Global Response delivers local expertise and flexibility for Simply Be
When Simply Be conducted a search for an outsourced call center to support its new U.S. presence, it used two key criteria: flexibility and local expertise. Simply Be needed flexibility from a call center because as a start-up, it had no ability to forecast call volumes or predict what its customer service needs would be. And the company needed local expertise because it’s based in the U.K. and strongly believes customers get the best service from local agents who understand country-specific issues. The call center they selected was the only one that excelled at both—and showed a real passion for the Simply Be brand: Global Response.
Simply Be is a trading style of Candid Collections Limited, a sister company to JD Williams & Co., Ltd., the UK’s leading direct home shopping company. Simply Be catalogs offer a huge selection of clothing and other products for all ages and sizes. Founded in 1875 by James David Williams, JD Williams today has over two million customers and 4,000 employees.
Simply Be Group Development Director Paul K began the search for an outsourced call center in early fall of 2010, prior to the company’s start of marketing activities in the U.S. “Because we were launching into a new country, we were essentially a start-up,” he says. “It wasn’t possible to know at the outset how big our sales were going to be in the online channel vs. the contact center, or exactly what types of customer service we would need. We knew we needed a call center with the ability to ramp up and down as necessary and work cost-efficiently with us.”
After meeting with several candidates, Simply Be selected Global Response. “We felt their culture fit with ours,” he says. “We saw that they had a passion for our brand right from the beginning. In fact, the first time I walked into their headquarters, there were Global agents dressed in Simply Be brand colors. It was clear from talking with them that they had already researched our brand and knew quite a bit about us. I got the feeling their staff would work well with the customers we were going to target.”
Paul says that several of the call centers Simply Be interviewed were only interested in them if they could guarantee certain call volumes and arrive with a pre-defined set of operational procedures. Not Global Response—Paul says they had a flexible approach from the beginning about delivering the services the start-up needed to succeed.
Paul says it also helped that Global Response had already worked with a couple of similar foreign startups, which familiarized them with the issues involved. In addition, Global was prepared to be very flexible in the way the relationship between the two companies would be structured, which was essential because service levels were impossible to predict at the outset.
Becoming Part of the Project Team
Simply Be sent representatives to Florida to train Global Response agents on the Simply Be brand as well on the company’s systems that agents would use to enter orders, respond to customer service requests and perform other operations. “Global Response immediately became more than a contact center,” says Paul, “they became part of the project team. They had considerable input into developing the processes for handling calls and responding to customer service requests.”
Simply Be representatives return to Florida for product training each time Simply Be introduces its new line of seasonal merchandise. “Even though we’re probably a reasonably small account in the overall scheme of Global Response’s business, we never feel like that,” he says. “Whenever we’re there, we feel like very important clients, which helps a lot when you’re in a start-up mode like we are.”
Services Global Response provides include taking calls and entering orders from customers who receive the Simply Be catalog; handling all customer service requests received by phone, email or web; providing support on the website; and handling all post-order inquiries, including WISMO, returns and payments.
The relationship was a collaborative one from the beginning, says Paul. “We didn’t arrive and say, ‘This is how you will take a call,’” he says. “What we said was, ‘We don’t know how exactly how to set this up and how it will evolve.’ So we sat down together and worked out the procedures for taking calls and using our systems. We’d tell Global how many catalogs we were going to mail and when, but being a start-up, we had none of the history necessary to get forecasting right. Global’s ability to ramp up and down to meet demand is crucial, and they’ve delivered that for us from day one.”
Paul says Global Response has also shown flexibility by taking unexpected issues in stride. “For instance,” he says, “during the Christmas season, many of the deliveries we sent from the UK were delayed because U.S. Homeland Security was conducting extra screenings. That generated a lot of WISMO inquiries from customers, but Global Response dealt with those issues very ably. That’s also an example of how local expertise is vital in understanding local issues and explaining them to customers.”
Meeting All the SLA Targets
“Even though we’re a UK company and are selling ourselves in part on our Britishness,” says Paul, “we still want customers to get service that’s very much in line with what they’d expect in the U.S. That’s invaluable, because Global agents are easily able to handle transactions with U.S. customers that contain elements that don’t apply at all in the UK, like requests for zip codes or calculating sales taxes or different payment methods. All that would be alien to us if we were trying to do it from our UK call center.”
Paul says Global Response is delivering a service level that meets the same high standards the company sets for its own in-house call centers that deliver service in the UK. “They are meeting all the SLAs we established,” he says. “We’re getting a superior level of customer service.”
Paul says that “the Brand Care Specialists at Global Response are more akin to our customers than we are here in Manchester, England. We ask them for critiques on the website and our brand strategy from the perspective of an American customer. In fact, we use them as our U.S. customer experts, because that’s what they are.”