up down my shirt.

I can’t imagine what the customer must have thought when I arrived, stained, shaken, and barely on time. He was so gracious and I found him to be extremely intelligent and knowledgeable; a real technology whizz. I spent five hours there and the session was extremely useful for me as well as him. I explained all the functionality that they hadn’t used yet, and he recommended some ways we could improve.

The Managing Director kindly dropped me at Carmarthen to get the train home. The only train I could get took three hours to get to Cardiff and then a two-hour train to Birmingham. By the time I got there, I had missed the last train home and had to stay over. I headed back the following morning, still in that dreadful suit.

You can read this story and think, ‘What a nightmare’. It’s true, that I feel like I have gone to the ends of the earth for this customer. But I mean it when I say it was an absolute pleasure. And that I would do it again, in a heartbeat. I’m really happy that I got to spend quality time with a valued user, and learn more about what we could do to help him get the most out of BigChange.

I don’t know what the trip cost me in fares and hotels (not to mention my dry-cleaning bill) but it’s worth every penny. The return on investment is enormous, if that customer feels valued.

I may be the founder and chief executive of this company but visiting customers is still the most important thing I do. If you run a company with customers all over the UK – or the world – you must be prepared to travel and meet them. Trust me, you’ll be so charged up by these sessions that you won’t care about the miles travelled or the challenges on the way.

Did you know that it takes just one tenth of a second for someone to decide whether they trust you?

They have reached that verdict before you’ve said a word, just based on a snap judgement about your face, clothing and body language.

I was thinking about this recently, and wondering about what kind of impression I make on people when we first meet.

I should say: this didn’t come out of nowhere. A colleague I know and like recently described me as ‘mercurial’. This isn’t a word you come across every day, so it stuck with me.

There are two interpretations of ‘mercurial’, according to the dictionary. One is “often changing or reacting in a way that is unexpected” and the other is “lively and quick”. I have a feeling this person meant the former…

I don’t want to come across as inconsistent or make people feel they don’t know where they are with me, so I began talking to people around me to gauge their impressions about me.

This isn’t just me being self-indulgent. I genuinely want to know how I come across. I also believe that by sharing these observations in this blog, people will know what to expect when they meet me. And perhaps this will make it easier for us to get along.

I first spoke to Jane, who is an incredible event organiser, and works for BigChange. She laughed at the question but said that I wasn’t changeable or inconsistent – thanks, Jane – but that she can understand why someone would say that. Oh. Great.

“You carry a lot of information in your head,”

she explained.

“You’re dyslexic, so you don’t write anything down. Instead, you’re constantly making mental lists.”

“It’s a lot to process, and you jump from topic to topic quite quickly. It can be hard to follow but I’m dyslexic too, so I totally get it.”

“It means that you are unpredictable in that you never know what you will say next but, as a person, you are far from unpredictable. You are consistent in everything you do.”

Andrew, our commercial whizz, pulled no punches.

“You can shout and scream one minute and be completely calm the next. You’re the kind of person that will immediately verbalise any anger or disappointment but will not hold grudges. Once that moment has passed, you will be absolutely fine. Some people find this hard to handle.”

I think in entrepreneur circles, we call this “passion”. Joking aside, I can see that this might be hard to process if you don’t know me well.

It wasn’t all bad. Andrew also said:

“You are a very good person to work with. You are extremely commercially savvy and understand people very well. Although you can be tough to work for and do expect perfection and zero mistakes, you are also an incredibly kind boss. There are countless times I’ve seen you go over and above what any other employer would do for your team. If somebody is unwell or having a personal problem, you will do everything in your power to resolve it for them – even if it’s at your own expense.”

Charlie, who works in sales, thought I was having him on when I asked him to:

“be honest. Tell me what you really think.”

He was diplomatic, as you would expect from someone who is customer facing and negotiates every day. He called me “unique”, which I think means I’m not your typical boss (which could be good, or bad).

“You are hard working, an entrepreneur, a tough taskmaster, full of confidence and very positive,”

he said. All true.

But when I asked how his impression of me has changed over time, he surprised me.

“I think the main thing I’ve learned that I didn’t know from the off was that you are a generous family man and loyal to your colleagues.”

So there you have it. If we haven’t met yet but are likely to in future, be prepared. I may have a different approach, my thought processes may be a little chaotic, I am an emotional man, but take the time to get to know me and – hopefully – you’ll see that it was worth spending more than one-tenth of a second to make up your mind. Or maybe I’m just mercurial after all.

BigChange

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