MT Workplace Technology Visions: The customer perspective, with Rick Vlemmiks

Rick Vlemmiks of British Gas explains how large, customer-facing businesses can engage with new technology.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Knowing its customers – their wants, needs and desires – is the holy grail for any big service business. How can you give great service if you don’t know what great service looks like to your customers, after all?

It’s also something which has traditionally been very hard for them to manage. How much easier for a small business to keep tabs on a few tens or hundreds of clients, than for a firm like British Gas to keep up with millions of them?

But, says British Gas commercial director Rick Vlemmiks, emerging new technologies can help to level the playing field for big businesses as well as small ones. ‘IT is becoming much more of a strategic enabler for us,’ he says. ‘It is what enables us to deliver differentiated service, and to benefit from real time interaction with our customers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for example.’

The emerging Cloud-based world of social networking and always-on, connect anywhere technology permits a real dialogue between companies and customers, he says, although it does call for a new approach from marketers more used to operating on transmit than receive. ‘You have to listen to what people are saying and be ready to respond quickly’ he says. But the rewards are a level of insight and speed of feedback which could only be dreamed of a few years ago.

Despite the exponential rise in the use of mobile technology, he doesn’t believe that the idea of a ‘workplace’ will be consigned to history anytime soon. ‘Work is an activity, not a place’ he says. ‘But you do need to be in the office sometimes. It’s not an either/or situation.’ The benefits of gathering together in teams to swap ideas and to keep up with the cultural and social side of work will not be replaced by technology, he believes, but improved connectivity and smarter tech will enable us to choose the most appropriate location for any given task. Thus boosting productivity and reducing costs – what’s not to like about that?

Other highlights in this exclusive MT interview include:

- Why the PC is dead.
- The changing role of the corporate IT department.
- How technology can help drive economic recovery.

For more exclusive videos, visit our microsite at

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