Like most publishing companies, Chalkface has long been nurtured by a diaspora of authors, editors and illustrators whom we rarely if ever actually meet.
Over the past few years, we steadily extended this principle, until only two members of staff were working permanently from our office in Milton Keynes. What kept them there was the need to answer the phones, and to work with our venerable pre-Internet corporate database.
But the phone calls themselves have declined as teachers turned to email for communication, and the web for information. The old database is increasingly an adjunct to the website, where most orders are now placed. The workload has fallen considerably – but it’s impossible to cover the phones with fewer than two people.
Over the summer break, I decided it was time to contract out the customer service work and close the office altogether. Financially, it was an easy decision, but emotionally I found it very difficult. Not only would I be handing out redundancy notices, but I’d be letting go one of the symbols of company-hood; the corporate headquarters.
I found solace in a new label; we are now a “virtual corporation” with no particular geographic location. If you phone us (and thank heavens we invested in a transferrable 0800 number), it will actually be answered in Corby; some emails will be answered in Kharkov. But it no longer matters; we are here for you – wherever ‘here’ happens to be at the time.
There have been teething troubles; we still don’t have the procedures in place to make sure the phone is answered exactly as we would like it, for example. But overall, it’s working. And it’s holding costs down enough that we can keep book prices pegged for another year, and Yacapaca completely free.