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Get to Know: Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox

Get to Know: Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox

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On the lighter side of things we ask Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox, about what makes him tick.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

“For me, this has to be when we landed our first major brand. That’s not to say our work with other companies doesn’t hold great value, as in many respects the work we do with SMEs can be even more rewarding.

“However, winning your first well-known name is a big deal for any business and a moment of recognition for all the hard work we had put in over the years.

“It told us: ‘You’ve made the right decisions and taken the right path, enough to gain trust from other successful leaders.’

“It reassured us that what we were doing was good, and we should do more of it.”

What first made you think of a career in technology?

“I’ve spent most of my professional life working with technology to improve business efficiency. My career began with British Telecom in their research labs, then I moved to security software, which is where I started to recognise the importance of improving customer experience to benefit business performance. The idea of establishing a telephony company specifically occurred to me when I realised how poorly the business I was with dealt with incoming phone calls.

“Despite having limited knowledge of the telecommunication sector at the time, my co-founders and I taught ourselves about the industry and set up Natterbox to disrupt the traditional way of thinking about the telephone.”

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

“When it comes to managing my employees, for me happiness comes first, and that’s the approach we take at Natterbox.

“A massive part of managing and having a happy workforce is creating an open and honest dialogue about everything from their performance to their aspirations. Often though, the review process, where these conversations should take place, is poorly handled. Staff get better job satisfaction from proper, actionable feedback and that’s what will ensure they stay loyal to a business in these uncertain times.

“Ultimately, people are like sponges – they learn quickly if they are bright and given the opportunity. The problem is that they can be missed if management fail to nurture them in the right direction.”

What do you think will emerge as the technology trend of 2021 and why?

“There have been some obvious challenges accelerated by the pandemic. One of the most pressing has been trying to keep the workforce efficient and productive while working remotely. This is especially difficult due to the loss of micro-communication – the professional ‘small talk’ we usually partake in at work.

“While most of us are used to sitting around desks chatting to each other, nothing replaced this conversation when we moved to remote working. We lost the interaction we, as humans, need. Its loss also means managers aren’t able to build the same relationships with their employees, teams can’t communicate as effectively, and it’s harder to notice when colleagues are struggling. These conversations we now miss out on are often what employee satisfaction, efficiency, and training are based on.

“As we move into 2021 and remote working policies continue, we’re going to see a higher demand for solutions enabling remote micro-communication. In contact centres we’ve already experienced a significant rise in demand for ‘listen-in’ functionality – allowing managers to listen to conversations with customers as they happen. This ensures managers understand how their employees are performing and identify areas they may need further training on. Virtual wallboards can also be implemented to help contact agents see how many customers are in the queue and where their colleagues are, for example on the phone or taking a break, to help fill the void of not being able to see them face-to-face.”

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

“In such a competitive world, businesses are fighting tooth and nail to remain one step ahead both in their digital capabilities and customer loyalty. As a result, the ability to take advantage of the data goldmine that all organisations have access to, and ideally in real-time, has never been more vital. Consequently, we’re seeing more businesses invest in technologies that are able to help them gain insights into their data, both for internal processes and regarding their customers.”

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

“Despite working in the telecommunications world nine to five, my love for technology also carries over into my personal life. I’m currently setting up a ‘smart home’ flying has always been a passion of mine and when weather and time allow, I enjoy microlighting over the British countryside.

“Embracing technology beyond Natterbox is also a passion that I strive to share with my staff too. I’m an adrenaline junky at heart and annually fly at Natterbox’s inaugural annual Summer Experience Day for charity, which not only raises money for great causes, but provides a fun-packed day filled with thrilling activities, from microlighting, light aeroplanes and helicopters and paragliding, to water zorbing, reverse bungee jumping and quad biking. All of which give Natterbox’s employees, partners and customers a day they will never forget.”

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
“One of my goals is to avoid looking backwards, and instead think about how I will approach the future when it comes to running the business. Perhaps that sounds cliche, but it’s true. Some people make mistakes and then get stuck in the past by trying to fix something that’s confined to history. Learning from mistakes is important, but an ability to look forward at all times is vital to success in my eyes.”

“Would I change any of my career decisions? No. As long as I continue to enjoy the journey and the business continues to succeed, the decisions that brought me here were the right ones.”

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

“The challenges facing the telecoms industry are shifting every day, but one of the biggest we’ve faced is the ambiguous attitude of business to telecoms. In recent years it’s simply not been something that they believe they should invest in. With the rise of social platforms and new technologies such as chatbots, the telephone has become somewhat a thing of the past for many businesses. It’s therefore our job to show them the possibilities and benefits that voice and the telephone can provide as part of integrated, data-driven and customer-centric communications, perception and relationship-building strategy.”

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

“Advancements in technology in recent years have meant many businesses are increasingly operating a flexible, remote working structure. But ensuring all employees, particularly those in customer-facing roles, have access to the communication channels and data that they would have in an office, is vital and we’ve seen many organisations looking for solutions that can help.

“Furthermore, businesses have recently been pushed into an immediate industry wide Business Continuity full-test scenario of a having a remote workforce that will expose a great many flaws in their technology, so we only expect the demand for flexible solutions to increase. This is something I want to ensure we can help all of our customers with moving forward.

“That’s why I am now focusing on ensuring that the team at Natterbox have the tools and resources they need to focus on developing and advancing our intelligent solutions that shift the concept of flexibility to that of freedom. In fact, our new cloud-supported interface is already available to give users the ability to work from anywhere, on whichever device they want.”

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

“Be yourself, share ideas and lead by example regardless of the role you are currently in.

“Also, believe in yourself, one of the biggest mistakes a business leader or an entrepreneur can make is being indecisive, particularly not making a decision because you’re worried about making a mistake! You’ll never get anywhere if you’re unwilling to take the risk.”

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