Southern Communications help Fairfax Meadow improve productivity with smoother, faster communications.

Fairfax Meadow is the UK’s largest catering butcher, with many of the UK’s top hotels and restaurants among its clients, as well as schools, care homes and cruise line operators. The company has 520 employees across eight depots, processing over 30,000 tonnes of meat annually and two call centres managing sales and customer service.

The determination of Fairfax Meadow to consistently exceed their customer expectations in terms of product and service has been rewarded with the prestigious Catering Butcher of the Year title two years in succession.


In 1997 Southern Communications won a tender to supply Fairfax Meadow with three NEC DXE telephone systems across their main offices in Derby, London and Heathrow. The DXE system was leading edge technology and introduced a formal call centre solution into the business having a dramatic effect on Fairfax Meadow’s call handling ability. Since then not only had Fairfax Meadow expanded a great deal but the speed of business life and the potential of technology to integrate previously separate functions had also changed considerably.

Although amazingly the DXE system was still capable of handling a majority of the business telephony there was a driving need to integrate the two main call centres, which had previously operated as separate units, into one unified call centre solution. There was also a growing need for features such as conference calling and the seamless integration of the telephone system with the company-wide Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar database. Working practices had also changed with a requirement for an increasing number of staff to hot-desk within the individual offices and also between locations. On top of which staff had began to work more from home and needed to be contacted easily by phone or email wherever their location.

The Southern Communications Solution

In 2011 the decision was made to install a completely new system, staying with the NEC pedigree the NEC SV8100 was the solution selected. The system immediately fulfilled the company’s desire for functionality such as conference calling and integration with Outlook, the SV8100 also ran Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones across the company’s newly upgraded LAN infrastructure. The company’s call centres in Derby and London were connected by a new 10MB circuit using the NEC SV8100 NetLink giving the unique attributes of two parallel systems working as one, with a high level of redundancy and reliability. A UCB (Unified Communications for Business)

Operator Console application at each end enabled receptionists from either site to share workloads, as if they were one, whilst specific call enquiries can be directed towards a particular site or member of staff via the Auto Attendant. The migration of functionality from hardware to software meant servicing could now be carried out by Fairfax IT staff.

“Since we installed the new SV8100 we have seen an increase in staff productivity as a result of smoother, faster communication between the Fairfax offices, along with a vast reduction in maintenance costs.”

Tony Carlisle, IT Manager, Fairfax Meadow Europe Limited

Productivity across the company was improved by the introduction of software, including UCB Knowledge Worker which fully integrates into users Outlook to manage phone calls, faxes and voicemail from the PC, MyCalls for real time call management and high level Call Centre functionality to bring all customer contact points under one solution.

The staff required to move between the company’s offices now have hot-desk facilities that means they enjoy an identical telecoms interface wherever they are and homeworkers can be contacted on their office extension even when they are on their mobiles.

The Benefits

The new system has transformed the way Fairfax Meadows communicates, both internally and with customers. The Windows based reception console has made it much easier for staff to make, take and redirect calls via their PCs, thanks to the integration of the system with Outlook. Now calls can be made from within the contacts database and voicemails can be delivered into individual email inboxes or passed through to staff BlackBerry mobile phones. Integration with Outlook calendars allows for automated “Sorry, I’m in a meeting” responses to be sent, while the internal phone list is always up to date and can be accessed instantly, speeding up internal phone communications.

The change to operations in the telesales departments has been radical. Managers can see at a glance the progress of every operative’s calls, who is on a break and who is not logged in. Wallboards in each department collate data from the system to give an instant readout on calls waiting, calls being handled, calls missed and total call activity over the day. As well as managing routine maintenance Fairfax Meadow IT staff are now able to configure new handsets, extensions and voicemail. Conference calling and hot-desking is being used increasingly and communication between departments has been improved, whilst Fairfax Meadow have continued to benefit from the already very low external call costs managed by Southern Communications.