Hidden in plain sight… Interview with Chris Proctor, CEO, Oneserve

Jun 13 • Features, Software and Apps • 3386 Views • No Comments on Hidden in plain sight… Interview with Chris Proctor, CEO, Oneserve

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For five years UK based field service software provider Oneserve have been quietly going about their way, winning significant clients yet flying under the radar. Now with a young, dynamic new CEO at the helm they are ready to stop being the industry’s best kept secret and step into the limelight…

The story of Oneserve is not that of your average field service software provider.

For a start the company actually began life as an in-house field service management tool developed for Connaught PLC – a company that focussed on repair work in the social housing sector. After an employee buy-out in 2010 Oneserve emerged as a fully fledged solution with the advantage of being unencumbered by the initial costs of R&D that many start-up software companies may have faced when entering what is both a complex and busy market.

However, perhaps more importantly they already had an intimate understanding of what good service, and the tools to enable that, looked like.

After a few quick wins on ‘home turf’ within the social housing sector, the team at Oneserve have quietly yet steadily expanded their footprint across a number of different verticals picking up some top tier customers such as Lovell, Islington Borough Council and Sky along the way.

Yet when compared to some of their competitors such as ClickSoftware, ServiceMax and IFS to name a few, it is fair to say that such success has largely remained under the radar for many in the field service industry.

However, with the appointment of a new, young and dynamic CEO Chris Proctor in February earlier this year, it seems that Oneserve are now ready to step out into the limelight alongside their more established peers and start shouting about just why it is that they feel they are ready to become a disruptive force within the sector.

“One of our core tenants is that we are always focused on the end user – always focussed on how do we make life for that client better?”

Indeed, Proctor, who was promoted from Sales and Marketing Director to CEO after just eight months with the Exeter based company, has already made an significant impact in the market with a blistering attack on his peers, accusing field service software providers of ‘holding innovation hostage’ in a press release issued shortly before he took over as CEO.

And whilst his background as a marketeer would suggest that he is certainly savvy enough to understand the power of such an assertion in terms of getting people to sit up and pay attention to Oneserve and what they have to say, when speaking to him it is clear that this was not just a simple marketing ploy. Proctor, is a passionate guy who truly seems to get the importance of service in today’s modern world.

And in his eyes technology providers should be simply making it easier for companies to deliver the levels of service excellence that twenty first century customers both expect and demand.

“One of the key things for us was that we really felt we wanted the system to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible,” Proctor explains.

“One of our core tenets is that we are always focused on the end user – always focused on how do we make life for that client better?”

It is not only a noble sentiment but also an approach that is ultimately winning them business, although Proctor himself admits that it is now time for Oneserve to step out of the shadows and kick on, building upon their success to date.

“We’ve been working incredibly hard and diligently for the last five years but we’ve been pretty quiet about it,” he comments.

“I don’t have a quarter of a million pound marketing budget, I can’t attend all the shows we don’t get involved in a lot of that stuff and as a result we’ve kind of kept under the radar of a lot of people. I know it was a surprise not so long ago when we won the Islington contract with a lot of people saying who are these guys?”

I know it was a surprise not so long ago when we won the Islington contract with a lot of people saying who are these guys?”

“Today we are powering about three and a half million working hours, I’ve lost count of how many engineers, we are working across multiple sectors and now we are being pragmatic in that we are now starting to talk a lot more about what we do.”

In fact there are two key facets to the Oneserve approach that appear to resonate with the needs of field service companies today.

Firstly it is a model based on licences rather than professional services which will appeal to those more cost conscious Finance Directors (are there any other kind?). And it is also a fully deployable self service product which will be of interest to both Operations folks and IT alike as it means more control of things like reporting and configurations, without having to go back to the vendor every-time a change is necessary.

This is a big plus in Proctor’s eyes and he uses a neat metaphor to explain his thinking.

“If you buy a car and you drive off the forecourt you turn left – why should you have to call an engineer out to configure your car to be able to turn left, and then right and then left again?”

“Whilst that may make your journey really efficient, it makes it very efficient for a snapshot in time but if you need to diversify, if you need to take a detour or a change in direction you have to go through the same process again.”

“Our principal is exactly the opposite in that if we give you the car, really the emphasis should be on the strength of the car, the strength of the support, the strength of the training and really the overall proposition to allow you get in and drive.”

Given their background as an in-house field service solution which previously had a 360 degree role for enabling service delivery at Connaught, is it a fair assumption to say that the understanding of good service delivery remains closely entwined in the DNA of both the Oneserve product and indeed the team itself?

“Absolutely,” Proctor concurs. “For me it’s really simple. The vast majority of service calls start with a negative. For example ‘my boiler has just blown up’ or this has gone wrong or that has gone wrong. Yes there are other more planned things but by and large it always focuses on a negative,” he explains.

“For me it’s really simple. The vast majority of service calls start with a negative. For example ‘my boiler has just blown up’ or this has gone wrong or that has gone wrong. Yes, there are other more planned things but by and large it always focuses on a negative”

“And we’ve all been on the end of those experiences, those times we’ve waited for an engineer that doesn’t turn up or turns up late, but we’ve also all had those really good experiences.

Where they’ve told you they are going to be with you around this time and then an hour or so before they are due they call you and tell you actually I’m going to be with you at exactly this time.”

“Where the engineer has come in, they’ve be really nice, they’ve been really efficient and professional, they’ve had all the tools they’ve needed, they’ve fixed the problem and they’ve been on their way really quickly. And the difference between those two experiences is palpable.”

“It’s the same in the logistics world. We all groan into our hands when we see our parcel is being delivered by Yodel instead of DHL -it’s that differentiation in service,” He adds

“We want to turn the paradigm on its head, we want to turn every negative into a positive. We can’t control the negatives, things will always go wrong and things will always break. But if we can enhance the interactions we can control, if we can make those better, we can improve the end experience and it comes back up the chain and makes everything work much more effectively.”

“And that really is our prevailing thought, that is what we are striving for.”

And whilst empowering their clients through a self-service based product is core to the ethos at Oneserve, Proctor also outlines how closely they continue to work with their clients in order to make sure that those tools they are providing allow companies to ensure they can deliver a positive service experience.

“We can’t control the negatives, things will always go wrong and things will always break. But if we can enhance the interactions we can control, if we can make those better, we can improve the end experience…”

“It remains something very important to us so we do spend time with our clients, we do spend time with them understanding how they are using the system,” he comments.

“In the same way we do that digitally in terms of heat mapping and workshops and understanding really what that UX means to the end user – that is very key to us. Understanding how we can make those interactions more effective, more streamlined and more engaging is very important,” he concludes.

It is this commitment to understanding exactly how their clients are using their system that will keep Oneserve close to their roots as part of a service orientated organisation themselves, which in turn allows them to develop their product in line with the needs of their customers.

Hopefully this outlook won’t change as the company continues to grow, but one change that seems inevitable is Oneserve will not be a best kept secret for too much longer.

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