Let me start with a quick overview as to who ClientLogic is. ClientLogic desires to be the leading business process outsourcer in the contact center and fulfillment space. [In terms of ] the SCOR model, our expertise is to deliver stock product and deliver made-to-order product. That’s really where we play from a supply chain perspective, but that being said, we can extend the supply chain on the customer side significantly, and that is really where ClientLogic plays: We are a customer management company.
We manage customer relationships on behalf of our clients. That’s what we do, day in and day out. Managing a customer relationship means you have to be able to interact with that customer through a variety of channels, to provide multichannel interaction. Those multiple channels can be a call—phone—e-mail, Web chat; it can be pop display units; it can be white mail—as you know, there’s a significant amount of white mail that still exists in the industry by way of surveys, coupons, redemption offers, rebates, etc.
O+F: Have you developed your own CRM effort—is it your own software, or have you put things together with best-of-breed components?
AS:If you look at every facet of CRM from every perspective, it’s really a combination of best of breed and some proprietary stuff. If you look at the continuity service we offer, it is actually a proprietary application. But on the back end, the customer management application, we use either Vantive or Siebel; for the knowledgebase we use Primus; for marketing or campaign management we use Unica; and we use PkMS in our fulfillment shop with a proprietary order management system; then we bring it all together and we have what we call the “universal desktop” an agent interface into multiple systems. The universal desktop has to have the flexibility, through middleware, to access n number of client applications.
To answer your question a different way: As an outsourcer, we have to be very clear and cognizant and able intermarry our clients’ systems with ClientLogic systems. In that sense, ClientLogic becomes somewhat of a de facto systems integrator, because we’re integrating data and system elements from our clients into ClientLogic systems and data to deliver a consistent experience to the agents and customers.
O+F: At O+F we’re sensing some shifts, both economic, and technological, especially in fulfillment. Are there any technological changes coming down the pike that are going to make a difference in how you have to operate? There’s a lot of buzz about RFID, and we’re wondering what you see or hear in these areas. Are things really picking up; are customers getting more excited? Or is this a false herald of the holiday season?
AS: From a technology perspective you’re absolutely right. We’ve heard a lot about RFID. We haven’t seen any of that translate into a change in requirements on our clients’ end as yet. And what I mean by that is that as we pursue opportunities and speak with clients, none of them thus far have asked us to implement or adopt any kind of RFID needs. I think where we are is very early in the discovery phase of RFID technology. While there’s a buzz, I’m going to drive to a very tactical level and tell you that we haven’t seen any prospect or client make that a requirement. That’s not a commentary on whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise.
In terms of other technologies, the other one we’re watching out for is SMS messaging. I believe it’s a few to several years until this technology really becomes one that enables and allows companies to support their customers. Right now it’s kind of like Web chat. SMS today is about messaging, not about service and support. But that’s one we’re watching, because the younger generation is growing up around SMS, and as they mature, this will become a de facto standard. As that happens, it will become crucial to provide support.
From the economic perspective, it’s a little difficult to break up the upbeat purchasing news into what’s truly being driven by a base, fundamental change or shift in the economy vs. the season. These months are among our largest months in the year. A majority of our clients, irrespective of industry, are forecasting a fairly strong Q4. Whether it’s consumer products, ISPs, electronic products, almost all our clients have an increased interaction volume during this period. But it’s very difficult for us to tell whether that’s a fundamental economic drive or season-driven.
I will say that as a matter of comparison, the optimism for the 2003 Christmas season is higher than it was for the 2002 season. For one of our accounts, an Internet service provider, we are adding about 200 positions this season. That’s about a 25% increase in capacity just for this period.