STRATEGY: One Year After Group Acticall’s Acquisition of Sitel - Sitel - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
An interview with Laurent Uberti, Founding Partner &
Chairman of Group Acticall, Executive Chairman of Sitel.
A year ago, Group Acticall acquired Sitel… what can you tell us about this project?
Indeed, it’s been a year since we’ve made the 100 percent acquisition of Sitel official and embarked on this incredible adventure. So much has happened in the meantime and 2016 has been especially dense. Today we are operational in all our markets, and Acticall and Sitel are working together in synergy. A lot of our efforts have been devoted to organizing the Group and successfully combining both DNAs: taking the best from a highly structured international company (Sitel) and adding the agility and creativity of an entrepreneurial adventure that began 22 years ago (Group Acticall).
What does this newly combined group represent? What about the brands?
Group Acticall is now worth $1.7 billion and employs more than 75,000 associates within 22 countries. We aim to be a global, innovative and socially engaged operator, delivering the best Customer Experiences possible. The brand Group Acticall remains the organizational umbrella which contains all of the Group’s subsidiaries. Sitel is our contact centers’ brand name throughout the world with the exception of the French market where we’ve retained the Acticall name. The names of our other subsidiaries remain unchanged. We are very attached to this policy of independent subsidiaries managed by shareholding executives responsible for their own development.
Within the current context of Sitel’s incorporation, this strategy makes all the more sense. We plan on reinforcing this ecosystem which accommodates both brands and the relationships they have with their customers, with an objective to always increase value and foster innovation. What we’ve developed in France over the past five years was an experimental lab which we’re industrializing today on a global scale.
The Group’s strength lies in our ability to offer our clients a wide range of solutions: locally-based, Nearshore or Offshore contact centers; services enhanced by digital technologies either at a conceptual, consulting or production-level; Big Data solutions; and our entire gamut of training programs.
The Social Client is active in all European countries in which we operate, the U.S. and Brazil as is Learning Tribes, who has just opened an office in Shanghai, China, thus consolidating the Group’s presence in Asia.
How is the new Group Acticall leadership team coming together?
We’ve set up a tight leadership with an executive committee of fewer than 10 people, combining teams from both Sitel and Acticall. We’ve also moved the Sitel headquarters from Nashville to Miami. Boasting one of the country’s largest transit hubs, Miami is pivotal for our activities both in terms of its proximity to major American cities, but also to the LATAM zone as well as being an overnight’s flight away from Europe. It’s also a convenient destination for our clients and teams to meet.
What are this combined Group’s main characteristics?
The Group’s fundamentals are extremely solid. Sitel is an international company with a strong anchoring in the U.S. and activities in 22 countries, which rank us among the top three or four outsourcers capable of answering calls to bid worldwide. Today, two-thirds of our sales’ revenue, or $1.1 billion, come from U.S. clients we support throughout the world. Our production is spread between our sites in the U.S. (around $400 million), countries in Central America and in the Philippines where we have more than 21,000 employees.
Moreover, our presence on a number of local markets, namely in Europe, affords us a unique position. We’re among the leaders of the major European markets: in the top three for France and Germany, No. 1 in Denmark and in the top five in the United Kingdom and Spain.
For each of these domestic markets, we have Offshore/Nearshore presences in Eastern Europe (Poland, Serbia, and Bulgaria) and in Francophone Africa (Morocco and Ivory Coast). This geographical footprint lets us handle customers on five continents (in 20 languages) through our seven multilingual hubs. Europe represents $700 million in sales’ revenue and we’re among its three leading players. Today, Europe remains an important market for us as we continue to expand around 10 percent every year in this zone.
“The Group’s fundamentals are extremely solid. Sitel is an international company with a strong anchoring in the U.S. and activities in 22 countries, which rank us among the top three or four outsourcers capable of answering calls to bid worldwide.”
Concerning Europe and France, what do you foresee for these markets?
France is perhaps the best school for learning our job. It’s one of the countries in the world where our activity, which requires a lot of flexibility, is the hardest to operate because of the country’s regulation and numerous restrictions. The market is extremely tough.
France, therefore, presents a real challenge that can nevertheless prove galvanizing if a development strategy relies firmly on innovation and quality production. Group Acticall has never ceased its expansion in France. This year again, our sales’ revenue has increased 5 percent within the French perimeter. By incorporating Sitel France into Acticall’s historical perimeter, our revenue now exceeds €270 million euros which place us at the top of the market.
