March 26, 2021

10 Minute Interview: How friends reunited became a key customer account

For this edition, we’re chatting to John Norrington, TPS Norwich Centre Manager, and Alfonso Piccoli, owner of Piccolino Engineering, about how the two former college friends were reunited after 30 years following a chance parts delivery to Alfonso’s garage. Following the reunion, John and Alfonso have maintained both their friendship and professional relationship, with Alfonso’s business remaining one of TPS Norwich’s most valued customers.

The reunion and beyond.. TPS Norwich centre manager, John Norrington

Q: So tell us, how’s it going working with an old college friend?

Incredibly well. The relationship has benefits for both of us. As Alf’s garage is only 11 miles from my home and on my daily route to TPS Norwich he has the benefit of me taking parts home at night for an early morning delivery. Alf calls me regularly to discuss many items with regards to Volkswagen Group vehicles.

Q: How much of a surprise was it to you when you found out he was working in the garage business?

A massive shock. I delivered some parts there and immediately recognised a certificate mounted on his wall from Havering Technical College in Essex. I have the exact same certificate. To then come face-to-face with Alfonso who I’d not seen since 1981 was really amazing!

Q: Did you both share a mutual interest in cars back in college?

We were both completing a City & Guilds Motor Technicians course as part of our 5-year apprenticeships, so the Motor Industry has been our whole working life.

Q: What’s it like to have a former college friend as a longstanding TPS customer?

Alfonso has been using TPS Norwich for 14 years now and has become friends with most of the staff. He has remained a loyal and valued customer throughout.

Q: Do you both know of any more college friends working in the aftermarket sector?

Another friend from the class of 76-81 worked for Alfonso as a Technician, with another as an RAC patrol man in Essex who I also still see on a regular basis.

Q: Tell us more about your role as TPS Centre Manager and how this has changed since you started back in 2007?

The TPS Centre Manager role today is different to what it was in 2007. Our focus now is much more about building customer relationships and achieving high customer satisfaction levels based on the service we deliver. For instance, while Alfonso is a valued friend, he is first and foremost a valued customer and this is the approach we take with all our customers in the business.

Q: TPS Norwich moved locations a year ago, what have been the benefits of the new site?

We’ve been in the new location for one year now as we had simply outgrown the Paddock Street site and needed bigger premises to serve our increasing customer base.

The move to the new location has benefited both staff and customers alike. From a staff perspective, it’s boosted morale and really helped focus everyone in their determination to make the move succeed. Our customers are also very positive about the move, as it has helped increase our capabilities and enabled us to service a wider range of territories. Overall, it’s been a good move for everyone involved.

Q: Have you done anything special to commemorate the one-year anniversary move to the site?

6th December 2020 was our first anniversary in the new site, and 17th January 2021 was TPS Norwich’s fourteenth anniversary of being the fourth Centre in the network to open, so we have a double celebration to have when things get back to normal.

The Reunion And Beyond… Alfonso Piccoli, Owner Of Piccolino Engineering Ltd

Q: So, tell us how it is working with an old college friend?

Communication is so much easier when your business contact is also a long standing friend. John appreciates our business, and this is reciprocated.

Q: How much of a surprise was it to you when you found out he was working in the same line of business?

Sometimes people disappear from your lives, I was so surprised and pleased when John walked into our reception back in 2007. It was good to reconnect again and rekindle relationships from the past.

Q: Did you both share a mutual interest in cars back in college?

We both went to the same college together for five years and shared a great passion for cars.

Q: It must be good to have a trusted friendship in your working relationship?

We communicate on a regular basis and have a great mutual respect for each other.

Q: Describe your working relationship with TPS and what are the benefits of working with them?

I get along well with everyone at TPS Norwich, I respect their knowledge and vast experience. I feel I have a special relationship with them, and they have a very respectful working ethos with me. They are always extremely professional in all my dealings with them.

Q: Do you both know of any more college friends working in the aftermarket sector?

Another of our college friends was employed by me as a Technician for many years before he went on to a field-based role.

Q: Tell us more about your business?

I opened Piccolino Engineering in 1986 and we have experienced a massive growth in our customer database ever since. Based on the RAF Marham site, we have provided a service for the surrounding areas. I have over 45 years of experience and coupled with a consistent track record of excellent workmanship, Piccolino Engineering now offers a comprehensive range of services to our clients.

Q: What’s the business plan for the next 12 months?

After 45 years we have built-up a number of exclusive clients who we now service and repair their fleets of vehicles. This work alone is enough to keep us busy on a constant basis. At the moment we are considering restricting our work levels to these clients only so that I can take a well-deserved and overdue rest.