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The Boardroom Report provides the CRM, customer interaction and call center industry’s view from the top, featuring the sector’s first in-depth, exclusive CEO-to-CEO interviews with leading executives regarding industry news, analysis, trends and the latest developments at their companies. As the industry’s leading publication since 1982, it is our responsibility to recognize leaders with the best minds in the industry and share their vision and wisdom with our valued readers.

For this installment of The Boardroom Report, Nadji Tehrani, Technology Marketing Corporation’s founder, chairman and CEO, interviewed David Garner, president and CEO of Sitel, one of the largest contact center/business process outsourcing companies in the U.S. The company just recently announced that it has been rated “the most trusted contact center outsourcing company” in the U.S. according to survey results published in the 2007 edition of “The Black Book of Outsourcing.” Compiled annually by outsourcing gurus Doug Brown and Scott Wilson, “The Black Book of Outsourcing” ranks the top 50 contact center outsourcing providers based on consistently high client satisfaction scores. Sitel placed first across multiple ranking criteria and received the number three call center outsourcer ranking overall.

NT: Please tell us about your company and type of business.

DG: Sitel is a leading global business process outsourcing (BPO) provider with revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. The company was formed by the January 2007 merger between ClientLogic and SITEL Corp., two leading BPO providers.

We provide fully integrated customer care and back-office processing services that focus on delivering a significant return on customer investment to our clients. We accomplish this by reducing service costs, improving customer retention and increasing revenue per customer. The specific services we offer include customer care, customer acquisition, technical support, risk management and back-office processing.

Sitel employs more than 67,000 people in more than 145 facilities in 28 countries worldwide. We support 32 languages and handle more than three million customer interactions every single day.

Our current client portfolio includes more than 450 companies from a wide variety of industries, including financial services, travel and tourism, retail, media and entertainment, telecommunications and wireless, healthcare, automotive, technology and many others. Some of our clients include Sony, ABN AMRO, DIRECTV, XM Satellite Radio, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, EarthLink, Virgin Mobile and National Geographic Television.

NT: In your opinion, what is the greatest need in our industry?

DG: Companies in our industry need to be more keenly aware of clients’ expectations. In the early days, success was defined as simply meeting key performance indicators and adhering to predefined metrics. Today, it is critical that service providers deliver value beyond mere metrics to be seen as a synergistic partner and not as a dispensable vendor. It is important for BPOs to leverage their expertise to customize their services so they align accurately with clients’ individual business objectives. At Sitel, we are consistently making strides to elevate our industry, and a critical component to accomplishing this is listening to and working with clients to set performance evaluation parameters rather than simply telling them how success should be determined.

NT: Tell us about new developments in your company.

DG: The most significant event in our company’s history took place in January of 2007 when ClientLogic merged with SITEL, Corp. This was a tremendous development not only for our company, but for the entire industry. The merger positioned us to be the leading provider of business process outsourcing services, a designation that carries tremendous obligation and responsibility. The seamless integration of the two companies is essential to demonstrate the positive evolution of our industry. As such, we have placed great emphasis and focus on the integration process to yield a positive impact on efficiencies and process improvements without disrupting associates and clients. We look forward to the next series of developments that will undoubtedly generate great opportunities for Sitel, our clients and the entire industry.

NT: What would be the impact of those developments on the bottom line?

DG: The merger, of course, dramatically impacted our financial bottom line as ClientLogic’s revenues were instantly tripled. The combined assets of the company rival any in the industry, solidifying Sitel’s place as the leader in this industry. But the impact of this merger goes beyond dollars and cents. As I mentioned before, we are committed to elevating the perception and role of the service provider in today’s global marketplace, and the success of this merger is essential to validating the industry’s maturity. We must ensure that we are constantly seeking ways to enhance all the offerings in our service portfolio. We also have a responsibility to bring a focus on the customer experience to all levels within a given organization. The new Sitel is dedicated to making substantial investments in its clients, and the successful delivery of our services will have a tremendous impact — both financial and otherwise — on the entire industry.

NT: What is your vision for the future of our industry?

DG: As with most industries, the future of ours will bring some challenges, but it will also present tremendous opportunities for Sitel and other service providers. One trend we are starting to see and that will surely continue is that companies in all industries will demand that their outsourcing partners execute multiple services while meeting specific performance requirements, keeping costs low and adding value beyond the core offerings. While this may seem like a tall order, it is certainly achievable as long as the outsourcing industry evolves with this trend. As the leading provider of business process outsourcing services, Sitel is well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. We are committed to setting the bar when it comes to providing efficient, dependable and predictable customer experiences. We are also at the forefront of how to best provide additional services — including sales, cross-sales, upsells, retention, relationship expansion and customer longevity — beyond traditional customer support.

