The Central Detective Agency (CDA) started selling its services on the web two years ago. Since then its business has increased by over 50 per cent as a direct result of having an online presence.
The company was set up in 1956 and is owned by professional investigator Simon Gordon. It turns over £750,000 a year, and its customers range from corporates to individuals. Present investigations include company car fraud and matrimonial disputes.
Gordon explained that the company has had a web presence for six years, but that there was very little response to the initial static web pages. Two years ago, when self-confessed web addict Gordon was searching for some wrestling gear on the internet, his wife commented: "It's amazing what you can buy on the web." The idea for selling detective services direct from a dedicated site was born.
Gordon believes that the website - www.cdagency.co.uk - has particular appeal for women seeking surveillance services. "It's hard to ring up someone you have never met and give them lots of personal details," he said. "But if a woman can sit at a keyboard and write an email, she doesn't have to talk to anyone."
The personal touch
In the first instance Gordon responds by email and makes it personal and reassuring. He claims that surveillance work has increased by 70 per cent since the site went live two years ago, and that corporate business has mushroomed by 95 per cent. The company now has offices in High Wycombe, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow and Rotterdam, with a new office scheduled to open in Devon in the near future.
"We now have debt recovery jobs from places I couldn't possibly cover if I had to pay to appear in every edition of the Yellow Pages. And we have had jobs from India, Japan and China. The number of American servicemen seeking wartime sweethearts is incredible ? we've had 25 to 30 enquiries in the past two years," he said.
Clearly the CDA is uniquely placed to check the credentials of potential overseas customers, so it has encountered no difficulties with trading internationally. "If we are unsure at all we take a deposit or an authorisation from their credit card," explained Gordon.
The company has an in-house solicitor to handle the repercussions of what the detectives unearth, and offers follow through services such as debt and car recovery, and even a shoulder to cry on. "We have to be very hard and very soft," he said.
The site is hosted and constructed by internet service and networking solutions provider Rednet. Gordon responded to one of their adverts and says he is happy not only with the site, but with the service he has received and, in particular, the essential security features. "I got the £700 I spent on getting the site set up back in the first week of trading on the web," he said.
Gordon plans to design his own logo for the company, and keeps the site high up in the search engines by resubmitting the company details monthly, using the submitit.com website. The back-office functions of the business are run on bespoke software, which Gordon designed himself.
For the future, he plans to add music to the site and is working with Rednet to keep the download times to a minimum.
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