Case Study: Nurture Gritting - Preparing for the winter months
Nurture Gritting is a division of Nurtures Landscapes Ltd dedicated to providing a comprehensive gritting and snow clearance service for their UK client base. The service runs from 1 November each year to the 31 March with the provision to extend to the end of April if required. Whilst the actual gritting service is seasonal, the sales team operates throughout the year ensuring that clients are prepared and have their processes in place well before the winter start date.
Since the initial provision of the service, Nurture Gritting has increased its customer base significantly. From an initial 500/800 callouts per night in the depths of winter, they are now regularly scheduling well in excess of 3000 visits per night.
In providing organic growth in the gritting market, using their existing Landscapes customer base primarily as a source of leads, Nurture Gritting recognised that their embryonic business could not grow exponentially using their initial use of excel spreadsheets. Their Master Gritting Database had grown to a size that meant that simply keeping the details current was a huge administrative task. Couple this with the need to standardize processes and paperwork across the sales team, it was recognised that a more systematic and professional approach was necessary.
Due to one or two key personnel changes in the business, Clockwork IT was approached due to a previous encounter with Support Desk Pro with their former employers. They also knew that they needed to engage the services of a software company that could respond quickly and efficiently to their rapidly expanding business.
Due to Nurture Gritting’s rapidly changing needs, it was essential that the whole sales and service team was consulted to fully understand their current processes and, more importantly, their future ‘vision’ of how they required a system to work for them in the future and cope easily with their growth model. Basing themselves at the client’s premises, Clockwork undertook an initial brainstorming session that then formed the basis of scoping and detailed specification meetings. Ensuring that we ensured that each team was involved in the process, we then had the opportunity to contribute to the discussions on what was practically needed by acting as a ‘devil’s advocate’. It was only then that we could plan the development that was required for a successful implementation.
The key changes to the back-office process centered around the initial import of a weather file for the Met Office and, subject to a couple of additional processes in the job completion area, was, by and large, more than enough for Nurture Gritting’s operations team although simply by streamlining the import of the weather file, this saved a huge amount of time that enabled the team to plan better throughout the day.
The main focus of the development was to provide the sales and operations teams to access the data for their clients on a real time, up to the minute, basis. With site information being key, we created an easy to access, easy to read, database that gave each sub team the information they required to undertake their daily tasks.
In addressing the sales team specifically, we built a comprehensive quoting tool that incorporated a comprehensive pricing algorithm that required minimal input from the sales staff. This, in turn, provided a standard quote ‘proposal’ for a new prospect of an existing client for their coming winter requirements. Once accepted, this proposal could then be automatically converted into an annual contract for the client to sign and return, the receipt of which then converted a site status from pending to live, allowing a gritting job to then be scheduled. All of this ensured a consistent, Corporate approach by all sales staff and ensured that all the correct information was received from a client prior to commencing any work.
To further aid the operations team in scheduling/allocation, we introduced the concept of ‘preferred engineer’. By auto allocating jobs onto a scheduler, the regional teams could then simply ‘drag and drop’ by exception rather than have to plan the whole night’s schedule as they did under the manual system.
The final piece in the jigsaw was, following the provision of a comprehensive billing structure base on regional templates to the Nurture finance team, to provide full integration into the company financial package, SAP. In building the architecture to capture the SAP code for the client, Clockwork worked closely liaised with the SAP development team to create an export function that provided SAP with the correct information in the correct fields and, more importantly, return SAP information into the gritting system.
In the two winter seasons that Nurture Gritting have developed, adopted and used the bespoke system, named by them as ‘IceMaster’, their business has continued to grow and develop new markets. Further, additional services have been brought on board, as anticipated, and the system further developed to encompass these new processes.
A key addition to the gritting service was the provsion of a Client Portal. Whilst other portals traditionally allowed the user to see historic information regarding site attendance, Nurture required a portal that could add real value to their clients. As a result we developed a portal that could offer multi-functionality. In addition to the traditional reporting piece, we added the ability for pre-selected clients to directly cancel existing planned visits and, importantly request additional or new visits. We also added a new ‘weather watch’ service where, again, pre-selected clients could ascertain their own requirements by allowing them to see the forecast for their area in order for them to take appropriate action on a client demand basis.
Key business benefits
- Significantly reduced timescale to import weather file
- Jobs dealt with on exception basis only
- Improved scheduling – significantly reducing time needed to schedule resources
- Provision of one, simple to use, system showing key information – irrespective of discipline
- Professional pricing and sales process ensuring consistency of approach to clients.
- Ability to easily convert quote proposal into annual contract.
- Link to SAP ensuring accuracy of data between the two systems
- Provision of Client Portal allowing clients to make their own decisions and action without the need to contact via the telephone