ALS Laboratories (UK) Ltd

Client satisfaction is the watchword for ALS Laboratories (UK) Ltd, which offers a wide range of food, drink, water and pharmaceutical testing across the UK.

A recent survey of their client base found that 96% rated ALS’s services as ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’, with two-thirds giving the thumbs up for value for money. But that doesn’t mean the company, which is headquartered in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, is resting on its laurels.
“Obviously we are very pleased with the feedback,” says Nigel Richards, Sales and Marketing Director of ALS. “But we are constantly focused on further improving our service offering to clients.”
Exceeding client expectations begins with recruiting, developing and retaining the best staff that the company can. “We are very much a people-based business,” says Nigel. ALS has a strong focus on staff training at all levels, including specific leadership programmes for managers and senior managers. In addition it has recently opened a second in-house Training Academy (at Rotherham) for analysts working in microbiology following the success of its first Training Academy at Chatteris which has been validated by the Institute of Science & Technology.

ALS currently runs 7 food testing laboratories which are strategically located across the UK. Mirroring the changing face of the food industry, the company recently closed two laboratories (in Newton Abbot and Nottingham) in order to concentrate activities in existing sites like Chatteris – its UK ‘hub’ – and Rotherham and Shrewsbury.
It’s been a busy few years for ALS with one of the biggest success stories being the increase in demand for its consultancy services and training courses. Revenues in this area have more than doubled in the past year as clients have taken up the opportunity to visit ALS’ modern laboratories to find out more about how their samples are tested or benefited from bespoke support at their own sites.
Nigel says, “Consultancy has become an integral part of our overall service offering to clients. We have a large team of technical experts based at our Rotherham site who deal with food manufacturers and with retailers, offering advice and assurance on a wide variety of food safety-related issues.”

The diversification of its service offering has continued with the opening of a new state of the art sensory laboratory at Rotherham. As part of this launch, the company will offer clients a broad range of programmes and courses including cooking validation, results interpretation, cooking instructions generation, benchmarking testing and descriptive testing, to name just a few.
Although consumer eating trends are ever-changing, food safety continues to be of paramount importance to manufacturers and retailers alike. Consumers demand to know that their food is safe to eat, but also have an increased desire to access information about what is exactly in their food.
“Providing reassurance about food safety to our clients – and in turn to their customers and consumers – will always be at the core of our business,” says Nigel. “People want to know more about their food; not simply the ingredients but also the nutritional values and the allergens that products might contain, for example.”

There have been several well publicised cases in recent months which have reinforced the importance of labelling products with the correct information. Nigel says, “The ramifications of insufficient or incorrect labelling can be extremely serious, highlighting how important it is to have every aspect of food tested and properly displayed for the consumer.”
To help their clients get test results back more quickly, ALS has invested heavily in expanding its chemistry testing services with faster turnarounds and priority services now offered for pesticide testing, vitamin analysis, allergen testing and nutritional testing.
Another big success for ALS in recent years has been its on-line portal ‘WebTrieve’, which allows customers to register samples for testing, access test results online, trend test results and access reports.
WebTrieve has proved so popular that ALS now has 93 per cent of its samples registered for testing through the portal. Nigel says, “WebTrieve provides a fully traceable and accurate way for our clients to let us know exactly what they want us to test for.”

With its business now consolidated across 7 laboratory sites, ALS is continuing to invest in its facilities, in the latest scientific technology and in the development of its staff to support the future growth of the company.
Nigel says, “We are constantly working with our clients to make sure that we offer the very best value-for-money service that we can. The food industry changes a lot from year to year and we pride ourselves on being flexible and adaptable and in listening to the needs of our clients”.
Delivering great customer service is something that all ALS staff are engaged in doing, whatever their role. Indeed, although ALS has a centralised Client Services Team based in Chatteris, the company employs a ‘team-to-team’ approach whereby clients are encouraged to interact directly with experts across different areas of the business so that they can have any queries answered as quickly as possible.

At a time when manufacturers are increasingly ‘time poor’ and under pressure, the “ALS Experience” – based around service, value and reliability – is more important than ever. And with customers coming back for more and more repeat business, it certainly seems to be a policy that is paying dividends for ALS.