Rupert Walters
Service Relationship Director.

I'm constantly amazed how some organizations make it so difficult for their clients to enjoy a positive service experience. When it's done well - from buying the morning paper to managing multi million pound contracts - it's simply about people connecting with each other in a way that keeps your clients "your clients".

I have been in the service arena for the past 27 years; you could say I have become a service evangelist. Starting off in retail (one of the original "suits you sir" sales assistants) provided me with a great foundation, from which I built my service philosophy. Since then I have had a history of roles from working on helpdesks, to delivering a more individual service experience into clients ranging from micro businesses, to large corporates such as such as IBM and Tesco.

In today's highly competitive global marketplace providing a first class service experience should be a number one priority ("No customers = no company"), because it's one of the major differences clients can readily identify with (It can be far more influential than price). Therefore, taking the initiative to genuinely manage service relationships benefits your business in so many ways. It facilitates better communication, opens up new opportunities and strengthens and grows businesses.

I founded 4orty2 service management 4 years ago with a purpose to work with B2B clients wanting to turnaround service threats to their businesses from clients or suppliers. By creating and embedding strategies that allow us to connect differently, the companies I have worked for and more recently my own clients, have enjoyed real tangible results. Of course it's easy to do; we all know what a good service experience looks and feels like! However, it's the small things which we neglect to do consistently over time that creates the biggest service discrepancies – and how do you ensure all your staff are consistently providing the service levels your business needs?

Take a look here at some examples of how I have helped companies enjoy prosperous benefits from long term partnerships using my skills in service relationship management and the work of 4orty2:

  • Supplier Engagement - Service Management - (MoFlash Signaling)
  • Client Rescue - Service Management (IBM)
  • Value Add - Service Management (Tesco)
  • Proactive - Service Management (Whsmith News)
  • BAU - Service Management (Sweets and Treats)

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Supplier Engagement


Suppliers can be one of your best assets or worst enemies. Supplier dissatisfaction is extremely common and can be costly in time, money and lost productivity to your business. If you do not have the resource or time to resolve poor service performance, or are tied into a lengthy contract, the issue can rumble on without resolution for many years.

My client had an unresponsive supplier that was hindering rather than helping their business. Relations with this supplier had virtually broken down as they approached the end of a long contractual agreement. They were suffering from inflexible contract terms but moreover poor service and were now in search of a new supplier as "they felt under serviced and over charged".

I was engaged to look at their current contracted service, and either identify where we could use any leverage to improve the supplier performance, or find a new supplier.

We went through a very simple tendering process with two new suppliers, as well as their existing one. At the end of the process it was evident there was no financial or commercial benefit in moving to a new service provider. Although there was a degree of awkwardness in the service relationship between the two parties, we were able to independently represent our client, remove any underlying emotion, and successfully re-negotiate a new contract in more favorable terms.

Our client is now benefitting from:

  • Improved service performance.
  • Better pricing (a saving of over 20% on their annual telecoms bill)
  • A seamless transition into a new contract period with out any disruption to service
  • Better focus on running the business rather than worrying about a poor supplier relationship
  • Very happy people

The supplier also increased their revenue by winning some additional business because they subsequently became exposed to other business opportunities. This client continues to enjoy a strong business relationship with the supplier and has also applied the lessons learned to other supplier relationships resulting in real bottom line growth.

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Client Rescue


We sometimes lose sight of what's important to our customers rather than ourselves. They are endlessly being courted and wooed with tempting offers of great service and cheaper prices, so it's crucial not to become complacent about their loyalty. 4orty2 was engaged by IBM to rescue one of their strategic clients. After our initial meetings with their client it was evident that whilst there were some technical issues (which could be resolved), the real issue was the "service relationship". They felt unheard, let down and lost in the black and white processes of a large corporate organization.

IBM was faced with losing a strategic customer, due to their lack of confidence in their post sales delivery and management of the service relationship. Their client was approaching the end of the contract term and considering moving to another supplier or taking the service in-house.

To retain the customer and identify the relationship weak points objectively, understanding how my client fell short of meeting the needs of their client.


  • Seamlessly integrated into my client's wider team so as to provide a single aspect support structure to their client.
  • Identified the weak points and injected confidence back into the service relationship.
  • We bridged the divide and reassured the client of an improved service experience which they would be able to measure on a weekly basis.
  • Tactical weekly service meetings (focusing on the areas of failing).
  • Single point of contact available 24x7x365 for any service related issues.
  • Open and honest platform to discuss any potential service issues.
  • 4orty2 managed the post sales service delivery within the UK.
  • Strategic monthly service meetings with senior managers and directors.

Our client is now benefitting from:

  • £12m contract secured for 5 years.
  • Increased external customer referrals.
  • Trusted advisor service relationship between client and supplier.
  • Another contract re-sign is planned for 2012
  • Very happy people.

The Service relationship has grown stronger and the client's reliance and trust in the service team of our client is now exceptional.

