Leading the charge on customer service

A customer-focused approach is the key driver of PRL’s business, according to its chief executive, writes Quinton O’Reilly

3rd March, 2019
Jack O’Riordan, chief executive, PRL: ‘We are constantly analysing market conditions’ Pic: Maura Hickey

Having been around for 80 years, it’s safe to say that PRL knows what it’s doing. Key to acquiring and sustaining this level of “know-how” is having a strong ethos which management, employees and customers can get behind.

PRL’s ethos is embedded in the name – which stands for Partnership, Reliability and Leadership – so it feeds into all levels of the business.

“Being customer-focused is the key driver of our business,” said chief executive Jack O’Riordan. “Our structure at every level is built to optimise engagement with our customer businesses and brands and our growth has been achieved through agility and innovation in partnership with our customers.”

The company – which specialises in logistics solutions, in-market solutions and integrated services such as recruitment, market insights and technical support – employs more than 1,200 people across six locations in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain.

Across all of these sectors of expertise, PRL puts the customer and its brand at the heart of its business with the objective of connecting the brand to market and optimising brand success for its customers. In the week this conversation with O’Riordan happened, his time was mostly spent meeting with customers and dealing with the challenges presented by Brexit.

“The most important thing we look at is the market, we are constantly analysing market conditions and assessing our customer needs within the market,” he said. “Coupled with that then, it is imperative to deliver excellent customer service . . . and to anticipate and be prepared for change.

“It’s a very different company to the one we started and it will be a different company in five years’ time, I think being part of change is key to not fearing change.”

The work PRL has done to sustain growth and profitability has been acknowledged in its most recent achievement: the Platinum Standard Winner in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards.

The Platinum Standard is only given to those who have been honoured seven years in a row and, considering how stringent the judging process and criteria are, achieving it means PRL has put a lot of thought and effort into how the business is run.

“Initially, the big benefit [of winning] was that we had to really look at our business plan and future strategy through several different lenses,” said O’Riordan.

“We were going to be judged by an independent panel, so when we kicked it off seven years ago, the first thing we did was take a good few days out of the business to really look at where we were going and what we needed to achieve.”

The benefits are significant both internally and externally.

O’Riordan said it had been a massive benefit in gaining and retaining clients, and being able to say that PRL is a Deloitte Best Managed Company winner brings with it gravitas and impact that few awards can replicate.

On the management side, the accolade is taken to be recognition that what they do is of a consistently excellent quality, and this in turn boosts confidence throughout the company.

To get to that point, however, businesses are put through a demanding process, and O’Riordan’s account highlights just how on-the-ball you have to be to earn this award.

“They really put you through your paces,” he said. “Two [coaches] came out to us before Christmas; there was two and a half or three hours of intense review of what we do and you really need to be on your game to answer those questions.”

Tying back to its name, the element of leadership is not just evident in its business dealings, but outside it as well. A big part of the company’s ethical focus is on sustainability, ensuring its services are delivered while working to create environmental, social and economic value.

O’Riordan points out that we only have one environment and society that we all live in and taking that responsibility to improve the future for everyone is essential.

“It’s trying to make sure that the mark we leave as a company and as a group of people is not detrimental to our environment or to the society that we live in,” he said.

“That’s at the high level and it’s also important for the employees in the business who really want us to be socially responsible. It’s something they’re happy to be part of and to lead.”

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