Recently I heard a great riddle:
Q: What begins with I or E, ends
in .com, has CRM in its business plan and is worth less than 10 billion
It is amazing what is happening to publicly traded CRM and e-commerce
companies. I remember five years ago when another sector was growing just
as quickly: teleservices agencies or call center outsourcers. There was a
time when the stock of one of the leading teleservices agencies increased
more than 450 percent in value in one year. Suddenly, for a variety of
reasons, the party was over and the public valuations of all outsourcers
languished for years.
Making matters worse for valuations in the call center outsourcing
industry was the rise of e-commerce. In fact, as e-commerce grew in
importance, many industry experts pronounced call centers dead. Some
surmise that these are the same "experts" who pronounced the
demise of movie theaters when VCRs were introduced, the demise of mail
when fax was introduced and the demise of fax when e-mail was introduced.
These so-called experts felt that call centers would lose all their
business to Web sites. What wasn't taken into account, however, was that
even on a Web site, customers need personal attention. (I have yet to shop
on a Web site that has made it easy for me to call an agent to get help.)
Beyond this simple reasoning lies the fact that millions, if not billions,
of brick-and-mortar transactions will move to the Web and a portion of
these transactions will need contact center/CRM attention. The call center
industry and call center outsourcers are facing a revival, not a downturn.
It has recently become apparent that the e-commerce sites that provide
connections from their Web sites to live agents and focus on CRM will
become e-commerce leaders.
The question becomes, how do all these emerging e-commerce companies
quickly staff for and adapt their contact centers for the new ways of
doing business? The answer is, they may not need to. Recently, traditional
call center outsourcers have begun to wake up and are embracing CRM,
realizing they have a golden opportunity to enjoy rapid growth rates once
What hurdles lie before these service agencies on their quest to become
CRM outsourcers? I recently posed four questions on this topic to
executives at eight leading teleservices agencies: Eric Greenberg,
President and CEO, Millennium Teleservices;
Mike Littell, President, EDS Customer
Relationship Management; Robert Scott Moncrieff, Senior Vice President
of Marketing, SITEL Corp.; Wes O'Brien,
President, Precision Response Corp.;
Basil Bennett, President, eCRM, Convergys
Corp.; Roger LeFevre, CEO, Target
TeleServices.com; and Ruth M. O'Brien, Senior Vice President,
Commerce Solutions. I believe you will find their answers quite
informative on where teleservices agencies are heading in providing CRM
services for their clients.
Q: How do you see teleservices agencies
responding to CRM challenges?
Eric Greenberg: Teleservices agencies will need to expand their
service offerings to take control over all channels of communication. By
seamlessly integrating these channels and combining them with database
management tools, teleservices agencies will be able to offer turnkey
outsourcing solutions that allow companies to quickly reap the benefits of
e-commerce and the Internet.
Mike Littell: Teleservices agencies need to expand their
capabilities to include multichannel customer interaction -- Web, phone,
fax, e-mail, snail mail, text chat, voice over IP -- to position
themselves to deliver services through effective customer interaction
centers. Clients are recognizing that CRM is a strategic asset. They are
beginning to see the advantages of transforming their CRM consulting,
systems integration and outsourcing needs in order to foster behaviors,
and implement processes and technologies supporting coordinated customer
interactions across channels. To offer true CRM, however, you need to be
capable of integrating customer information to provide a single,
integrated and intelligent view of customers, drawing on a client's
enterprise knowledge base. This customer intelligence empowers service
agents to build relationships with customers. Where some teleservices
agencies fall short is in the areas of data warehousing, data mining and
analytics, which are all key to adding more personalization and insight to
each customer interaction. In order to claim an end-to-end solution,
teleservices agencies are scrambling to form alliances and make
acquisitions in these areas. Similarly, we are seeing increasing demand
for customer care operations with real-time links to order management and
reporting. These companies are challenged to change from a call center
mindset to integrate their legacy customer care operations with product
distribution and fulfillment. Further, responding to the CRM challenge
entails the ability to deliver solutions across vertical industries as
diverse as banking, retail/e-tail and travel. To be a true CRM provider, a
company needs to make a commitment to providing tailored solutions that
can serve a wide range of business needs.
