Herts for Learning

Why the UK’s largest school company chose RingCentral for its customer communications
[herts-for-learning] logo
Because RingCentral has given us the ability to work and collaborate from anywhere, we’re now pushing forward with our plans to move to a largely remote organisation. That will save us on office space—and I think it’s also going to make for a happier, more engaged team.

Gary Hounslow

Corporate IT Manager

Helping schools improve education for hundreds of thousands of students

Herts for Learning was founded to help young people realise their potential, regardless of where they live or their circumstances, by ensuring they have access to a great education. To achieve this bold goal, the nonprofit developed a wide range of products and services for schools—including teacher training, curriculum guidance, IT services, and HR and management support.
The company’s portfolio of offerings has proven more successful than the founders could have hoped. Today, less than a decade after its founding, HfL is the largest school company in the UK. More than 1,000 schools, both in Hertfordshire and throughout the country, rely on the organisation’s products and services. Even more impressive: 98% of headteachers who use HfL’s solutions are very pleased with their experiences with the company.
But continuing to earn those high marks from customers was becoming ever-more challenging with the company’s antiquated communications infrastructure.

A legacy phone system that had to go

As a nonprofit largely owned by the schools of Hertfordshire, HfL had a PBX phone system provided and administered by the Hertfordshire County Council. Gary Hounslow, the company’s Corporate IT Manager, explains that this arrangement was becoming untenable for the fast-growing HfL.
“The phone system was very outdated and had limited functionality,” Gary says. “We had difficulty setting up and adjusting call groups for our support teams, and it didn’t offer a viable remote-work option, which is something our organisation wanted to begin supporting.”
As Gary also notes, having to go through the Council for support often slowed HfL’s operations considerably. “Every time we wanted to make a change to the system, we had to put in a ticket and usually wait six to eight weeks to have it resolved,” he says. “As we were growing and expanding our prospect list to schools and academies across the UK, we needed a phone solution that offered a lot more than this.”

The flexible, mobile phone and Contact Centre solution they needed

The company’s exhaustive research of cloud communications providers led them straight to RingCentral. Gary explains why. “There were very few vendors who could offer us a single solution that integrated cloud phone service and a contact centre solution,” he says. “And once we spoke with that short list of companies, we found RingCentral to be the best partner and the most knowledgeable team to help us.”
As Gary explains, implementing RingCentral—both for employees’ general phone use and for the company’s Contact Centre support teams—solved the most vexing challenges posed by HfL’s previous system.
“Because the RingCentral admin dashboard is so easy to use, we were finally able to bring phone support in-house,” he says. “Now we were making changes to the system ourselves, immediately, rather than waiting weeks for a third party to make them for us.”
And with the RingCentral softphone on their laptops and mobile app on their phones, HfL’s employees also had the ability to stay connected and productive from anywhere—which proved invaluable to the company’s operations during the lockdowns. “Honestly, I have no idea what we would’ve done when the quarantines started if we didn’t have RingCentral,” says Gary.
Employees across the company are thrilled to have replaced our archaic phone system with RingCentral. The feedback we’re getting is that people are so happy with the ability to take and make calls from anywhere and that they no longer feel tied to a desk.

Gary Hounslow

Corporate IT Manager
Education management
Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Gaining more visibility than ever into call center operations

Gary also notes that with HfL’s PBX phone system, the company’s managers didn’t have real-time access to important operational data such as how call volume changed throughout the day and week, or how their support agents were performing. RingCentral, he explains, solved that challenge as well.
“Now our support team managers can see everything through the RingCentral reporting dashboard,” he says. “They can monitor for spikes in calls in our Contact Centre, so they can quickly move more people into busy call queues. They can also see how each agent is performing and then use that information for training.”

Enabling continued productivity—and even growth—during COVID

The lockdowns forced schools to transition to distance learning, the quarantine period led to a significant increase in interest in HfL’s products and services.
To cite just one example, by the end of summer 2020, HfL led the country in installs of GSuite for Education for Google, through the Department for Education’s Platform Provisioning Programme.
In other words, HfL had a greater need than most businesses during the lockdowns to enable its employees to collaborate and communicate with customers remotely. As Gary explains: “By integrating RingCentral into our NetSuite CRM, we were able to make our teams more efficient as they proactively contacted academies and other prospective customers across the UK for our distance-learning services. And we did this even while those employees were all at home.”
“If we hadn’t had RingCentral—and, specifically, the RingCentral integration into our CRM—I believe we would have missed a lot of the opportunities to connect with new customers for our ICT services, our Digital Classroom, and other distance-learning offerings. Fortunately, we did have RingCentral.”
What impressed me was the speed of deployment. To go in just one month from selecting RingCentral, to configuration, to implementation, to a working integration with our CRM, was astonishingly fast. And it made a big difference in our ability to serve schools when they needed help more than ever.

Gary Hounslow

Corporate IT Manager