Free training heralds Advantex for leading IT firm


North-East IT company Advantex going ahead with ambitious growth plans following free customer service improvement training, which has significantly boosted frontline operations.

The Follingsby Park-based enterprise level provider of IT, telecoms and network systems to national customers, is experiencing a 30% improvement in service call feedback on the back of the free training, which has been delivered by Derwentside College through the regional Go>Grow scheme.

The move follows Advantex's decision to invest in upskilling the workforce to lay the foundations for a strong customer services culture and ethos across the company.

Almost the entire workforce of 60 people, including directors and founders Dave and Steve O'Connell, have completed the two-day training, and have gained CPD points that will count towards achieving the Level 2 Certificate in Customer Service.

Advantex, which counts Hitachi Rail, Galliford Try, GE Oil & Gas, Newcastle Airport and Unipres among its customers and is an accredited Microsoft Gold, Cisco and Mitel partner, was established in 2002 and has current turnover approaching £6m.

Dave O'Connell, operations director, is delighted with the impact of the training, which has not only delivered significant improvements for Advantex's customers, but has also heralded a culture change across the company.

"Working with Derwentside College, they identified that our customer service lacked consistency and therefore there was a pressing need to bring everyone up to the same standard.

"The training has laid the foundations for a strong, helpful company culture that cascades throughout the business. We are still measuring final outcomes and improvement levels, but we estimate that so far, we are seeing a 30% improvement in customers leaving positive feedback after a call or visit.

"We are also receiving more referrals from engineers for customers looking for additional services or support, which is contributing significantly to our growth plans."

The initiative is part of a regional skills and enterprise programme, Go>Grow, which has been launched in partnership with 30 local training providers. The programme follows Gateshead College securing £15m of funding from the European Social Fund through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The training, has been tailored to meet the specific needs of Advantex, focusing on the customer service skills around continued demand for its range of IT, IP phone and network services.

Alison Golsworthy-Miller, business development consultant at Derwentside College, said: "The course is tailored to specific customer needs. In the case of Advantex, they wanted to set a standard for their customer service.

"We developed the customer skills course to help them achieve this and delivered it onsite over several sessions. It reflects real world business life, and staff can apply their training immediately in the workplace to the benefit of their customers."

Go > Grow has the backing of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the North East of England Chamber of Commerce. Experts will work to develop training that meets individual needs of businesses, or offer those who wouldn't ordinarily undertake training programmes, the opportunity to access bespoke training.

A tailor-made programme is then developed and delivered at any of the Go>Grow training provider sites, or within the premises of the individual businesses.

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: "Go>Grow partners are combining their expertise and resources to secure the future of our businesses and entrepreneurs.

"This will help to generate new employment opportunities and boost growth, which is all crucial to the economic prosperity of the North East over the next few years."

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