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Our approach to winning a contract from Tesco, was to ensure service management was involved in the sales process from the outset. This ensured the service relationship started from day one (not after service implementation), which would prove not only to be one of the success factors in winning the tender, but would go on to be strategically beneficial in the ongoing operational support of this major customer.

After winning the data-network contract for both data-centers, all stores, filling stations and ATMs nationwide from the incumbent supplier, and against very stiff competition for such a prestigious customer, we not only had to deliver, we also needed to exceed in providing a first class customer experience.

One of my first tasks was to implement an internal PR campaign within the business to ensure that everyone who interfaced with Tesco had an understanding of how their service levels affected the customer. I then delivered a series of presentations involving the customer's and the businesses' operational teams to (a) get to know each other and provide a more personal platform of interaction for the technical staff, (b) to make sure they all spoke the same technical language and (c) to clearly define each team's expectation of the other.

I then joined the Tesco store experience (designed for their managers) which involved working 1 week in-store every 6 months, to better understand how they used our services in their day to day operations at the ‘coal face' of their business.

Building this kind of service commitment not only opens up more opportunities as you get to better understand your customers business, it also prepares you for the unexpected. As was the case when a BT fire resulted in the failure of 130,000 lines in Greater Manchester.

5 major Tesco stores affected by the BT network fire resulting in the failure of 130,000 lines in Greater Manchester, with no diverse routing or estimated fix time available.

Provide a limited service for their critical applications, to enable their stores to stay open.

Because I had spent time ‘in store' and had working knowledge of a branch, I was able to fully understand what infrastructure was needed to provide the limited service for their critical applications. I implemented an urgent technical support operation which allowed all 5 stores to remain open.


  • Limited services to critical coal face applications.
  • 5 stores remained open over the 6 days of service disruption (whilst the competition had to close).
  • No lost business, (in fact there was an increase due to competitors being forced to close).
  • Great PR for Tesco, 'their customers were still able to shop for their essentials'.
  • Saved the client over £5 million in 6 days.
  • Very happy people.

The most successful companies surround themselves with suppliers they trust, rely on and believe can help them and their customers. Tesco's data network provider is now more than just a supplier and continues to re-sign their term contracts as well as harness new opportunities.

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Understanding our customers, their service vulnerability and being able to add value to the bigger picture without monetary reward makes us more than just a supplier.

Our client was undergoing a major head office move involving a number of critical services which could only be moved on the day of their relocation. They had 3 suppliers for their telecoms service and although a considerable amount of effort had gone into pre-project planning to ensure a seamless remote switchover on the day of the move, only 1 of the 3 suppliers made sure they had a physical on site presence, even though they had nothing to do except give their client confidence by their mere presence - and make the odd cup of tea "or so it seemed".

After spending the morning at our clients new premises and confirming our services had been remotely switched over successfully, it became apparent that one of their other suppliers had let them down. Moreover they were not able to complete their commitment within the required time, thus leaving the client without any data services (which is critical to their logistical operations) for the next 48hours.

To provide a data link to the internet to enable their depots to connect for vital updates.

Assessing the situation on site with our client, we identified a number of options including using the spare capacity still in place, due to the recent move. In collaboration with my technical team we were able to configure one of the now redundant links therefore delivering a working service within 2 hours.


  • Limited services to critical coal face applications.
  • Data link to the internet provided over our network.
  • No service disruption to any remote depots (which engenders trust in head office's capabilities).
  • No impact to their business.
  • Our client received a service that 'went the extra mile' - embedding a strong relationship for the future.
  • Very happy people.

WHSmith News subsequently terminated its contract with its Internet link provider, and remains a customer of the replacement service provided when they needed it on the day of its move. Our sheer presence on site at a critical time demonstrated a service commitment that the client valued highly and this helped cement future business.

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Successful business owners are not jacks of all trades; they major in their skill and surround themselves with others who excel in theirs. Leveraging the expertise of others enables them to make best use of their time and frees them up to take advantage of opportunities which accelerates the growth of their business.

As experienced retailers our client had been through the economic highs and lows of the past 50 years. Part of their recent innovation involved focusing on growing their wholesale business and whilst they had a very strong retail background, they recognized they needed to adopt a different service skill set for their B2B customers.

They knew their product range, quality and pricing was superior to their competition; however, there was something in their deliverable that needed additional focus.

Better understanding of their service deliverable and how it impacted their customers.

We started by putting together a customer contact plan, where we worked together in contacting their customers personally to ascertain what was good, bad, or indifferent about their service.

The feedback was extremely positive and gave them the missing piece of the jigsaw on which to focus for improvement. We also initiated a regular contact plan with their customer base to maintain focus on improving the customer experience.


  • Better understanding of their B2B customers.
  • Identified and redressed the weak spots of their business.
  • Opened up new opportunities.
  • Growing customer base.
  • Very happy people.

Combining their retail experience with their wholesale business enables Sweets and Treats to truly deliver an exceptional service experience for their customers.

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