Sitel's Take on the Future of Call Center Management



Joe Doyle
09/21/2010

Sitel's Vice President of Marketing, Joe Doyle, discusses the future of the global call center industry, and how Sitel has managed to thrive within it.

How long has Sitel been around? How did it originate?

Sitel was founded in 1985, as a result of the purchase of an answering service company, HS800, owned by United Technologies.

In October 2006, the company was acquired by ClientLogic Corporation, forming a unified brand of Sitel, which it maintains today, as it serves dozens of the top brand-name Fortune 500 companies.

What’s the clientele base at Sitel? How many clients do you currently work with?

Sitel currentlyserves more than 300 clients across 135+ facilities, within 26 countries across North America, South America, EMEA and Asia Pacific.

What have been the most significant shifts in the customer management industry lately? And what have been the biggest challenges surrounding those shifts?

The customer service industry continues to move along a complex curve of transformation. Consolidation has whittled down the number of significant providers. Customer demand is much more sophisticated – and call centers are pressed to better align their resources, agent skill sets, processes and technology with their clients.

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Today’s breed of consumers is far more attuned toward self-service: They want to be able to install their TV using the directions in the box, or go to Google to get the answers and perform those "easy" fixes themselves. The more sophisticated answers have become the domain of the call center. This means call centers need more skilled agents, more judgment, more wherewithal to solve complex problems quickly – and handle escalation in a valuable way.

Are you experiencing any new trends within customer management? If so, what are they and how are you implementing them into Sitel?

As globalization expands, the footprint for IT, call center and other service needs is moving into emerging hubs, including the Philippines, Columbia, Panama, Nicaragua, Poland and Bulgaria, providing businesses with the a strong mix of cost efficiency and quality. Sitel has operations in each of these areas.

Emerging social media channels are opening up many new opportunities for call centers to engage with customers in more meaningful ways. Sitel is making the most of this opportunity, creating a Web engagement framework – using tools such as email, Twitter and online interactive chats – to capture the voice of the customer, create value beyond the wall of the organization and optimize the return on customer investments.

Self-service is also changing the industry. Customers want their answers, the way they want it – when they want it. This makes it even more important for call centers to house skilled agents who can respond to customers far better than the customers can learn information by themselves, or through a Web site. The reality is the human interaction will always be required with service, as consumers will never achieve 100 percent self-service on the Web.

How has outsourcing affected you? What percentage of your workers operates overseas?

Approximately one-third of our workforce is supporting a country other than the one in which they are physically located.

Outsourcing is a phenomenon that continues to evolve. A lot of work today is migrating to emerging hubs in Central America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. But what’s notable is the increased level of high value work shifting back to the United States.

We’ve seen big businesses going with an onshore and near-shore model – particularly within the financial services industry, as a means to re-invest in high-end customers. Sales are also being brought back or kept onshore, as it’s an area that hasn’t had much success off-shore. But it’s far from a "one size fits all." Every business is different, with some better suited for work off-shore, while others gain more benefits near-shore.

Could you delve a little into your collections department and how receivables management benefits customer management companies? Is this a fairly new service within customer management?

Our primary focus is for small-balance consumer debt collection for retail, financial services, utilities, communications, media and entertainment companies with subscription, periodic payments, and repetitive payment models. We have geared our service to collect small balances early in the process in a way that increases the level of interactivity between clients and consumers through a unique blend of automated voice systems, live agent interaction, direct mail, proactive outbound calls, web services and payment options. Strong customer care is central to the offering; it is designed to simultaneously collect small balances while maintaining a positive customer relationship.

Sitel was named one of the ‘Top Call Centre and Customer Management Vendors’ in the 6th annual Global Services 100 survey. What sets SITEL apart from other customer management companies and how has it maintained such high standards?

Sitel has several unique factors that feed into our ongoing success – staring with diversity and experience. We’ve handled billions of calls over the past 25 years, working with customers and clients in hundreds of companies, industries and languages. This provides the invaluable ability to address different marketplaces – whether around the world or in the United States.

We have the perspective to understand what winning really looks like for our clients. Customer feedback remains the upmost importance, whether it’s through bi-annual surveys and Net Promoter scores, or instant customer satisfaction surveys the minute a call ends. This allows us to understand the objectives of our client’s customers– and use this insight as a foundation on which to base future behavior and client interactions.

Our advanced infrastructure has also allowed us to respond to the most dynamic – and time-sensitive – client requirements, whether it is a natural disaster – like the volcanic dust cloud that paralyzed the travel industry, or a new product coming to market. Much of this stems from our continuous investment in new technologies, and applying that for our clients - taking that burden off their own IT organizations

If you could offer one key piece of advice for other customer management leaders, what would it be?

Focus on your core competency. If you do that, you can be better than anyone else in the world.