Martin Biggs, Vice President and General Manager, EMEA
The past year has been devastating in so many ways. Yet in the midst of a global pandemic, I have found myself in the rather strange position of leading our EMEA business through a period of remarkable growth. What has this meant in practice? And why has our company – Spinnaker Support, a third-party support provider – not only survived, but thrived?
None of us will likely forget 2020 in a hurry. As streets and public transport emptied, panic buying hit and people began to fall ill, our lives changed overnight. With the nation in and out of lockdowns, a large proportion of the country began to work from home, protecting the health service and saving lives.
Against this backdrop, many businesses inevitably struggled. The UK economy suffered the biggest monthly fall on record in April 2020, shrinking by 20.4%. Shops closed, household spending plummeted and factory and construction output fell. By August, the UK was officially in recession for the first time in 11 years.
So why and how has Spinnaker Support managed to weather the storm and be one of the fortunate companies to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever?
The third-party context
A major factor in our growth is the simple fact that we’re in a great industry. Spinnaker Support is one of a handful of companies that provides a specialist, bespoke support service for Oracle, SAP and Salesforce system users. At the moment, in the region I oversee – Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) – the vast majority of database users still pay their software provider for support services. Many of these organisations simply don’t know that third-party support is an option, offering huge scope for growth in our market.
Research from Gartner confirms this potential: the third-party software support market is expected to grow by 26% year on year, to $8 billion by 2022. This is backed up by the number of high-profile customers choosing to move away from vendor support, including high-street banks, major government departments, manufacturing, retail, telecoms, airports and transport.
Clearly, being part of a growing industry is a great starting point for Spinnaker Support. However, we have still needed to position ourselves to make the most of the opportunities on offer. So how have we done this, particularly over the past, extraordinary year?
Put customers first
First and foremost, we are entirely committed to providing an exceptional level of service to our customers. Our market is competitive, and we differentiate our business by supporting customers incredibly well. Right from the start of a prospect engagement through to dedicated customer service, the level of expertise and intelligence we offer is paramount.
At the start of the pandemic, we quickly recognised that – like the spinnaker sail we are named after – we needed to focus on helping customers move forward sustainably and efficiently through the troubled waters of 2020.
For many organisations and individuals, the move to working from home when the world went into lockdown came as a huge culture shock. At Spinnaker Support, we were extremely lucky to already have a hybrid work-from-home strategy in place, particularly in EMEA. As a result, it was largely a case of business as usual for us, without a drop in customer service levels that many organisations saw.
We continued staying engaged with customers, dealing with P1, P2 and P3 tickets and the quality of our service remained unchanged. We identified that in times of such uncertainty and volatility, organisations were likely to feel particularly anxious about data and cyber security (this tends to be people’s greatest concern when they are considering making the move to us from vendor support). Since inception, we’ve demonstrated to customers that their system security was not only assured, but usually improved and that our support solutions have and always will be customised and reliable as ever, not leaving them vulnerable or unattended in any way.
Focus on your people
As a leader of a service provider, one of my key priorities is ensuring I have the best expertise in place. Customers choose our third-party support solution because they can trust us – they know they are in safe hands, receive a reliable service and enjoy problem solving with us. Maintaining this trust depends entirely on recruiting the right people, who combine technical expertise with excellent communication skills and customer service values.
Amazingly, the Spinnaker Support team in EMEA has actually doubled during the pandemic! Recruiting has proved challenging at times – overnight, we had to learn the skills of remote hiring, which we did early in the pandemic. What platform should we use? How should interviews be structured? How do you compensate for the loss of face-to-face body language and tone? How do you keep the conversation lively when you’re not talking to a candidate in person? In some ways, the fact that our team provides remote support made the limitations of virtual interviewing less of a worry. If a candidate struggled to project themselves in a remote interview, they would probably find it difficult to provide the exceptional remote support our customers expect.
Ultimately, my advice based on the past year would be if you’re not sure after a virtual interview, don’t hire. By erring on the side of caution we may have missed out on someone who would have turned out to be a great team member, but when it comes to the quality of our service we take no risks.
Clearly, the pandemic had a major impact on our colleagues, as well as our customers. We upped our communications internally, making sure our team had everything they needed to work from home and providing advice on how to protect wellbeing and productivity by maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Importantly, we trusted them to manage their own time and workload. Our colleagues responded brilliantly, and we have seen no dip in our response times or service quality.
Reaping the benefits
I feel incredibly fortunate to be leading a business that has doubled both its sales results and head count in just 12 months. Furthermore, in 2021 to date, Spinnaker Support’s EMEA sales are already on a par with the whole of 2020. Ahead of a move to hybrid working in the coming weeks, our newly expanded UK team will move into central London offices near St. Paul’s Cathedral that are four times the size of our previous base on Cheapside.
Most satisfying of all is seeing the amazing growth and results we’re achieving for our clients. Our newest customers have already collectively saved $10s of millions in annual maintenance costs by tapping into our expertise. It’s also particularly rewarding that our customer rating on the independent Gartner Peer Insights site stands at 4.9 out of a possible 5 stars.
As we emerge from the pandemic – and with the third-party support market projected to triple by 2023 – I am incredibly excited to see how we can help new organisations to save a whopping 62% in their annual maintenance fees and receive real, trusted, customisable and valued support.