NT: In your view, what is the significance of the trend toward remote or home-based agents in the customer service industry?

DG: Not long ago, the use of home-based associates was a revolutionary breakthrough in the customer service industry. Now, this model can be rolled into an effective overall outsourcing strategy. For Sitel, offering home-based associates as an option is an example of how we work with our clients to customize the best solutions portfolio to meet their specific goals. This supports our “right-shore” mantra — the premise that no two clients are alike and therefore, strategies and campaigns should be customized to meet individual goals and financial objectives.

NT: What is the significance of the trend toward offshoring in the customer interaction industry?

DG: Offshoring is a vital component of Sitel’s business as well as the entire outsourcing/contact center industry. However, it is important for companies in our industry to realize that this no longer involves simply choosing the most inexpensive location. As I mentioned earlier, there are many criteria organizations consider when selecting a service provider. While reduced cost is still a top priority, businesses look for other factors, including the ability to add value beyond the core services to maximize return on customer investment.

This must be taken into consideration when selecting the right blend of geographical locations that meet a specific client’s needs, and serves as the basis for Sitel’s “right-shore” strategy. At the onset of a partnership — and throughout the life of the contract — we evaluate a client’s overall business objectives, budget and performance requirements to customize our recommendations for how they can maximize their investment with us. For example, for a U.S. company, this may include a combination of offshore (India, Philippines), near shore (Latin America) and/or onshore (U.S., Canada) facilities. Different locations have certain advantages, and we are continuously assessing what precisely these advantages are and how each geography (and every individual contact center therein) can benefit our clients.

NT: What is your company’s greatest core competency?

DG: Sitel’s core competency is our ability to effectively manage every stage of the customer lifecycle — including revenue generation, customer care, retention, technical support, collections and back-office processing. Our service offerings in each of these areas are predicated on meeting a single prevailing objective: to ensure that every interaction is an exceptional experience for every one of our clients’ customers.

Each of our core services can be customized for specific industries as well as for individual clients, enabling us to respond to unique demands and opportunities that may present themselves. Our services and our commitment to the customer experience manifest themselves as tangible benefits for our clients, which is the best measure of our success within these competencies. A few of these benefits include increased revenue-per-customer, improved brand image and enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty, and an overall deeper insight into customer behavior.

NT: What is your company’s positioning statement?

DG: The merger of ClientLogic and SITEL, Corp. that created the new Sitel was not simply about combining two great companies to form a larger one, but rather, it was about leveraging two leaders to establish the industry standard for service providers. So, we are very forthcoming about our assertion that Sitel is the world’s leading provider of business process outsourcing services.

To make sure that we hold true to this position, we are consistently developing and executing strategies that demonstrate how the right service provider can be a tremendous asset to any organization. We want to position Sitel as a strategic partner for our clients, not simply a vendor, as we are able to leverage our expertise and experience to add value for our clients that extends beyond the financial bottom line.

We firmly believe that a client’s investment in a service provider must be matched by the provider’s investment in the client’s customers and its overall business objectives. This is the only way to ensure the partnership is successful and both client and provider can enjoy long-term benefits.

NT: How do you differentiate your company?

DG: Our standing as the industry leader is only as strong as our ability to demonstrate this position through real, results-oriented initiatives. Therefore, our most significant competitive differentiators include the ways in which we execute our service offerings and how we incorporate clients’ business objectives into our day-to-day operations.

One example is our extremely successful relationship management organization. This program is exclusive to Sitel, and our relationship managers (RMs) are dedicated to developing and executing thought-leadership campaigns for our clients that increase revenue per customer, generate marketing strategies, boost overall client profitability and improve customer satisfaction and retention. Each of our RMs is devoted to identifying tangible initiatives for their clients as part of their continued commitment to the customer experience that I discussed previously. The benefits that our clients receive from their RMs are unlike anything any other service provider can offer.

In addition to the RM organization, another key differentiator is our ability to integrate all aspects of a client’s brand and business goals into day-to-day contact center operations. Building a positive brand identity is essential to creating an affinity with customers, and the contact center can be particularly effective in this process. We go to great lengths to infuse not only a client’s brand, but also its overall company culture into our contact centers. This ability to demonstrate a shared vision and objective for growing a client’s brand sets us apart and helps Sitel elevate the message that a service provider can truly be a strategic, integrated, mutually beneficial long-term partner.

NT: Thank you for your time!


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