“When Covid-19 hit us, the last thing I needed to worry about was IT. It just worked.”

Julian Walker, AB Walker.

When Covid-19 hit the UK, long-established funeral director AB Walker’s nine offices across South East England needed to rapidly scale operations to cope with a 100% increase on demand while being mindful of Health & Safety protocols and Government guidelines for office employees.  A Cloud-based IT infrastructure, previously implemented and supported by Ziptech, allowed the office-based, customer-facing team to focus on meeting increased demand while several staff kept the business supported by operating remotely from home.

Julian Walker said, “When Covid-19 hit us, the last thing I needed to worry about was IT.  It just worked.”

Digital Transformation – a step-by-step approach

Five years previously, Ziptech had begun working with AB Walker to move the company’s email to the Cloud.  Soon afterwards, the family-run business stepped up its relationship with Ziptech as the IT Service provider became more integral to future strategy, offering a tailored service to ensure the company kept abreast of the digital technologies that would continue to reap efficient rewards.

Julian says, “Over the years, Ziptech has encouraged us to take timely and simple steps forward in progressing our technology – ensuring we always get the most from our investments; for example, as an operating system expires, we consider our options and the wider opportunity for change.”

Ziptech now manages the network for the 24/7 business across all nine sites.  Management and administration staff all have access to key files, documents and processes from any device, at any time, and from any location.

Freeing up management time to focus on customer service

Julian adds, “Where Ziptech has had the most value is in saving management time; we don’t have to worry about our IT in context of future business needs.  Ziptech brings that expertise to our business requiring minimal management time, allowing us to focus on service delivery and customer experience.  Their expertise working across other sectors is really useful too – they bring ideas and examples of best practice which we wouldn’t find in our own network.”

Coping with unprecedented demand

From March 2020, AB Walker’s liaison with families, with places of rest, and with Registrars needed to be carried out by telephone or online, using email and electronic documents.  Prior to the pandemic, the registration of death, booking of funerals and all associated documentation was conducted through face to face meetings and hard copy documents. This required the business and its customers to overcome the challenges of traffic, parking, time restricted appointments and timely transfer of the physical documents to the burial and cremation authorities. The pandemic put pressure on the whole process, particularly registrars and the certification process for death to be enabled through virtual meetings, electronic documents and telephone consultation.

At the height of pandemic in the UK, the Government’s guidelines for funerals were changing daily and there was an increasing anxiety among families about the possibility of not being able to hold a funeral in the manner they would like.  Consequently, families needed funeral arrangements to be made as swiftly as possible.  Digitising the process meant AB Walker was able to deliver a faster service, providing more peace of mind to bereaved families, whilst maintaining the levels of customer care and accuracy required in the sensitive delivery of funeral services.

Julian says, “The pandemic has forced change in our processes and luckily our technology had already been designed to cope.  We have moved from carbon copies of paperwork to digital signatures in a very short space of time.  The IT infrastructure which Ziptech implemented meant we were able to immediately access and enjoy the speed of the new process.  We were set up and ready to go while others were struggling to adapt.  This was a welcome efficiency at a time when demand doubled in the space of two weeks.”

Changing processes for good

Internally, AB Walker is also making good use of some of the collaboration technologies which comes as part of the Microsoft solution Ziptech has introduced; Teams is used to hold internal meetings and conduct staff training.  Its instant messaging feature allows staff to quickly check up on actions without overloading email inboxes.

Julian concludes, “Covid-19 has taught us that our management processes and customer interactions have to be digital.  Partnering with Ziptech meant that we were prepared for something we could not have predicted.”

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