EPC Wheelchairs adopts new tech



EPC Wheelchairs says it’s about to take the business to a whole new level by adopting digital technology

EPC Wheelchairs is a successful family-run business founded by Peter Norfolk OBE in 1989. It pride itself on sourcing great products and on backing this up with a comprehensive service to customers, which include individual clients, wheelchair services, charities, sports organisations and parallel businesses.

EPC Wheelchairs has its offices in Perranporth, with an additional busy outlet in Farnborough, Hampshire. The business is run by Peter and his wife, Linda Norfolk, who is Managing Partner.  They head up a tightly-knit and committed team of six people. The range of services includes free comprehensive assessments, technical advice and full customer support.

Although very successful, the business had reached a point where it was being held back by its management information systems, as Linda Norfolk explains:

“We had a Customer Relationship Management system, but this was very outdated and was not properly integrated with the rest of our systems. For example, it did not talk to our accounts system. Also, our key management information was divided across two separate databases. This was a very inefficient way of working which was using up a lot of admin time.

“Our business had reached something of a crossroads. We knew that we had the potential to reach a much wider customer base, but we were hesitant about pushing ahead too fast with any marketing activity or new services. If there had been a sudden peak in demand, we did not have confidence that our management systems would cope. This was concerning because providing a comprehensive and professional service for all our customers is crucial to the way we work.”

EPC Wheelchairs engaged with the Superfast Business Cornwall programme and received expert advice and guidance from Digital Business Adviser Jon Gerrard and Digital Business Enabler Steve Edwards. They brought in an ICT specialist to look at the integration of EPC’s back office systems and to help devise an improvement plan that would increase efficiency and productivity. EPC were then able to develop a full business proposal which was then successful in securing funding support from Superfast Business Cornwall.

Norfolk says: “The support of Superfast Business Cornwall and the way that they worked alongside us throughout the process was invaluable. They instilled in us the knowledge we needed to move forward with confidence. We are now forging ahead with a modern, integrated system that will combine customer records, linked communications, accounts, invoicing, stock control and job tracking in one complete package. We were able to thoroughly pilot the new system before we made a final decision, so we know it will meet our requirements. This system will transform the way that our business operates.”

Digital Business Enabler Steve Edwards says: “I have been really impressed with Linda, Peter and the whole EPC team. They have been very open to using new ideas and modern IT technologies that will help them to achieve their ambitions for the business. The new integrated system will give them instant visibility on any pinch points within the business process and help them to continually improve their excellent customer service. It provides a great platform for future growth.”

As part of Superfast Business Cornwall’s 12 hour programme of support Steve also arranged for Linda to attend a series of workshops, some of which were specifically geared to women in business. Linda says:

“The workshops were immensely useful. For example, I have attended sessions on Digital Branding and on the new General Data Protection Regulations. All of these are highly pertinent to our business. As a result of this new learning I realise that I am no longer daunted by the challenges of IT. In fact, I am finding it really exciting.”

The management time that the system will free up, together with the confidence that they can service the extra demand, has enabled EPC to push ahead with some exciting new products and services. Norfolk says:

“We have plans to launch a new service to loan mobility equipment to clients who are coming to Cornwall on holiday. We are also exploring the potential for manufacturing our own products.

“Our new integrated system will allow us to fully exploit our online sales and we have a lot of ideas on how we can develop our website and digital marketing further into the future.

“With all these opportunities that we can now take full advantage of, we are expecting to recruit three additional members of staff within the first twelve months of the project to help support the continued growth of EPC Wheelchairs.

“As a direct result of this project, we believe we are about to take our business to a whole new level.”