Bristol Energy is a national gas and electricity company set up by Bristol City Council to offer people fairer energy deals for their homes and businesses. By keeping its prices competitive it can protect both consumers and small businesses from the vulnerabilities and variations in the energy market, making it a force for social good and a champion of social equality. One of a growing number of Council-owned energy companies, Bristol Energy will reinvest its profits back into Bristol.
Bristol Energy officially opened for business in 2016 and currently employs more than 150 staff across two Bristol sites. The firm currently supplies electricity and gas to over 110,000 meter-points nationwide.
Experiencing rapid growth, Bristol Energy needed to ensure that all parts of its business and employees were equipped to deliver the best possible service to its customers. Being a start-up, Bristol Energy did not want to invest and manage a large IT department, so decided to outsource the expertise to an external IT partner to help with strategic guidance and future planning ideas, along with the creation and execution of a new, flexible and scalable IT support function.
Bristol Energy went out to market and, through the G-Cloud framework, started the procurement process for a new IT partner. After a thorough tendering process and recommendations from peers, Littlefish, the SME supplier of managed IT services, was selected as the outsourced IT support partner.
As a new entity, Bristol Energy didn’t have the capital expenditure to invest in new hardware so to fit with its operational model, it decided to adopt a cloud first approach. Littlefish offered guidance and advice on how best to approach its infrastructure management and firstly implemented the Microsoft Azure package. This was a perfect fit for Bristol Energy due to its scalable nature, suiting both its short term and future needs. Moving forward, Littlefish could expand the infrastructure via Azure to cope with more users whilst still delivering a quality service.
Littlefish then advised on all suitable applications and ensured they would work on the new cloud infrastructure, implemented an on-site network with firewall connectivity with high availability [which was a necessity being cloud based] and then created a standard laptop image for all users, so they had a starting point for application management.
Andy Wysocki, Head of IT and Change at Bristol Energy says: “Littlefish offered true consultancy, flexibility, agility, innovation and ideas to create value, so it was the best fit for our needs. The pricing structure was really clear and we could easily see how the Azure platform could be scaled with our growth. It was priced very competitively per user and the cost of future support was very easy to calculate.”
Once the cloud infrastructure was in place, Littlefish implemented the Service Desk, a 24/7/365 manned operation delivered from its operations centre in Nottingham. The personalised ‘pod’ – consisting of a dedicated team of Littlefish individuals, a single point of contact delivering consistent IT support – offers remote support and management to Bristol Energy employees. During periods of peak volume, the wider Littlefish Service Desk is also available to Bristol Energy to ensure that immediate, capable, and consistent support is always available users.
In terms of communication, there is a Littlefish application on each user’s laptop, called Littlefish ‘Live’, where the user can open up an online chat and give the control of the laptop to the Littlefish Service Desk. 82% use this as their preferred communication method, with email or phone as the next port of call. When this process is complete, the Service Desk sends the user straight to a feedback page. According to Wysocki, this is working really well as 97% of the feedback has been positive and allows Littlefish to get immediate feedback, to help improve services going forward.
Richard Hutchings, Chief Technology Officer at Littlefish said: “As a Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform and Cloud Productivity partner Littlefish has been well positioned to support Bristol Energy through both the initial design and implementation phase as well as the subsequent growth. This has been achieved by closely working alongside Bristol Energy to fulfil a cloud first aspiration to provide the business with a fully resilient and endlessly scalable collection of services, all critically hosted from within a Microsoft carbon neutral Azure datacentre. These services not only meet the demands of the business today, but provide Bristol Energy with the infinite flexibility for the services of tomorrow.”
Bristol Energy now holds a quarterly service review with Littlefish to talk about updates, any ongoing issues, and to discuss ideas as to how the service can be continually improved.
In addition to the Service Desk, Littlefish even provided support in an office move to larger premises – offering installations and infrastructure replacement – something Wysocki refers to as ‘above and beyond service – putting the customer experience before commerce’.
Benefits / Results
Bristol Energy has undertaken rapid growth in the last two years, and acknowledges the flexibility, expertise and strategic IT support from Littlefish, which is now an integral part of Bristol Energy.
