Streamlined Customer Experience Improves Operational Efficiency

G4S, a part of Allied Universal, is a leading security and facility services provider.

With a global workforce of approximately 800,000 employees, G4S provides a broad range of security services delivered on a single, multi-service or integrated basis. Their UK Cash Solutions division is primarily responsible for cash-in-transit activities.

“We collect and deliver valuables to an array of retail and banking clients. We conduct nearly 15,000 services each day which means we have a lot of concurrent events taking place all over the country,” said Albert Clement, Head of Solution Development at G4S. The market however, Clement shares, is in decline.

“As a business in a declining market operating in a world of technological advancement, we are prioritizing innovation to better meet our customer’s expectations,” he said. Historically the Cash Solutions business had scarce development resources, making them reliant on third-party providers for new technology solutions.

G4S needed a new approach to software development that could be implemented quickly, extend the capacity of a small team, and keep up with the rapid pace of change across their industry. In 2021, they adopted the Mendix low-code platform to centralize their customer activities and bring a culture of self-reliance back to the organization.

The Capacity to Build

Historically G4S Cash Solutions UK (G4S) had a small in-house development team that was solely dedicated to managing one of their core products. As new solution needs would arise, teams would have to look for development support externally.

Contracting third parties for custom development or to configure off-the-shelf solutions comes with its own set of challenges. Most often for G4S, this was lengthy delivery timelines.

Clement saw a growing need to stand up a development capability in-house. “We didn’t want to start all over again by building out Java expertise, because we knew that would take far too long. We started to research alternatives and then came across low-code and no-code options,” Clement recalled.

Referencing the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Clement and the team evaluated a host of leading platforms. Ultimately, G4S selected Mendix for its:

  • Ownership by Siemens, as the backing of a massive global enterprise meant that Mendix could meet the standards of a global enterprise like G4S.
  • Longstanding leadership status within Gartner and Forrester analyst reports.
  • Strong, forward-thinking roadmap that offered openness and compatibility with G4S’ other systems of record.

“Our competitive analysis and our business partners at Cimt showed us that Mendix was the right choice,” said Clement.

Small Team, Big Ambitions

Clement’s first order of business was to assemble a team of low-code developers. “We started off really small, and we still have a small team. That is the good thing with Mendix. We wouldn’t need a team of 10, 20, or 30 developers to work on the projects we had in mind,” said Clement.

For team members with baseline software development experience, learning the Mendix platform was fairly straightforward. However, the biggest learning curve, Clement observed, was cultural.

Clement knew that even with the right platform, the wrong process could deter an entire project. He recognized that low-code development done in a waterfall way could still result in missed requirements and a lack of business and IT understanding.

Working in an Agile capacity would allow contributors to prototype ideas, communicate more frequently, and iterate along the way. This flexibility allows G4S to pivot more readily based on new customer feedback or updated user stories.

“As we got started with Mendix, our first project was not only to build a new customer portal, but also to pilot a new way of working within Cash Solutions,” Clement shared. “I already see that team members are very satisfied with working this way.”

Unified Customer Experience

In 2021 G4S kicked off their low-code journey with sights set on a critical business need: a unified customer portal. “It all starts with our customers,” said Clement.

G4S previously had multiple customer-facing portals, which could require users to keep different credentials or logins to access their account information.

A new customer portal needed to:

  • Centralize customer activities into a single, standard experience.
  • Offer more self-service activities to streamline customer inquiries.
  • Create a flexible, maintainable platform architecture that can be adapted over time.

“It was a key priority to provide a modern, self-service portal,” said Michelle McGowan, Head of Commercial Operations at G4S.

G4S kicked off the development of their new platform – Vista – with the support of Mendix Expert Services in November 2021. The platform was ready for UAT testing by April 2022, and went live to a pilot group of customers in August. Today, it has been successfully rolled out to ~50% of the G4S customer base.

Streamlined Customer Case Handling

Making Vista their main customer communication channel meant incorporating more self-service options. This improves the experience for customers, while also creating a “ripple effect” that benefits G4S’ employees.

G4S Cash Solutions has a team of roughly 50 customer support team members who were already spread thin. Clement and the team saw an opportunity to incorporate workflows in Vista that guide customers to a resolution without the intervention of customer support.

“Showing customers their services and account information in the app helped them to help themselves, and to feel more in control,” said McGowan.

