Getting to the next level

Sara Wilkes, chief operating officer, Agilitas, talks to Comms Business about her new five-part customer delivery plan.

Sara Wilkes joined Agilitas as its new chief operating officer in January 2024 and has already started making some big changes to the technology hardware specialists’ customer experience strategy. She said listening to and understanding the needs’ of MSPs and VARs and their end customers is her main focus.

To achieve her aim to ensure customer voices are firmly embedded within the company culture, she has set out a bold new five-part plan that aims to take Agilitas to the next level of customer delivery.

“Having worked closely with end customers on the front end of MSPs and VARs for the best part of 20 years, I would like to think that I understand them and what they need,” said Wilkes. “I have taken that with me and translated it into how we operate as a business and what we deliver.

“That also involves keeping abreast of the latest customer requirements and expectations. So, we hold quarterly meetings with all our customers to get feedback to understand how we are doing and what we can do to improve and continue to provide them with an excellent service, and ultimately drive our customer experience strategy.”

As a keen proponent for diversity and inclusion and women in technology, Wilkes very much lives her motto “from reception to the board”, motivating others to aspire to top roles. It’s clearly an ethos that has served Wilkes well during her career.

Wilkes started in the technology channel 18 years ago as a receptionist at Computacenter’s Birmingham branch. By her own admission, since then she has fulfilled a “rollercoaster of different roles”.

During her 10 years at Computacenter, Wilkes worked her way up the ranks, starting in internal sales before moving into project management. There, she worked as a project co-ordinator, from where she transitioned into managed services.

After a stint working in Computacenter’s international business in Barcelona, onboarding large global services, Wilkes returned to the UK, where she took on the role of transition manager at SCC in Birmingham. From there she progressively moved into various service management and operations roles and, finally, customer experience director before the move to Agilitas came about.

“The majority of my career has been focused on recontacting, winning, taking on and running new services,” said Wilkes. “As time went on, I progressively moved into operations and customer strategy.”

Buying into the vision

Wilkes decided to move to Agilitas primarily because she shared CEO John Hayes-Warren’s long-term vision for the company and his management style. Hayes-Warren himself was only appointed in October 2023.

Wilkes also saw an opportunity to take change the company’s whole customer experience strategy – something that hadn’t been possible in previous roles due to the business structures.

“It’s really hard to drive a strong customer experience strategy in an organisation when you only have responsibility for a small part of it – you need to get everybody involved,” said Wilkes. “Coming to Agilitas has enabled me to take ownership of the entire customer experience strategy across the business and fundamentally transform it.”

Despite her relatively short time in the role, Wilkes has already brought in some big changes in that regard, renaming the customer experience strategy as ‘total experience’. She said that has required getting the whole business on board to drive it forward.

Wilkes has drawn greatly on her previous project management experience to bring about these changes. Her focus has been on providing structure and accountability so that everyone knows their role and is aligned to work towards the same goals.

Five key principles

To that end, Wilkes has built the new total experience around five key principles: culture, excellence, voice of the customer, technology and automation, and ESG. For her, though, culture is the foundation for everything else.

“Total experience embodies everything we do to drive a total experience for our people and customers, with an ambition to outperform the industry,” said Wilkes. “Culture is fundamental to the successful delivery of that strategy.

“With that in mind, it was vital that we agreed on a new set of values. We wanted to do something different and to be disruptive, so we set the core values of challenging it, targeting it, winning it, owning it and loving it.”

Wilkes said that the principle of excellence centres on aligning a target operating model to drive an optimal customer journey alongside the implementation of experience-led KPIs. The strategy is further shaped from a product, service and industry perspective by taking into account the customer’s voice, she said.

It is enhanced, said Wilkes, by the introduction of technology and automation roadmap designed to drive customer experience, productivity and capability. The final component, she said, is ensuring everything the company does is sustainable, ethical and community-focused.

Wilkes has clearly made big strides, even in her first few weeks. With such drive and wealth of experience, it seems that there’s no limit to her ambitions for the company’s customer strategy.

This interview appeared in our March 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

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