How One Teleservices Agency Successfully Manages
Growth: An Interview With Daniel Julien
While the merger and acquisition activity that has taken hold of the teleservices
industry in the last few years has left a number of companies shattered in its wake, we
are pleased to report on a teleservices agency that has prospered in this environment
because of a well-thought-out business model. We recently spoke with Daniel Julien,
president and CEO of Teleperformance
International who founded Teleperformance 21 years ago and now manages it together
with COO Christophe Allard. Teleperformance, based in Paris, started out with 21 lines,
and has grown to more than 8,000 workstations within more than 100 call centers in 29
different countries, conducting programs in 25 different languages. In 1998, the
SR.Teleperformance Group had revenues of U.S. $358 million (345 million Euros). This is
expected to rise to more than U.S. $465 million (450 million Euros) in 1999. Its 1998
EBITDA was U.S. $37 million (36 million Euros).
Spend even five minutes with Mr. Julien and you will see why Teleperformance has
succeeded where others have failed. His enthusiasm for the business cannot be contained:
"We are people from the industry - we are totally crazy about the
business," he said recently over lunch. "We are obsessional about our management
model, our numbers." Read on to find how this "obsession" has paid off in
spades for Teleperformance.
CCS: Briefly explain your unique business model that has made Teleperformance so
Julien: Our business model is totally dedicated to the creation
of added value for the different partners of the company.
First, we create value for our clients, not only in delivering a high level of
teleservices, but also in being very proactive in helping them to design the most
effective solutions in market research, telesales and customer management. We have created
a database that contains key information on the top 10,000 telemarketing and teleservices
campaigns we have managed over the last 20 years, and so we know very well what works and
what doesnt work, how to improve a program and how to minimize costs
share, all over the world, our experience with our clients.
Then we create value for our employees: for us, the true value of a teleservices bureau
lies not so much in the computers and ACDs as in the people. We truly believe that, from
the bottom to the top, the employees have to be very experienced in telemarketing and
teleservices, very dedicated to the services they provide and very enthusiastic. This only
happens if you make them successful. We, at Teleperformance, believe in education,
internal promotion, real autonomy and empowerment within the business units
of this creates a very strong corporate culture.
And finally, we create value for our shareholders by working hard to achieve a level of
growth above the average of our market and a level of profitability that is also above the
average. This is done through internal growth, thanks to our wide range of services,
innovation, a strong sales approach and our capacity to deliver the same quality of
services in 29 countries and 5 continents. But this is also the result of successful
external growth coming from choosing very good partners.
CCS: To what do you attribute your success in merger and acquisition activities
while other companies are failing? What makes you so successful year after year?
Julien: Whats true is that over the past few years we have
enjoyed an overall growth rate of 50 percent, while maintaining our profitability.
Frankly speaking, it comes first from working very hard to promote our competitive
advantages, but it also comes from real success as a result of our policy on mergers and
Basically, we differ from the other consolidators in our industry in one way: We
never want to acquire a company, we always want to find partners. It means we never
acquire 100 percent of a company, but only a majority stake, and we want the founder to
remain in the company, to continue to manage the company and to develop our common
baby, taking advantage of the founders experience and our strengths. For us,
its always a real people story, involving individuals. Its the
creation of a win-win partnership for the present and the future.
The result is that we have managers, all over the world, who are also shareholders, but
we dont have an ethnocentric vision of the world. The world is a mosaic;
we need to have common values, common strategies and common methodologies, but we have to
respect the cultural differences we are very proud to have more than 30 different
nationalities involved in the management of our companies.
CCS: How do you manage your growth?
We believe in very operational business plans over one-year and three-year
These business plans are our road maps. They are prepared by all the individual members
of a business unit, and then we consolidate them.
We always give, as input, the key developments in the market, in technology, the
challenges, the goals
and then, every business units role. So, the strategy is
always the result of team work done all over the world.
2) We are absolutely obsessed with measurement. This is the only way to manage such a
fast-moving business, so we constantly track key performance indicators:
- For our clients benchmarking and customer satisfaction surveys,
- For ourselves day-to-day measurement of all the key ratios.
- And, of course, we manage by focusing on troubleshooting, using these
CCS: What type of management and incentive techniques make Teleperformance so
successful? What do you do differently than other teleservices agencies?
Julien: Beyond the type of management, I would say that all over the
Teleperformance Group, we share a common culture that We succeed through our
clients success. We know that this is a people business and that we will be
able to succeed only if we are a solid and enthusiastic team. This means that we do not
believe so much in rules. When there is a subject of debate to find the right
solution, everybody is more than welcome to express their own opinion. For us, this is the
most important thing. Of course, we have different techniques for incentives, which are
different from one business to the other, and from one country to the other, but I can
tell you that trips for the team to another Teleperformance company in another
country are very popular.
CCS: In your judgment, what are the differences in teleservices in Europe versus
those in the United States?
