Belfast Telegraph

Moira firm reaps benefits of system upgrade

By Paul Convery, head of BT Business Northern Ireland

Phone systems used to be nothing more than a way of connecting customers to businesses. Modern systems still do that, of course, but today they are capable of doing so much more for a business - ultimately making every call an opportunity to be more profitable.

A modern phone system is full of technology, all designed to help make running a business easier, more efficient and more professional. Better communications make customers happier, helping to ensure that when a customer dials a business phone number they will get to the right person and an effective outcome - and everyone knows what a happy customer means to a business.

Many successful Northern Ireland businesses which have grown up over the years find themselves with outdated phone systems which can hamper their productivity and impact on their customer service experience. With older systems it was easy to outgrow them - but today's technology means that systems installed now can protect a company's investment for years to come.

Paul Convery, head of BT Business Northern Ireland, says: "Providing customers with value-added business solutions lies at the heart of BT's business strategy. Our leading edge telephony systems provide customers with innovative technology and a fully integrated, intelligent business asset that helps them to deliver better for their businesses and their own customers and therefore provides an early return on investment."

One Northern Ireland company which has recently invested in a new system is Clarehill Plastics Ltd. Operating under the Harlequin brand for more than 30 years at its manufacturing base in Moira, the business produces high quality polyethylene oil, fuel, water and waste water storage tanks and systems for the agricultural, commercial and residential sectors.

The family-owned company has come a long way since it began making plastic coal bunkers in 1981. Today it employs 82 people, is one of the largest rotational moulding manufacturers in Europe and exports to some 20 countries worldwide.

Director Nicola Coey says that when it came time for an upgrade, the company sought quotes from several suppliers but were impressed by a number of aspects of what BT proposed.

"We plumped for BT because of the level of local support we would get from them. It was also important to us that we had a system that improved our customer service and our efficiency," she says.

BT partners with Avaya, a global leader in enterprise communications systems. The Avaya IP Office Preferred Edition which Harlequin has adopted is a unified communications platform which, according to Paul Convery, is more an app-based phone system than a standard system where you just answer and transfer calls.

Nicola Coey highlights the fact that the system can be linked to the company's database which means that when a call comes through from a customer all their details appear on screen.

"It means that immediately we can treat them as a customer, not a number," she explains.

Scalability is also vital for the company which is now engaged in a further phase of growth.

Harlequin is about to embark on a significant product launch, a mains pressurised hot water storage tank for use in homes or businesses under the 'Heatstream' brand.

Nicola says: "This range of hot water storage tanks will, we hope, revolutionise the heating sector and provide performance and environmental benefits to set new standards for years to come. A telephony platform that allows us to have additional functions as we expand is vital."

Today's phone systems are helping staff to collaborate better and to respond quickly not just to colleagues but to customers. And switching from an outdated system to a modern one is no longer disruptive. Nicola says the move was seamless and - for a company that puts exceptional customer care at the heart of what it does - it was definitely the right move.

Paul Convery is head of BT Business Northern Ireland. For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland please email

Belfast Telegraph