Oxfordshire firm Curtis & Carder is a family-run business with 27 engineers that specialises in heating and plumbing installation, servicing and repairs. Operational 7 days a week, there’s no such thing as downtime. Business continuity is crucial, to provide reactive repairs, planned servicing to their 3,500 commercial and domestic customers across 4,000 sites.
Due to Covid-19, Curtis & Carder’s admin team were all already working from their homes while director Graham Carder manned the physical office. One morning in late November 2019, he was first to realise that systems were down.
“I’d arrived at the office at 7am ready to start the day and instantly realised something was wrong.” says Graham. “Our phone lines and internet access were down, which is a huge problem in terms of communications with our customers and remote workforce. Fortunately, the new Propeller systems that we’d switched to just a few months previously are all cloud-based so I knew we could work around it. In fact, by 9.30am everyone was logged in remotely, working as normal, and no-one was any the wiser.”
The early morning outage of phone lines and internet connectivity could have been disastrous - preventing engineers from accessing work schedules and customers from calling in with new jobs. At the busiest time of year, the knock-on effect for any delays would have been huge.
Thankfully, some of the changes that the business had already made in response to Covid-19 meant that the impact on the business and its customers was minimal - in fact, while they were without phones and internet for almost a full week, the full team were back up and running within hours of the original outage, with customers blissfully unaware.
As for all businesses, Curtis & Carder made significant changes to their operating procedures at the outset of the pandemic in order to protect staff and customers alike. One of those changes was to bring forward a planned switchover to new job management software from Propeller Powered, which crucially is entirely cloud-based.
The software covers end-to-end job management, from appointment and service scheduling to job reporting, quotes and invoices. Support staff log jobs and schedule regular visits while engineers can update on job progress from an app on tablets or mobile phones. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, from March 2020 Propeller introduced additional modules (at no extra cost to users) to allow for Covid Risk Assessments to be undertaken before every visit, or at the start of each day on longer-term projects. “The risk assessment functionality has been really useful,” says Graham. “It means that our customers and engineers out and about all have peace of mind that jobs are being done in the safest possible way.”
Using Propeller’s cloud-based software, Curtis & Carder managed to fulfill of their existing appointments for boiler breakdowns, heating failures and landlord certificates, as well as keeping larger projects on track. In addition to pre-planned appointments, at the same time the team also handled a commercial gas leak at a school and resolved a burst pipe that had flooded an unoccupied house.
“Before we moved to Propeller, the company would come to a standstill if we had a power cut or lost internet,” says Graham. “Now that we’ve switched over, we have ‘go boxes’ in the office so if we lose power or the internet fails, staff can grab their go box and be at home working within the hour. Our customers don’t even know that there’s been a problem, and we don’t suffer any system downtime.”
“When we first decided to move to Propeller, it was because of the extent of processes that can all be managed through a single dashboard. That saves time and money, not only by removing the need to input the same data into multiple places, but also in things like the automation of update messages, and no longer having to purchase various licences for different systems. For a single monthly fee, we could combine all of those processes in a single place. Disaster recovery wasn’t necessarily front of mind when we made that decision.”
Although the cloud-based nature of the system was initially considered to be a useful addition, it turned out to be a critical factor in Curtis & Carder’s ability to assure business continuity when it mattered. As Graham says “What I hadn’t realised until that outage was that the cloud-based nature of our new systems was actually the ultimate benefit. We’d never have been able to pick back up again so quickly had it not been for that.”