Julien: On the one hand, telemarketing and teleservices in the U.S.A.
are more mature. The clients know exactly what type of programs they want and very often
they buy X amount of hours of telemarketing with specific quality
On the other hand, as Europe has a diversity of relatively small countries, the only way
to build large telemarketing and teleservices businesses is to be very proactive.
So a service bureau cant be just a good call factory, it has to be
creative, to initiate co-marketing, to propose new tests
in summary, I would say that
the U.S. service bureaus are maybe more process and less marketing oriented but
this is a personal opinion.
CCS: How do you ensure quality is maintained in your global network of call centers
that spans 29 countries on 5 continents?
Julien: We have a wide range of solutions ranging from training to
processes including, of course, customer satisfaction measurement.
Just to give you a few examples:
- The Teleperformance Training Institute: with courses for our field management
and top management,
- Teleperformances International Meetings: twice a year we gather together
the top 100 managers of the Group for benchmarking and discussions, the monthly exchange
of best practices, and, of course, the most important of all the ISO 9002 Quality
The Teleperformance Group has been (and still is) the very first Group to be involved
in ISO 9002 certification.
Teleperformance in France has been ISO 9002 certified since June 1996, and we already
have a total of 12 countries certified the last one being Japan in May 1999. We
plan to have the whole Group certified by the end of 2000.
CCS: What type of network systems does Teleperformance have in place connecting its
widely dispersed call centers? Do you standardize your systems or adjust them from country
Julien: Today, we adjust our different systems on a country-by-country
basis. This is basically due to the different origins of the companies of the Group as
well as to the different level of assistance you can get from country to country.
At the corporate level, we ensure that we have the standard requirements of the markets
everywhere in terms of ACD, predictive dialing, CTI
Today, we work monthly with Lucent, Nortel, Aspect and Alcatel in terms of ACDs, and we
use the call center solutions provided by Noble Systems in the U.S.A. and Europe, as well
as some other solutions.
We have a strong investment plan to develop Multimedia Integrated Call
Centers in the next 18 months.
CCS: Do you conduct transnational campaigns? If so, what challenges do they pose?
Julien: Yes, we do! In case of international business, the key point
is the quality of the preparation to get the right level of understanding and commitment
from both local organizations (client and Teleperformance). It is very important to pay a
lot of attention to the background information package, briefings and training.
At a corporate level, we have international client services people who are directly
responsible for the management of an international account, so our client has only one
point of contact, which is much more convenient. In the same way, we provide daily
consolidated reporting via the Net.
CCS: How are you adjusting to the changes brought about by the explosion of
e-commerce sites? Are you answering Web callbacks or Web chat, or implementing Internet
telephony or voice over IP technologies?
Julien: For us, the Internet is an opportunity. Call centers are
becoming multimedia contacts centers. Today, we already answer e-mail and Web callbacks
for some of our clients. Whats more, many ISPs are our clients because we provide
customer service and technical assistance for them. In Europe alone, we have nearly 1,000
workstations working to support ISPs or companies related to e-commerce, and this is
growing very fast (1,000 new Internet subscribers generating one seat in customer
service/technical assistance). Also, its obvious that in the very near future, our
call centers will be multimedia integrated contact centers.
CCS: What benefits have CTI and the recent convergence of voice and data networks
brought to your call centers?
Julien: The primary benefits of CTI are at two levels.
- Level One is quality of service: Thanks to the integration of database and
ACD technologies, the call center workstation is now a smart workstation, so
more and more businesses can be handled by an outsourced service bureau.
- Level Two is efficiency: The call blending features dramatically improve the
productivity of a call center. This reduces the cost of teleservices and encourages
CCS: What benefits does Teleper-formance bring to its clients?
Julien: We offer a global, single point-of-service solution. We think
globally, yet our clients deal with just one company. We act locally, and we respect the
diversity of different cultures. We deliver the same quality of services thanks to our ISO
CCS: What types of programs have been the most beneficial to your clients?
Julien: We have a wide range of programs and clients. Rather than
looking at a program in isolation, we try to see how it fits into the overall client
strategy. In this way, we can use our skills and experience to provide greater added
We provide market research, telesales, teleservices, customer management and we work
across a range of sectors including: IT, telecommunications, financial services and
insurance, mail order, publishing
so its very difficult to select one program
or one industry over the others.
CCS: Where do you see future business opportunities for Teleperformance? Which
regions and market segments offer future growth opportunities for Teleperformance?
Julien: We continue to expect very strong growth because we are part
of the Big Bang development in telecommunications, information technology and
Our unique concept Marketing and Technology Integration
allows us to be a key partner in the development of one-to-one marketing strategies and
customer relationship management.
Of course, we will continue to invest in technology solutions, and we hope to enjoy
strong growth on both sides of the Atlantic for the next three years
and we cannot
forget the development potential of giants like Japan or Brazil.