Michelle Ryder caught up with Shaun Wilkinson, Managing Director at UTAX to talk about post-pandemic business and plans for 2023
Wilkinson confirmed that UTAX UK is now back to trading at pre-pandemic levels which is great news. Looking back over the past couple of years, he said that the pandemic and lockdowns gave him the opportunity to look inward and identify areas where the business could improve.
“We had time to review what we were doing, to consider how we could improve our processes and reduce our costs, and ultimately enable us to be more competitive in the market,” he explained. Changes made included investment in a new CRM solution and the implementation of electronic workflows to improve efficiency. “It has worked really well for us,” he added.
Supply chain challenges have naturally impacted the business. “I
think we’re coming out of that now and we’ve fared slightly better than some others. We didn’t have any issues with the supply of A3 devices and A4 is now starting to catch up,” Wilkinson said, adding: “There has of course been price increases as a result of increased shipping costs etc. We’ve absorbed a lot of that and haven’t passed on as much as we should. It’s been tough, but again, we’ve come through it and people understood that things were outside of our control, these were global issues.”
Great support from customers
Despite all of the setbacks – including the war on Ukraine which disrupted the supply chain challenge workaround of shipping via land using the railways, Wilkinson said that the team has really pulled together and received great support from customers. “The business priority has been on looking after the partners that supported us – that was absolutely the right thing to do, then about four or five months ago, we started looking more outward. We’re now focusing on attracting new customers because we think we’ve got a great offering, great products, great support and we provide great service, and we want to shout about that.”
He continued: “We are committed to our partners which is why during the pandemic we didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin, but we’re in a strong place now and ready to push forward. I think the demographic of the dealer is changing and it’s not just about price, it’s about the intangible things we can offer. We actually onboarded a new partner at the beginning of the lockdown – they were very brave, we supported them, we share the same philosophy and ethos and we’re working very well together.”
Wilkinson argues that there’s not much more that can be done in terms of hardware so rather than new product launches there will be a series of product refreshes that cover areas such as reducing energy consumption for example.
“We are getting more involved in office workflow solutions, and it’s on the solution side where the roadmap gets quite exciting,” he said.
“There’s a lot of new stuff in the pipeline which we will be launching in Q1 and Q2. We’ve been talking to customers about their requirements and we’re okay, well, we’ve got 90 per cent of that, but not quite 100 per cent. So, because of our size, we’ve got the ability to go out and find those other bits and pull the whole solution together and actually give the customer what they need. So that’s quite exciting for us,” he added.
Wilkinson explained that the new solutions are already deployed in test sites and that business is being won on the back of that. “For dealers that want to win the bigger ticket stuff, they’ve got to get involved in this solution piece. And that’s where I think we can really help.”
UTAX has long hosted its partners at an annual dealer conference, but that’s not on the agenda for now. “It costs a lot to lay on an event like that and against a backdrop of rising prices, we’d rather keep costs down than spend on a one- day event,” Wilkinson said.
He continued: “Technology has also been an enabler for us to showcase our solutions to more customers. We can do that effectively via video calls, it’s not like you need to get your hands on the tech like you do with a piece of hardware.”
Incentive trips, however, are still going ahead. “We feel it’s important that we reward those partners that are pushing our products, so we run a competition every year, naturally COVID delayed a trip we had planned but we eventually got round to doing it last year,” he concluded.