Wysocki commented: “We are small, but growing – and we wanted to commit to a company that could understand that. We’ve got our own servers, now all hosted in the cloud by Littlefish on our behalf – which means we only pay for the exact amount of server space used, and have the benefit of infinite flexibility. In addition, Littlefish provides upgrades for us, as and when. Littlefish does a huge amount for us – in my opinion, they are an extension of the team.”
Whilst difficult to benchmark, Wysocki estimates that the cost of Littlefish is approximately equal to two full time personnel. However, he feels that he has access to a full supportive team and a genuine 24/7 ‘lights-on’ service for the same cost.
Wysocki added: “Throughout the entire process, I have been blown away by the fantastic mechanisms Littlefish offers. The Littlefish Live system works well for support, in addition to face to face meetings for performance reviews. We’ve had 80 pressing issues processed this year alone – that’s phenomenal – and since inception 91% of problems have been resolved on the first point of contact.
I’ve never seen a remote system like this work well before. I’ll admit, I was sceptical. We could have hired lots of infrastructure engineers – however, doing this would have not allowed us to have the depth and breadth of skill we’ve experienced from Littlefish. The team is a real alternative to the ‘usual suspects’ and we value them as a strategic partner.”
Richard Roome, Services Director at Littlefish said: “It has been a joy working in partnership with Bristol Energy and watching them grow as an organisation. From conception, as we built their Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, through a number of office moves as they grow their user base, we feel privileged to have worked with them during this period.
Bristol Energy has very much embraced the ‘pod’ approach and their staff enjoy interacting with the Service Desk through Littlefish Live. A strong and positive working relationship between the main customer stakeholder and the ‘pod’ has certainly helped and the regular dialogue with the Littlefish Service Account Manager, has ensured that the level of support has remained consistent as the organisation has grown and requirements have changed. It is this relationship that underpins the excellent first contact resolution and ultimately, helps generate the high levels of customer satisfaction.”
Bristol Energy User Feedback
Delivering exceptional user experience is the number one priority for Littlefish. User feedback is collected after every contact, it is then analysed and reported back key stakeholders, to deliver continual service improvement. Here’s a small selection;
“Kieran grabbed the issue by the horns and just made things happen. From the start of the day having no access to any of our critical secure systems to full access by the end of the day. Great job, very professional. Thanks.”
“Just wanted to highlight what great work Kieran did for us today. I really felt that he went “above and beyond” and achieved a huge amount, especially given the limitations in regards to what he had available to work with today. In addition to getting something basic set-up for the 30th, he has fixed a number of problems that we have been working on for months! Not sure if he qualifies for a Starfish award, but I would like to nominate him for one, or some kind of recognition in any case. He is quite an asset, technically brilliant and keen to help-out with anything he can do in the time he has available.”
”Kieran got us set-up quickly, handled lots of changes with knowledge and good humour and was great at coming-up with solutions fast. It was a pleasure to work with him.”
“Kieran provided fantastic support during the office move for Bristol Energy and was extremely efficient in both planned and unplanned activities. All essential ICT related tasks were completed over the weekend and business as usual was resumed on Monday morning. All office staff have commented on the seamless transition of the move, with additional thanks for the Monday troubleshooting from Kieran.”
“Steve helped us solve a really challenging issue we were experiencing with emails sent from our CRM system though a bulk mail service to our customers. His technical expertise allowed us to demonstrate the solution to the CRM developers – a great example of LittleFish going above and beyond the day-to-day IT tasks and instead being a true partner to Bristol Energy helping us to work with our suppliers and solve any issue that comes up.”
“Barry has been instrumental in sorting out the VOIP telephony solution and the associated infrastructure at Bristol Energy. Without his and Littlefish’s support we would have had a much tougher time holding the telephony supplier to account. His quick actions and thoughtful challenges played a pivotal part in overcoming the poor quality experienced on many calls and as such overcame a major obstacle in the path to launching Bristol Energy. Thanks for all your support – it is very much appreciated.”
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