Go West Young Man: Customer Contact, Conferencing Solution Provider Talks Shop

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine

West Corp. (News - Alert) is a 24-year-old provider of customer contact solutions and conferencing services.  The company also offers mission-critical solutions for public safety and emergency communications applications.

Headquartered in Omaha, West has sales and operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Unified Communications (News - Alert) Magazine recently spoke with Rhonda Gibler, senior vice president of sales.

What does West offer in the way of unified communications?

Gibler: Operating under the InterCall brand, we are the largest conferencing services provider in the world based on conferencing revenue, according to Wainhouse (News - Alert) Research, and managed over 97 million conference calls in 2009. We provide our clients with an integrated global suite of meeting replacement services. These include on-demand automated conferencing services, operator-assisted services for complex audio conferences or large events, Web conferencing services that allow clients to make presentations and share applications and documents over the Internet, videoconferencing applications that allow clients to experience real-time video presentations and conferences and streaming services to connect remote employees and host virtual events.

[We also offer] alerts and notifications services. Our solutions leverage our proprietary technology platforms to allow clients to manage and deliver automated personalized communications quickly and through multiple delivery channels (voice, text messaging, e-mail and fax). For example, we deliver patient notifications, appointment reminders and prescription reminders on behalf of our health care clients (medical and dental practices, hospitals and pharmacies); provide travelers with flight arrival and departure updates on behalf of our transportation clients; and transmit emergency evacuation notices on behalf of municipalities. Our platform also enables two-way communications, which allow the recipients of a message to respond with relevant information to our clients.

Tell us about your communication services.

Gibler: We believe we are the largest provider of emergency communications infrastructure systems and services, based on our own estimates of the number of 911 calls that we and other participants in the industry facilitated. Our solutions are critical in facilitating public safety agencies’ ability to coordinate responses to emergency events. We provide the network database solution that routes emergency calls to the appropriate 911 centers and allows the appropriate first responders (police, fire and ambulance) to be assigned to those calls. Our clients generally enter into long-term contracts and fund their obligations through monthly charges on users’ local telephone bills. We also provide fully integrated desktop communications technology solutions to public safety agencies that enable enhanced 911 call handling.

You also provide automated and agent-based customer care services, right?

Gibler: Our solutions allow our clients to effectively communicate with their customers through in-bound and out-bound interactive voice response applications using natural language speech recognition, automated voice prompts and network-based call routing services. In addition to these front-end customer service applications, we also provide analyses that help our clients improve their automated communications strategies. Our automated services technology platforms serve as the backbone of our telephony management capabilities and our scale and operational flexibility have helped us launch and grow other key services, such as conferencing, alerts and notifications and West at Home.

We [also] provide our clients with large-scale, agent-based services, including in-bound customer care, customer acquisition and retention, business-to-business sales and account management, overpayment identification and recovery services, and collection of receivables on behalf of our clients. We have a flexible model with both on-shore and off-shore capabilities to fit our clients’ needs…. Our West at Home agent service is a remote call handling model that uses employees who work out of their homes. This service has a distinct advantage over traditional facility-based call center solutions by attracting higher quality agents. This model helps enhance our cost structure and significantly reduces our capital requirements.

What does West see as its key differentiators in the marketplace? 

Gibler: We have built a strong and stable business model that has delivered a 32 percent revenue compound annual growth rate since our inception in 1986 and helped our clients by processing billions of minutes of their voice-oriented transactions. As demand for outsourced solutions grows with greater adoption of our technologies and services and the global trend towards business process outsourcing, we believe our long history of delivering results for our clients combined with our scale and the significant investments we have made in our businesses provide us with a significant competitive advantage.

Our technology-driven platforms combined with our operational expertise and processes allow us to provide a broad range of complementary automated and agent-based service offerings that help establish deep relationships with our clients. Our ability to efficiently and cost-effectively process high volume, complex transactions for our clients facilitates their critical communications and helps improve their cost structure.

We have developed integrated proprietary platforms that we believe form one of the largest multi-carrier, multi-protocol secure managed networks. By allowing us to focus our research and development efforts on new services for multiple transaction types, our highly scalable operating model enables us to enhance our value proposition to clients and achieve greater efficiencies and returns from our infrastructure and invested capital. We also benefit from our ability to use our infrastructure and human capital across our business lines providing for the most efficient and opportunistic use of resources.

You mentioned your deep partnerships with clients. Explain.

Gibler: Our top 10 clients have an average tenure of approximately 10 years. Our 100 largest clients represent approximately 57 percent of our revenue and approximately 46 percent of our revenue comes from clients purchasing multiple service offerings. Looking at the Fortune 1000, 70 percent of the Fortune 10, and 50 percent of the Fortune 100 use one or more of our services. 

How do your products scale?

Gibler: With approximately 525,000 telephony ports to handle conference calls, alerts and notifications and customer service, our platforms provide scale and flexibility to handle greater transaction volume than our competitors, offer superior service and develop new offerings. These ports include approximately 205,000 IP ports, which we believe provide us with the only large-scale proprietary IP-based global conferencing platform deployed and in use today.

Tell us about West’s management team and financial standing.

Gibler: Our senior leadership has an average tenure of 12 years with us and has delivered strong results through various market cycles, both as a public and as a private company. As a group, this team has created a culture of superior client service and has been able to achieve a 15.5 percent revenue CAGR over the past 10 years. We also have established a long track record of successfully acquiring and integrating companies to drive growth and margin expansion.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard