West Wales Holiday Cottages
March 2018 follow-up: As an advertising and booking agency for holiday properties, West Wales Holiday Cottages relies on consistent internet connection for both its business operations and in order to meet its customer service requirements.
- Mobile broadband can offer a temporary redress to superfast broadband adoption barriers for remote areas of Wales.
- Future-proofing the business model requires access to faster and more reliable broadband.
- Enhanced speeds means the business can benefit from remote working rather than having to rely on office working to fulfil business operations.
- Incremental time and money savings are being made due to increased bandwidth.
Overview of the business
The website remains at the core of business operations, with online booking and confirmations being communicated to both the customer and cottage owner instantaneously.
Alongside the website, the business has a designated office space, which is open seven days a week throughout the year. Sales staff are located on the premises, allowing bookings to be made over the telephone and manually entered into the online database.
West Wales Holiday Cottages information flow diagram
Highlighting the internal and external communication flows of the business.
Broadband adoption changes
Innovative and creative thinking on the part of the business owners has seen West Wales Holiday Cottages’ bandwidth extend from 2 Mbps download speeds to 25 Mbps to 30 Mbps over the 12-month period to the end of March 2018. While the business remains unable to access the benefits of the Superfast Cymru initiative, the owners have overcome the superfast adoption barrier by constructing a mobile data mast and transferring its standard and satellite broadband packages to a mobile broadband alternative.
In addition to enhancing speeds, these changes have seen an almost one-third reduction in monthly broadband expenditure, with monthly costs depleting from approximately £100 to £70.
Previous adoption hurdles were a driving force in the company’s decision to begin looking for a new office location that has pre-existing fibre optic connectivity. While mobile broadband is helping to ease the difficulties, West Wales Holiday Cottages is looking at future connectivity capacity and the potential for extensions to the business. These extensions include employee more staff, greater staff flexibility and the utilisation of a greater wealth of broadband enabled technologies.
At present, the office facilitates seven full-time employees, each with access to desktop computers with two monitors per desktop, laptops, tablets (iPads) and smartphones. The business continues to keep an internal data backup on an office server.
Use of digital technologies
West Wales Holiday Cottages has seen significant and positive changes to its use of digital technologies over the 12-month period. The use of Cloud based storage (Google Docs) has extended, with a large proportion of the company’s data being secured online.
A combination of offline and online software packages are used to perform business functions, seen through the continued use of offline Microsoft Access, Word and Excel packages, alongside online software such as Google Docs. However, the business is looking to move more of these processes online, with upcoming upgrades due over the next 12 months.
The business relies primarily on its website and online booking facilities for sales. However, the promotional aspects of the business are augmented by the use of social mediums, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
Impacts to business performance over the 12-month period
Improvements in the use and scope of digital technologies are boosting the business performance of West Wales Holiday Cottages. These include notable differences in the process of uploading photographs onto the businesses’ website.
Previously, the task of uploading at least 12 photographs for each of the 800 cottages was burdensome, frustrating and time consuming. Significant time savings are noted, with the business saving between 15 minutes to one hour a day on this essential business activity. In addition to saving valuable employee time and frustration, the quality of the communication and promotions has been enhanced with higher definition photographs being routinely selected.
Use of video promotions
The promotion of the business is being upgraded by the introduction of videos of the cottages, positioned on the website alongside the photographs. This remains in its infancy, however, the introduction of videos is noted as a key initiative going forward. As well as appearing on the company’s website, there is a push toward greater use of the social media channels for communication and promotion. It is now easier and quicker to engage with customers and upload photographs on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Expansion to communication with clients (cottage homeowners) is also evidenced, this relating to enhanced data storage and file sharing capacities:
The business continues to use a mixture of traditional and Cloud based approaches for data exchange and storage. In the large part, this responds to the option selected by the property owner, many of whom choose to send photographs and files via traditional means, inter alia, compact discs and USB flash drives.
Nonetheless, the bulk of the company’s data is now stored on the Cloud, allowing for the option of remote working for the business owners and employees. Prior to the installation of mobile broadband, remote working was, at times, an unwelcome necessity in order to attain the relevant broadband speeds. Again, the changes arise from the availability of higher broadband speeds and with it, a reduction in time wasted waiting for files to upload or download from the Cloud.