Node4 has supplied a fully integrated telephony system, contact centre and MPLS Private WAN to Ellisons, one of the UK’s leading suppliers to hair and beauty professionals. Lee Farmer, IT & Operations Director at Ellisons, outlines how the company’s core values align with its strategy for IT innovation and tells us how Node4 has been instrumental in offering reliable services to the retailer’s customers.
Node4, the cloud-led Digital Transformation Managed Services Provider (MSP), has supplied a fully integrated telephony system, contact centre and MPLS Private WAN to Ellisons, one of the UK’s leading suppliers to hair and beauty professionals.
Ellisons, whose customers range from independent hair and beauty consultants and salons to some of the country’s best-known spas, wanted to move to a more reliable platform that required less day-to-day management and administration. Specifically, the company wanted a voice and data solution that could automate some of the most time-consuming admin processes and directly integrate existing systems. The organisation also wished to improve inter-site connectivity.
Node4 initially provided Ellisons with a cloud-based managed Microsoft Teams platform and Enghouse Interactive Contact Centre. The platforms were connected by Node4’s carrier-grade, SIPLink, which provided PSTN call access. This enabled the use of MS Teams for external calls and standard internal communications. The solution also supported Ellisons’ email system and its customer-facing web chat application — all integrated on a single screen.
“It took a long time to do simple tasks and users were frequently logged out of their accounts,” said Michael Ives, IT Manager at Ellisons. “It might only have been for five and 10 minutes at a time – which doesn’t sound much – but when you add that up over a week or a month, it’s a lot of wasted time. By contrast, employees now have a single pane of glass that allows them to talk to customers, message each other and share files — all of which make life easy for them.
“We are a modern, forward-thinking business when it comes to IT. Indeed, 99% of our IT infrastructure is cloud-based and we see that as key to delivering efficiency, scalability and sustainability across the company. For example, we can now make much more use of reporting and business analytic tools. This helps employees be accountable, set and manage sales targets and make sure leads are followed up.”
Delighted with the positive impact across the business, Ellisons subsequently commissioned Node4 to deliver an MPLS Private WAN solution to connect each of its sites. This improved resilience and provided automatic failover across the company.
“We’re delighted to have provided Ellisons with a fully integrated voice and data solution: one that has delivered marked improvements in efficiency and flexibility,” added Richard Buxton, Director at Node4.
We caught up with Lee Farmer, IT & Operations Director at Ellisons, to find out more about how Node4 has enhanced the customer’s capabilities.
Can you tell us about your role at Ellisons and what this looks like day to day?
My key responsibility is inspiring and heading the team, which – within a fast-paced environment – provides a great opportunity to watch and ask why, something I believe is fundamental to continue improving business processes.
Usually, the first part of my day is spent checking in with the management and supervisor team which allows us to ensure that any critical issues are dealt with efficiently.
The greater part of my day is then spent reviewing ideas and aligning them with the business strategy.
Can you outline Ellisons’ core values and how they align with your strategy for IT innovation?
Ellisons has seven values that underpin everything we do: supportive; honest; innovative; passionate; professional; and ethical. Our focus on innovation in particular has allowed the business to become an IT company that happens to sell hair and beauty products.
Our prior focus on innovating and strengthening our IT processes was a saviour when COVID-19 hit. When we were told we’d have to work from home, only our physical environment changed as the way we work was set up to accommodate such changes. We already had a policy in place to allow us to communicate efficiently without need for an office.
How has Node4’s solution enabled you to maintain your position as one of the UK’s leading suppliers to hair and beauty professionals?
Being a B2B company, any failure for us has a knock-on effect as anything that affects our customers, also impacts their customers. In a competitive industry, such as such as ours, this can be detrimental to a company’s reputation. A reliable service, therefore, is key to everything we do, especially with everyone working remotely.
Node4 has been instrumental in providing us with all forms of telephony and communication that allows us to offer this reliable service. With our old system, it took a long time to do simple tasks and users were frequently logged out of their accounts. With Node4’s offering, employees now have a single pane of glass that allows them to talk to customers, message each other and share files — all of which make life easy for them and allows for a more efficient and reliable service.
How have you redefined and reshaped your operations and how has this impacted your employees?
At Ellisons, we take a modern, forward-thinking approach to IT – we want our staff to add value, so we advocate for automating services and mundane tasks where possible. Our work with Node4 has enabled us to implement this by providing a fully integrated voice and data solution that automates the most time-consuming admin processes. This has delivered marked improvements in efficiency and flexibility, freeing up our employees’ time to focus on more complex tasks that add value to the business.
Can you tell us how the MPLS Private WAN solution improved resilience and allowed you to scale?
Having a fully resilient MPLS service is critical for keeping systems online and reducing downtime. With all of our services now hosted off-site, since migrating to the cloud in 2017, we can no longer afford to have our Internet lines down. Node4 provided redundant lines with a fully monitored solution, so any faults that do occur are noticed and resolved as soon as they appear. This took one service off of our hands and improved resilience.
With Node4 maintaining the Internet breakout, scaling has become simple. All of the devices provided are configured, so to be fully operational, we only need the fibre connection into a building.
What improvements in efficiency and flexibility have you seen and how has this impacted your Digital Transformation journey?
Over 99% of our IT infrastructure is cloud-based and we see that as key to delivering efficiency and flexibility across the company. Utilising this during our Digital Transformation journey has allowed us to make much more use of reporting and business analytic tools. This helps employees be accountable, set and manage sales targets and make sure leads are followed up.
In addition, the new communication system is all integrated on a single screen, allowing employees to talk to customers, message each other and share files. We have experienced a huge improvement in efficiency with this, where time is saved switching between applications.
What advice would you give to business leaders looking to automate and improve their processes in the same way?
One of the most important pieces of advice I can offer is to trust your employees. I’ve taken the approach of always employing someone better than me. Our IT manager has been instrumental in working with Node4 to ensure we had every little detail to ensure a smooth transition. Taking a positive approach to problem-solving and allowing the team to think about improving systems and processes – rather than firefighting issues – will always add value to any business.
What does the future look like for Ellisons and the partnership with Node4?
I believe that any partner is critical to Ellisons’ growth and improvement and Node4 has been no exception to this. We originally onboarded Node4 for its expertise in communications, but having proved such a success, we have already implemented additional services and solutions with the technology provider. Over the last three years, our partnership has gone from strength to strength. With Node4’s services, my team and I can add value knowing that the foundations of our IT infrastructure are in safe hands.Click below to share this article