If you were asked to put a pin in the map of Ireland to find a supplier that helps some of the world’s biggest companies keep their customers happy, chances are Skibbereen would not be where your hand first hovered.
But it is to this West Cork fishing village that the likes of Mastercard, Google and Microsoft have turned for telecoms expertise that even Silicon Valley can’t match.
Like many ‘overnight successes’, Spearline has dedicated 15 years of hard graft and remaining agile to building a customer portfolio that sees its automated line software service used in more than 60 countries around the world.
Why Fortune 500 companies are ringing Spearline
One Fortune 500 VP who picks up the phone when Spearline calls is Tom Hinds, Mastercard’s Vice President of Global Contact Centre Infrastructure Management. With more than 65 customer contact centres in 165 countries handling millions of queries, Mastercard’s footprint is truly global.
If customers can’t get through to speak to customer services, Hinds wants to know about it. And Spearline’s automated testing does that in real time.
“The peace of mind it gives me is tremendous. I’m not waiting for a phone call from a country president to tell me that the level of service is not good, because I’m aware of the service ahead of time. I know when the service is degraded and I know when to move it, so I don’t get those calls anymore,” says Hinds.
The risks of missed calls
Spearline began by selling open software for the Irish business telephony market. The market disruption caused by the global recession catalysed Spearline to evolve and develop the innovative product that has driven its rapid global growth.
Managing Director Matt Lawlor explains, “When the recession came, we looked at the business and decided that we couldn’t stay focused solely on the Irish market, we needed to focus on exports. We had bigger ambitions.
“We looked at the international problems we felt we could solve with our experience. We realised that large multinational organisations really had no visibility on the performance or uptime of their telephone numbers across the world.
“These companies had telephone numbers all round the world but had no idea if that number was going to work when a customer picked up the phone.”
“It was a complete blind spot for them.”
“The only way to find out that it wasn’t working was if customer complaints racked up and the business was negatively affected through missed calls and lost sales.”
“It was more than a blind spot, it was a real risk factor.”
Solving international problems drives growth
It turned out to be a real problem Spearline could solve. Loss of connection, poor audio or voice recognition on calls are some of the reasons why customers switch brands, with at least $1 trillion in business moved around the world annually as a result.
Bluechip companies operating at global scale jumped at the chance to implement Spearline testing software, as well as agile start-ups aiming to offer a seamless customer experience.
The ability to bring a strong product to market quickly received a boost with R&D funding from Enterprise Ireland, the national export agency, who earmarked Spearline as a High Performing Start-Up.
“It was massive help. R&D funding helped us to scale up and develop the product much faster,” says Lawlor.
The journey of iterating product development
Product development has been a journey rather than a destination, as Spearline constantly iterates based on feedback and problems customers want solved.
Hinds couldn’t be happier.
“It is a unique product as far as I’m concerned. It allows us to manage a network on a global basis. It was easy to test and deploy and didn’t need a lot of customisation. So from an implementation perspective, it was not expensive at all.
“It is a unique offering. Carriers do have an offering but none of the ones I’ve seen can measure from in-country, where the call is originating, to the country of destination, across multiple carrier hops.”
Spearline’s approach is working. Turnover has risen 70% for the past two years and the company now has more than 60 employees based in the Skibbereen HQ with a global sales office in Mooncoin, Kilkenny, plus other office locations in India, and Romania. Its servers are used as test lines in 66 countries.
Liam Dunne Chief Commercial Officer cites the advantage of being based in rural locations as one of the key reasons for growth, “We tend to draw on very experienced people who are looking to move back to rural Ireland. People who previously worked abroad, or in Dublin, and want to come back to Cork or Kilkenny looking for a different lifestyle but still work with the largest companies in the world can get this elusive balance with Spearline. Our Spearliners don’t have to take a career hit, they can continue on their executive path while having a very short commute time in rural Ireland. We’ve been lucky to attract a great range of people.
“Retention is where we have seen the biggest advantage. We focus on health and wellbeing, flexible working hours, being responsive to family needs.”
Still, Spearline refuses to stand still. It expects to reach 100 jobs by 2019, projects further growth and increased demand for its new product that solves the headache of being GDPR compliant for firms.
Another blind spot, another solution, from Spearline.