Robert Scott Moncrieff: We see "teleservices" as a
thing of the past, as teleservices agencies will have to successfully make
the transition from call center provider to eCRM (electronic customer
relationship management) providers. eCRM encompasses all communication
channels ranging from the telephone, to fax, to e-mail, to white mail, to
the Internet, to wireless, etc. It does not make sense for a company to
have one provider to handle their phone contacts, one for e-mail and
another one to support their Web site. Also central to eCRM is the
creation of a unified view of every brand's individual end user -- their
preferences, lifestyle data and details of products and services they may
have or may have inquired about. In this way, eCRM providers have the
capability to monitor and add value to every "touch" during each
Wes O'Brien: There is no question that traditional teleservices
agencies will have to adapt to the new world of CRM. Clearly, the main
challenge of CRM is being able to use it to broaden the base of services
and deliver a more comprehensive solution.
Q: How do you see the burgeoning ASP
market affecting the traditional teleservices outsourcing business model?
Basil Bennett: Good question. For a robust, integrated,
multichannel front end to work efficiently, it needs to have complete
interconnectivity to back-end client systems. This requires customized
integration, which runs contrary to the very design of the ASP model. This
does not exist today, although leading companies are working on a
Point solutions are easier for the ASP model, particularly if the
client is willing to let them operate on a standalone basis. For most
companies, however, this will be a transitional phase to an integrated,
multichannel solution. We see rapid client dissatisfaction with
non-integrated customer contact points.
Finally, the fully loaded cost benefit of an ASP model in call center
work maxes out at about 200 seats, which will limit ASPs, for now, to
mid-small clients. As an aside, the bottom edge of the cost model is
effective at about 20 seats, so ASP is not efficient for very small
Timothy F. Kowalski: Traditional teleservices companies that
cannot compete with ASP-hosted CRM solutions will be at a competitive
disadvantage. The ability to provide outsourced CRM support either
combining live customer service representatives (CSRs) with technology or
utilizing advanced technologies only is critical to offering a
comprehensive outsourced CRM solution.
Roger LeFevre: ASP is a hybrid, outsourced solution, maybe even
a stopgap measure to the traditional teleservices provider. There is such
a push toward self-help customer service models. However, it has been
proven time and again that customers ultimately want to interact with
humans at some point. To the extent that ASPs intertwine the use, or at
least the availability of live [real-time] support, they provide a
value-add to the interaction cycle. Nevertheless, much like interactive
voice response (IVR) and voice mail, customers still will want to
"zero out" to speak with a CSR, if desired.
To be sure, traditional teleservices outsourcers will lose some
business to ASPs -- especially for rudimentary functions -- unless, of
course, the outsourcer becomes the ASP. Transform, change, adapt and grow
with the times.
Ruth M. O'Brien: Due to the explosive growth of the Internet and
e-commerce, companies want to quickly implement the newest technologies
and use them as a competitive advantage. Teleservices agencies must
continue to invest and develop multiple systems and applications to
provide the greatest flexibility and the best CRM solutions to the client.
Teleservices agencies must continue to develop strategic alliances with
ASPs who can integrate with their current technology partners, which
reduces the time and cost of managing multiple relationships. We look for
ASPs that are producing and continually improving products that address
the requirements of the changing customer support environment.
I hope you found this short Q&A informative. Next month, we will
continue this discussion as our experts answer the following questions:
"What are the technology hurdles that must be overcome for: A)
in-house CRM and B) outsourced CRM?" and, "Which implementation
of CRM is faster and more cost-effective?"
Communications Solutions EXPO SPRING
Many teleservices agencies will quickly adapt to CRM, delve into the
Internet and become experts at e-commerce in an effort to woo the latest
generation of companies that need outsourcing support. Outsourcers that
embrace change will be the leaders in the new millennium. Outsourcers that
fail to change with the times will simply cease to exist in this .com
world of ours.
Outsourcers, of course, are no different than any other company. We
must all embrace the latest technologies and try to capitalize on them. In
fact, if you were to hire the best business consultants in the world and
ask them what your company needs to do to ensure continuous prosperity in
business, they will tell you one simple thing: "Spot new trends
quickly and integrate them into your business even more quickly."
Luckily, you are not alone in this endeavor. In fact, here at TMC, we
are also in the business of spotting the crucial trends you need to know
about. Twice a year, I call a series of meetings with my entire editorial
team and members of TMC Labs so that we can determine the most important
communications technologies that will affect our future. We then take each
crucial trend and develop live, unique and educational attractions
surrounding them, and then integrate these ideas into each Communications
Solutions EXPO... Spring and Fall. Communications Solutions
EXPO Spring 2000 takes place in Washington, D.C., April 26-28. This show
has quickly become the de facto communications industry leader.
