Ipsos Mori, TNS and Kantar, three of the top five market research companies in the United Kingdom all share one thing in common (core business aside). They outsource their laptop and hand held support for every single one of their 'in the field' workers and researchers to a small medium enterprise (SME) Sussex based business, TEK Express Ltd (www.tekexpress.co.uk). Not only does this buck the current trend to outsource support services overseas, it also demonstrates that a highly focussed and specialized SME has enough skill and capacity to successfully rise to the challenge.

Says Sam Francis, Director of TEK Express, "we are currently supporting over 3000 market researchers UK wide on a daily basis. If their laptop or handheld stops working for whatever reason, once they've notified us, we ship a replacement 'like for like' model with all the agreed software preloaded. On delivery, we simply pickup the faulty machine and when we've repaired it, it goes back into the customer's replacement stock. It's a simple enough concept, but the initial challenge for us was to develop the support systems so that we could offer our clients a much more efficient and cost effective service, compared to keeping it in house. Our on-line call logging management tracking system is so advanced that several of our blue chip clients have now adopted it for their own in house use".

Chris Jenkins, (IT Director) at TNS Plc has noticed many positive changes since TEK Express began supporting their field researchers. "We get excellent service and a real sense of partnership. They've made a number of adjustments to the way they work to help us and they're spot on at advising or encouraging us to change the way we work to make the whole process even more effective." There have also been unforeseen benefits from the outsourcing arrangement. Comments Jenkins, "we have been freed up to concentrate on dealing with our clients' issues, confident that when a decision is made to replace an item of stock, we log the call and it just happens. This has allowed us to move part of the business forward to cope with new challenges. Outsourcing to TEK Express is a business decision that we have never regretted making."

With more companies implementing 'flexible' working arrangements, Francis is confident that they are currently witnessing the tip of the iceberg. "We have been providing high level support on an outsourced basis for many years now. I feel proud that we are a small niche business, based in the UK, supporting other UK based businesses in a field where it's very tempting to look overseas. My message to companies considering outsourcing? The solution could be right here on your doorstep."