When cases arise where a customer can’t find what they need in the app, the G4S support team is still available by phone. The presence of Vista drastically improves the efficiency of this workflow by the time a case reaches the customer support team.

“As we developed the ability for customers to raise issues via the portal, it was clear that the multiple visible and non-visible master data held in the platform positively impacted on the quality of the data passed to our customer service agents handling the inquires. The outcome of this is reduced handling time and improved efficiency,” McGowan shared.

Real-Time Service Data

Cash Solutions carries out over 15,000 collections and deliveries to clients each day. Tracking the details of each delivery, such as the location and time, is necessary at a baseline level for auditing purposes. It is also key in building trust with customers.

Before, G4S would track and store this data in operational systems which were not visible to customers. This data collection is now automated and lives in Vista, allowing customers to check their service information in near real-time.

“Whenever we complete a service it is available in the portal 20 minutes later – and that is the slowest time I have seen. Most of the time it will be there in just one to two minutes,” said Clement. “For our customers who are really keen on the timestamp, this was a huge improvement in what we could offer.”

Increased data transparency and accessibility proves equally beneficial for G4S’ internal teams, according to Operations Support Manager, Rob Perry.

Prior to the development of Vista, G4S would rely primarily on customer feedback to identify areas where service improvements should be made.

“Having access to timely and transparent data in Vista empowers us to proactively identify and resolve issues before they even catch our customers’ attention. We recently appointed a ‘Vista Champion’ at each of our operational sites and they have quickly seen the benefits of what the system can offer,” Perry added.

Digitizing Proof of Delivery

In addition to tracking pick-up and drop-off data, many customers also require a receipt as proof of delivery. G4S delivery vehicles would have to be set up with printers, and drivers would stop to generate a paper receipt for customers throughout the day.

Oftentimes the printers would be broken or wouldn’t work as intended, slowing down a driver’s route even further. The team saw an opportunity to bring this manual and inconsistent process into Vista.

“Now we generate an e-receipt and we make them available in the portal,” said Clement. “In the case of customers with a vast distribution network, they have many stores and dealers. If a dealer has a complaint and they need the proof of delivery, they don’t have to call us and wait for a reply – they can just see it directly online. It really is a game changer for them. It makes their life so much easier.”

For G4S, data consolidation and transparency has proved to be just as valuable for optimizing their own operations. The Cash Solutions team has a more accurate way of seeing which branches are underperforming or not following process, then can actually dig into the metrics to figure out why.

Their preexisting portals had been hard to maintain and evolve over time. With Mendix, G4S now has the ability not just to stand up something new, but also to iterate in the future. “We look at Vista as more of a program than a project,” said Clement.

“As time goes on, we will always gather new insights, and our customer’s demands will change. For us, the priority was to be in control of our development and not beholden to the prioritization of a third party provider,” he said.

A Culture of Innovation

Vista provides G4S’ customers new levels of transparency and control where their activities can be seen at a glance.

“Creating the Vista portal was a first big step in meeting our customer’s evolving expectations,” said McGowan. “Doing this with Mendix allows us to continually refine that experience and meet ever-changing customer needs at the right pace.”

Clement and his team are looking to build on the success of Vista, piloting new projects like an advanced audit trail, as well as new features of the Mendix platform, like Mendix Connect. Learning from other low-code practitioners has also proved invaluable in gathering inspiration for future initiatives.

“Mendix is very different from other companies I have worked with, in that you have a network of information at your disposal… We are able to have conversations with and learn from other customers. It truly is a customer success network with an emphasis on success, which I haven’t seen before. I think this is what makes the collaboration and cooperation so good,” he said.

Cash Solutions is the first business line within G4S to leverage low-code and Mendix. Clement’s hope is that it will expand further in the organization, and reiterated that the culture is just as important as the technology when it comes to successful adoption.

“I think that the developing the Vista program with Mendix showed our organization that we are capable of building things ourselves,” said Clement. “I see the growing realization that we have the spirit and skillsets to bring about innovation – and that starts with our people.”

The launch of Vista and its success thus far has never been seen as the finish line, but rather a marker on the path of transformation.

“We needed to become more agile, and this is where Mendix excels. You can develop something in response to a new market trend and test it, see if it sticks, and if it does – we can productize it. If it fails, there is far less risk, because we didn’t waste too much time and can pivot elsewhere,” said Clement. “This is becoming even more important in distressed markets, because everything is about cost control. It’s all about operational efficiency and excellence.”