Through a series of unique and free educational attractions on the
exhibit hall floor, all of which TMC has pioneered, in addition to
comprehensive conference tracks, we ensure that a few days at
Communications Solutions EXPO will teach you everything you need to
know to prosper in the new world of Internet communications.
I present some of these trends below and how each trend directly
translates into an area or areas of Communications Solutions EXPO.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
TMC has been covering this field since 1982. In fact, this
publication, [email protected] CENTER CRM Solutions, is the longest-running magazine
covering this topic. With the help of this team, we have come up with the
following crucial attractions for your corporation.
In The Exhibit Hall
Live CRM Showcase: Developed in conjunction with Aspect
Communications, this exhibit hall attraction showcases the latest CRM
solutions to enable you to manage any type of customer interaction in a
consistent and highly flexible fashion.
Live, Web-Enabled Multimedia Call Center: This is a live, on-site working
call center employing the latest Web-enabling technologies and
applications that will be produced in conjunction with CellIT. At its
previous outing this call center made over 11,000 customer contacts in two
E-Sales/E-Service: There will be a learning center and pre-conference
track on this topic so you can see and learn about the technologies you
need to effectively take advantage of this booming field.
CRM Solutions: An exceptional conference track designed to inform you
about every crucial aspect of CRM and how it relates to your organization.
Call Center Solutions: The call center is the best ally for
e-commerce, since it allows a Web site to enjoy a human touch through Web
call and chat technology. Find out how your call center can provide
world-class sales and service as well as integration with your e-commerce
CRM Excellence Awards: For the first time, the editors of TMC's
publications have put their heads together to pick the CRM products with
the greatest contribution to the industry. The award winners will be
announced at the show.
This field continues to be one of the fastest growing, due to the
immense interest in convergence being shown by enterprise and service
providers alike. Expect pre-conference and conference tracks on this topic
as well as a display of ConvergeNET, the industry's largest group of
disparate exhibitors displaying their VoIP products interoperating.
In The Exhibit Hall
Internet Phone Center: Sponsored by Quicknet Technologies, Inc, all
Communications Solutions EXPO Spring 2000 attendees will be able to
make FREE International phone calls at the show through the use of
multimedia PCs using a variety of ITSPS to compare the quality of their
IP Telephony Testing Learning Center: Come see the tools you
need to accurately test Internet telephony solutions for weaknesses prior
The Booming Service Provider And ASP Market
Since the Telecom Act of 1996 and the subsequent rise of Internet
telephony, service providers have been enjoying incredible growth and
outstanding new technologies that allow them to provide new and superior
services to their customers.
Customers are thrilled to be able to purchase these new services that
make them more productive and eliminate the hassle of having to deal with
CPE equipment. To help you understand the opportunities available for
service providers and their customers alike, we present the following
In The Exhibit Hall
Next-Gen Telco In A Booth: Right on the show floor we have
built, and would love for you to explore, an actual ITSP (Internet
Telephony Service Provider) complete with profit-generating enhanced
ASP Learning Center: This is an objective area on the show floor
where you can discover the latest technologies you need to implement to
become an ASP, and some of the hottest ASPs around showing you how they
can help your company cut costs and become more efficient.
Next-Gen Service Provider Solutions: Every- thing a next-gen
service provider needs to know.
Wireless Solutions: Touching on every important aspect of this
The Dynamic Wireless Market
As I mentioned previously, we will devote an entire conference track
to the latest wireless communications trends. We will also have a Next-Gen
Wireless Learning Center (get ready for "I want my MTV on my
broadband wireless watch"). This attraction promises to be an
unprecedented display of the latest and most crucial wireless devices.
It is exactly these types of attractions that have made Communications
Solutions EXPO the only show you need to attend in the communications
industry. Once again, we have shattered every pre-registered attendance
record for Communications Solutions EXPO to be held in Washington,
D.C., April 26-28. We have also significantly increased the number of
exhibitors and the show's exhibit hall will be sold out by the time you
read this. We couldn't be happier.
And don't forget, you can win products worth tens of thousands of
dollars, such as a new Jeep Cherokee, digital cameras, Internet telephony
gear, Palm Pilots and more. Drawings will take place at the conclusion of
the show on April 28, 2000. (You must be present to win.)
Although the on-site exhibit hall registration price has doubled at the
door to $50, if you register on the Web
right now, it will be free. I personally promise you that there is
no better event than this one to help you answer all of your
communications questions and needs, no matter what they may be.