Calling for change

When John Hall took over PRC as CEO in early 2005, the relationship between the company and its clients was changing. Clients were more sophisticated than they once were and were demanding more from firms like PRC that provide them with outsourced customer management solutions.

Hall knew that to continue to grow the $337 million company, he would have to provide the strategic solutions customers were asking for.

“We did a classic deep-dive analysis of the business processing outsource industry — the different segments within it,” Hall says. “We evaluated our competitors, both domestic and international. We relied upon publicly available information from SEC disclosure and analyst reports. We did do firsthand research in terms of interviews and surveys.

“We evaluated what the market opportunity was for a domestic-based provider of customer relationship management services. We evaluated where each of our competitors was moving strategically. We evaluated what their reputation was in the marketplace, and we evaluated all those things for ourselves and developed a strategy that we began implementing in 2005.”

The company’s new path involved integrating two subsidiaries into the PRC brand while aligning its operations into a business-to-business division and a business-to-consumer division.

It was Hall’s job to transform the company and realign its more than 10,000 employees at its Fort Lauderdale headquarters and in call centers around the world while delivering new opportunities for his business and those of his clients.

Developing the structure
Instead of three separate companies, PRC is now one brand with a B2B and a B2C division. This realignment was the best way to meet clients’ changing strategic needs by giving each division a practice management group that focuses on understanding clients’ industries.

“Their responsibility is to have a thorough understanding of what our client’s industry is, the client’s industry prospects, what our client’s strategy is, what our client’s goals are and how we can support our client’s growth through the strategic application of a contact center solution,” says Hall.

The new structure enhances the relationship between PRC and its clients.

“The reason clients have become increasingly comfortable with us and demanding of us for strategic solutions is that we have the interactions with their customers and we can provide them with the voice of their customer,” Hall says.

PRC, an operating unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp, provides outsourced customer solutions, so a company needing customer service phone support could contract with it to provide that service. But PRC has to do more than just answer the phones; it has to actively help its clients come up with ways to better manage those customers.

“We can (no longer) just do the execution work of interacting and managing of customer relationships (for our clients),” says Hall. “We can translate that for them into actionable plans to help them grow their business. That’s where the strategic aspect comes in.”

The B2B and B2C divisions are what Hall calls the customer-facing part of the company, and he reorganized operations to support those entities. But one of the biggest challenges he faced was educating clients as to what the new PRC could provide them.

“The opportunity and the nature of what we call a winning business challenge is not so much against our competition as it is in some ways educating our prospective clients how we can provide even more to them than they think of us providing today,” says Hall.

Hall utilized PRC’s business development group to work with clients and help them understand the new structure’s benefits. And because many of the people in the business development group have a background in the industries they call on, they are better able to explain to customers how PRC can help them.

“Because they come out of those industries, they have not just more knowledge but more of a strategic understanding of how a business in that industry grows,” Hall says. “So what we’re combining here is the expertise of outsourcing with the knowledge of industry and how it grows to capitalize on leveraging a strategic solution for a contact center against a business growth opportunity.

“Very frequently, when we articulate our ability to help, it is a broader scope than our prospective clients might have conceived of from an outsourcer. It’s good news, but it also takes a little bit of an adjustment in terms of how we work together.”

The new approach gives PRC a number of ways to help clients communicate and understand their customers’ needs on a more sophisticated level. For example, a company may have a target list of new clients, and instead of simply calling on them, PRC may take a a sample from that list and approach those companies in a certain way.

From that sampling, it measures the results, makes modifications and puts into action a program that can be applied against the rest of the target list in a more effective manner, generating a much higher return on investment for the client.

“That differs from history, where it would have been, particularly on the B2C side, a much more homogenous approach toward every customer, with a more consistent offer that didn’t necessarily provide feedback with the voice of the customer to find its way into the program until the list had been completely contacted,” he says. “They’re providing a more refined approach to the sales process overall. Through a contact center solution, we can provide a targeting, prospecting and pipeline provisioning solution so that the field sales force only goes after qualified opportunities and spends all of their time closing and negotiating, as opposed to prospecting.”

Mining new business
PRC’s restructuring not only gives it new ways to serve customers, it has also led to a new approach in the way it finds new business.

In the 1990s, a prospective client would send a request for proposal to dozens of service providers, which had little interaction with the client in submitting a response.

“That’s not at all what we have an interest in working on any longer,” Hall says. “If we don’t have some ability to spend some time with the client to understand their strategy, their goals, their business, and articulate how we can favorably impact that, then that tells us we’re probably not going to be able to truly impact their business the way we know we can. That’s probably not going to be a good fit as a client.

“We haven’t experienced much of that since changing direction in early 2005. We found that prospective clients have been very receptive and in some ways, saying with their attitudes, not their words, ‘Where have you been hiding?’”

Now, PRC utilizes a marketing group and a business development team, a structure much like a professional services model, where Hall uses existing client relationships to leverage for referrals.

“Members of our business development team have helped some of our clients shift a significant portion of their investment in customer acquisition away from field sales forces and into a contact center, which is much less expensive and can generate a much higher return,” Halls says. “In many ways, it is freeing our business development teams from having to work in the confines of a request for proposal and allowing them to have a business conversation with the client.”

Although he won’t share the percentage of growth he attributes to the changes, Hall says the restructuring and new approach to doing business have definitely contributed to the company’s bottom line. And as with most anything that is done well and succeeds, the company now has imitators.

“We do have some competitors who are trying to follow this model, and we do have some competitors that do have business-to-business and business-to-consumer divisions, but we’re confident that our approach to the business and very strategic focus on how we assist our clients in growing their business does differentiate us,” Hall says. “We see still in the marketplace competitors that are looking to, in many ways, do what the client tells them to do. It’s easier; it’s more straightforward.

“It’s easier to find talent in the industry that can execute against that than it is to find talent that can execute against the strategic thought process of how does a client grow his business and how do we support that.”

The process also changes the way PRC interacts with clients.

“We are working with the clients much earlier in the process, determining what are we going to do for them so we can, together, identify what data we want to capture, how we’re going to capture it and what we’re going to do with it afterward,” Hall says. “Previously, there was a great deal of data captured but without a predetermined notion of what, exactly, was going to be done with that data and what any analytics on that data would be used for.

“We are taking a much more methodical approach toward articulating ahead of time the data we need to capture for the client, translating the voice of the customer into quantified actionable data and providing that feedback with recommendations to the clients for continuing to grow the customer relationship.”

It’s that strategic approach that separates the company from its competition and will allow it to grow differently than it did a decade ago.

“PRC grew very rapidly, like most other businesses in this industry in the 1990s, but the growth in the current period is going to be very directed, and it’s going to be much more strategic,” Hall says.

That strategy is already paying off. In 2005, PRC posted a $22.6 million profit, an increase from $17.1 million the year before.

“This shift has been critical in winning valuable client relationships in 2005 and, coupled with our new organizational alignment, will enable us to compete effectively for new business while continuing to deliver a positive return on our clients’ investment in their customers,” Hall says. “We clearly would not have grown so quickly. We would not be as profitable as we are today. And we would not be as focused on where we are taking the business as much as being opportunistic about simply where a client relationship might take us.”

HOW TO REACH: PRC, (954) 693-3700 or www.prcnet.com

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