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SEP 2016

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70 SEPTEMBER 2016 H astings Direct is one of the UK's fastest- growing insurance providers, with sites in Bexhill and Newmarket. To accommodate its rapid growth, the company needed to quickly find a cost effective customer-contact centre capable of delivering service to 2.1 million customers. Hastings faced the classic problem experienced by many other customer-facing businesses: finding and setting up an additional location with access to high-calibre colleagues in a short amount of time. In the end, the company was able to create an impressive customer service hub within just six months from the point of finalising contract terms with a chosen supplier. In January 2016, Hastings moved into its new home at 1 St. George's Way, a modern, vibrant 4,180-sq.-m. (45,000-sq.-ft.) contact centre located in the heart of England's city of Leicester and employing over 550 colleagues. With existing sites at Bexhill and Newmarket already operating at full capacity and the labour pool at both locations unable to cope with demand, Hastings required a new operational customer services environment at a different location that could tap into a fresh source of talent. Naturally, location was key but there were other factors that were crucial, such as speed to market, known costs, and minimal distractions and risk to the business as a whole. After an extensive investigation of a number of potential cities and regions, it was decided that 1 St. George's Way offered an easily acces- sible location with what is considered a large, available and suitable demographic profile. For a people-centred business such as Hastings, the ability to attract and retain colleagues remained a major part of the corporate real estate (CRE) equation, but it was also necessary to get the facility up and running quickly. f rom shell to completion Whilst St. George's met Hastings' long-term ambitions, the designated floor space required significant infrastructure works to provide a suit- able environment. Originally an old postal facility, the multi-use building needed a complete-shell fit-out to include structural alterations, as well as delivery of a workplace aligned to support colleagues and brand values. In turn, this type of project demanded a high level of property exper- tise and experience. The extent and size of the works also meant that there would be substantial capex investment necessary to refurbish. This scenario left the company with two chal- lenges: overcoming the potential delay in being able to ramp up capacity, and funding the large up-front investment associated with the refurbish- ment and fit-out. At this point, an independent property consultant to Hastings introduced an alternative CRE approach that could be consid- Case study: Hastings d irect and a new portfolio strategy by Phil Sugden

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