It was the summer of 2003: Tony Blair was in Number 10, a young Ronaldo made his Man Utd debut, Concorde took its last flight and SARS created panic in Asia (little did we know …). The banking crisis was still five years off and Amazon was just a river in Brazil.
But that very year, two budding, yet charmingly naïve, partners in a small, industrial North East town, set out to launch a fresh business, before being an entrepreneur was made cool by Lord Sugar or any of the Dragons’ Den investors.
Martin and Lesley, the couple behind Lemon Contact Centre, were in their early 20s when they were introduced at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Their passion for business inspired them to start their own organisation from their garage, just like many Silicon Valley startups in the past. Armed only with a fax machine, a phone and a notebook and pen, they launched their round the clock call centre.
The business name itself enjoys a tech link to Steve Jobs and Co; the likes of Blackberry, Orange and Apple were all rampant at that time, but there seemed room for one more fruit, and so Lemon was born.
The North East is famed for its call centres, and the friendly, colloquial phone accent, however it was the couple’s experience in telecoms and dispersed alarms that prompted the fledgling business to market its 24/7 call answering services directly to engineers.
Despite the engineering focus, it was a family connection that prompted the move into the lift industry. A national company, also headquartered in Stockton-on-Tees, was looking to move away from its historic customer service supplier and the team was introduced to Lemon by Martin’s father. Pickerings Lifts became one of Lemon’s founding clients.
On the back of this success, further lift companies joined the adventure, with Independent Lifts (now the team at Classic Lifts), Caltech in Scotland, Lift Able (now TKE Home Solutions) and Handicare, increasing Lemon’s experience and expertise within the sector.
In the years that followed, Lemon’s client base continued to expand. Lift companies, large and small, moved their out-of-hours call answering to the company. Fledgling lift companies were even founded deploying Lemon from the outset and flourished doing so: Target Lifts is one such example. With around 30 lift operators trusting Lemon to manage their customer calls, it’s easy to see why they’re leaders in the business.
“We’re now nearly 20 years in, and we’re still the go-to service providers for the lift industry.” Says Martin Anderson, the company’s CEO. “Millions of lift calls have been answered, millions of engineers dispatched, and lots of friendships have been made. Like lifts, there have been ups and downs throughout that time, but the bonds remain strong.
“The lift folk are a pragmatic bunch; they understand that some variables remain outside of your control and end-users can be demanding. The critical element is a passion for the service, for the client and for doing the right thing.
“We now need to navigate the choppy post-pandemic waters, and there will be a need to bring in fresh talent to face the challenges of tomorrow. Tech will also play its part and Lemon’s passion for providing call answering services will remain steadfast.
“It’s an honour to serve the lift industry and we will never take that responsibility for granted.”