Kim Neyret, our nationwide executive director, and her team are doing a terrific job for our clients. Sitel’s integration into Acticall in France is now complete. The sites of Troyes and La Rochelle are now fully part of Acticall’s perimeter. We’ve succeeded in making the Troyes site permanent as well as opening a new, modern site that will meet our current business standards by the middle of 2017. Furthermore, Group Acticall’s subsidiaries are operating in perfect synergy at this point, which has helped us gain around 20 new clients this year.
What about the American customer? How does he differ from French customers?
The level of demands of several specific American customers within the banking or insurance industries may be a bit higher than in Europe. In addition, aspects of “operational security” are definitely more advanced. All our sites are certified PCI DSS whether they’re in Central America, the U.S. or the Philippines. Regardless, our business remains more or less the same throughout the world and depends on first and foremost on the different sectors and business models. Rather paradoxically, I believe the level of maturity toward the use of digital channels is rather lower than in France. If chat is indeed a fully blossoming channel (we have entire sites dedicated to it), we are barely scraping the surface of channels such as text messaging.
Rather paradoxically, I believe the level of maturity of the use of digital channels is rather lower than in France. If chat is indeed a fully blossoming channel (we have entire sites dedicated to it), we are barely scraping the surface of channels such as text messaging.
“Group Acticall’s subsidiaries are operating in perfect synergy at this point, which has helped us gain around 20 new clients this year.”
Our subsidiary, The Social Client, displays a portfolio of highly attractive products for our American clients. Several customer journey redesigning projects involving bots and messaging are in the works. We’re developing strategic partnerships with mediums such as Facebook and Twitter (both of whom intervened alongside us at the last client summits). Our international footprint strengthens these partnerships.
Also, the training of associates has remained very traditional. Learning Tribes has launched several innovative initiatives whereby whole sections of the training are digitalized.
The global “client,” who requires customer management on every continent, has a specific demand: a homogenized provision of services. This is one of Sitel’s major assets. Indeed, our international presence wasn’t born of miscellaneous acquisitions. We’re not a federation of independent countries; rather, quite the opposite. We are a uniform ensemble with a singular backbone. This is a considerable advantage, one that our clients and analysts value.
What is your strategy for 2017?
Our strategy follows two axes: growth and diversification.
In an effort toward a solid organic growth for our core business, we are opening 10 sites next year within all our geographic zones:
- Three sites in Central America (a new site in Columbia and another in Mexico – countries in which we already operate as well as a site in a new country, Honduras, in Tegucigalpa in March 2017.
- Three new sites in the Philippines (where we currently employ 21,000 people).
- Several sites in Europe with openings in Germany and the United Kingdom (where we’ve just inaugurated a site with 800 positions in Plymouth) as well as a site in a new location, Riga, Lithuania, in order to provide services for the English and German markets.
In total, we’ll be creating 5,000 new positions this year.
Our second strategic axis is the diversification of our industry. Today, we’re making nearly $30 million in sales’ revenue outside our Customer Relations Management activity. We aim to soon double that amount. In France, IT, digital and training activities demonstrate 20 percent annual growth. We intend to accelerate this growth through an ambitious internationalization plan. Thus, we’re investing several million euros in the development of our subsidiaries specialized in consulting, training, digital conversion, and analytical expertise.
For example, we have a team of 80 scientists in Mumbai, India. Today, this team is almost entirely dedicated to our internal needs in operational optimization. Our objective is that tomorrow these teams can deliver services based on analyses of complex data models. Through Sitel Insights, we’re creating a spin-off of this high added-value activity.
“In total, we’ll be creating 5,000 new positions this year.”
The project is both very exciting and ambitious for all our teams. Also, as reflected in our DNA, this is a long haul adventure. Our shareholders share our vision, which is one that unfolds over time and implies we will be one of the major leaders in Customer Relations within the next 10 years.
Our vision of the market, as well as our strategy, are clear. We have a supportive, professional and committed team carrying our business project.
Sitel is a unique company at this scale, commanding an extremely diversified client portfolio – the first 10 clients represent less than 30 percent of the portfolio, and our first client less than 7 percent of our revenue – and a geographic reach that’s truly worldwide. Needless to say, one of the primary drivers of growth is performance. With our international industrial resources and the expertise of our subsidiaries that enhance our services, our clients know we are a strong and innovating partner that can accompany them over the years throughout all the transformations that affect our business.
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Publish Date: January 24, 2017 5:00 AM
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