IT support company ESP Global Services, winner of the Thames Valley Tech Awards 2019 Company of the Year, is consolidating its hold in the aviation sector and expanding internationally. Success is down to an unrelenting focus on the customer.
“Winning the award was a very pleasant surprise,” said ESP’s CEO Andy Jenner. “As committed members of the Thames Valley’s business community, we’ve worked hard to grow the company and are delighted for this to be recognised.”
One thing that stood out most for the TVTA judges was ESP’s client-centric approach. “Our focus has been on customers since the day I started the business with Darren Richardson 27 years ago,” said chairman Mike Harling.
Richardson sadly passed away last year but his legacy lives on. “Darren understood that if you get the focus right on your customers then pretty much everything else will fall into place,” said Harling.
That commitment to customer service has paid off, with the company trebling in size in recent years. ESP now has over 400 employees plus a further 200 contracted through staffing agencies and delivers services in 160 countries. Growth to date has been organic. Currently, around half of ESP’s 10 largest customers have been with the company for over 20 years.
Jenner can testify to the effectiveness of focusing on people as well as technology: he was previously a customer of ESP himself. “Darren epitomised the philosophy of always asking ‘what’s your problem, let me take it off your hands’,” said Jenner. “That built a confidence in ESP and meant we had more time to focus on our customers in turn.”
ESP started out serving the aviation sector – ESP’s engineers keep passenger-facing IT systems up and running in airports across the globe. ESP also handles IT support for major airlines like United Airlines and easyJet. The company develops its own software tools, like a self-service app that greatly speeds up the call handling process in all mission critical locations.
While aviation work continues to grow it now only accounts for about half of ESP’s turnover, with the rest coming from its expanding non-aviation customer base.
One of the company’s main non-aviation customers is Avis Budget Group, where ESP provides support to their operations across Europe and Australasia.
ESP’s expansion overseas has been in response to the requirements of its customers. “We soon recognised the importance of having directly employed local teams who work in the same time zones as our customers and who understand the cultural nuances of each location. Initially, this focused on having a presence in Hong Kong and Trinidad, but has grown well beyond that now,” said Jenner.
The company’s eye is now firmly on growing its business internationally. “We are working to build our reputation in several strategic global locations, where our innovation and customer-centric approach will have the greatest impact. Once established this will quickly open these new regions for further expansion,” said Harling.
A big challenge for ESP is instilling its founding values in a consistent way globally. “We have ‘ambassador’ employees in key countries who work together to spread our messaging to all colleagues,” Harling explained.
“The key to its success is that it is a two-way thing as we encourage people to feedback on all aspects of their work. After all, they understand their country markets better than anyone.”
ESP recently adapted its recruitment process to be more values based. Harling explained: “Rather than saying ‘can they do the job, now let’s see if they fit in’ we now make sure they share our values first. As a result, we’ve seen quite a big increase in employee retention.”
Future flight path
The company is keen to embrace new technology, such as natural language processing and AI. “For us, the key thing is not adopting new technology just for the sake of it. Each innovation we bring in has to make everything work better and improve the customer experience,” said Harling.
He has ambitious future plans for ESP: “We want to double in size and are thinking about the acquisition route to enter new markets.”