Sykes Enterprises was started back in 1977 as a small engineering firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. John Sykes, the company's founder, remains its CEO today. In 1992, Sykes purchased Jones Technologies in Sterling, Colorado, and began offering outsourced customer support. The company has grown significantly in the interim, and now has 42 call centers and 16 branch offices worldwide.
According to Dan Hernandez, Sykes' Senior Vice President of Global Strategy, the move into contact center services in 1992 was a response to the state of the market at the time. "As businesses began to develop more and more needs for customer care, and as they began to outsource that, when they realized the benefits of using a business process outsourcer, John Sykes saw a need and began fulfilling it," he says.
For ISPs, Sykes offers telephone, e-mail, and chat support covering dialup and broadband services, and can also provide outbound calling if needed. "We're able to tailor a solution to the needs of their business," Hernandez says. "We have supported ISPs with outbound calls, but primarily we've worked with them on customer account management, billing inquiry, and technical support."
All reporting is customized for each Sykes client. "Our Business Insight tool allows clients to see the service level, the contact rates, and the types of interactions that are occurring with a customer," Hernandez says. "We have the ability to tailor the type of reports based on their needs, so they can drill down on service level, for example, by the half-hour if they need to."
Working with the ISP
For a new client, the setup process involves a dedicated team of Sykes representatives. "We immediately assign a team to that client's account, which includes an implementation manager, an executive sponsor, and our account managerand depending on the complexity, we may have a solutions architect for the account as well," Hernandez says. "Together, they craft out the solution and the timelines."
Every new implementation works best, Hernandez says, when it's approached as a partnership. "There are a number of complexities associated with the integration of systems, customer relationship management tools, and all of the reporting structures," he says. "We've found it to be a very successful process when we're engaged with the client every step of the way, so we can set expectations and then meet them."
Sykes can either integrate with the client's own back end systems or provide its own proprietary solutions. Despite the company's size and global footprint, Hernandez says Sykes is able to work with ISPs of all sizes. "There really isn't a target size; it's based more upon the needs of that specific client and the solutions that we're able to provide for them," he says.
The fact that Sykes has 42 call centers worldwide lets the company offer pricing to match a range of different needs. "If it's a larger provider that wants to offer solutions in several languages, we can to do that," Hernandez says. "If it's a smaller provider in the United States, we've got alternatives for them to look at, both to make them cost-effective and to improve the quality of their services."
A long term partnership
Pricing can be structured per-minute, per-interaction, or per-subscriber. "We work together to determine what makes the most sense for their business model," Hernandez says. "There isn't a general pricing structure; we tailor a solution based on their needs, what they're looking for, and what volumes they're working with."
Hernandez urges any ISP that's seeking an outsourced helpdesk provider to look for a company that offers a real sense of partnership. "It's such a core component in the delivery of the services that will differentiate one ISP from another, that you really want to seek out a partner that can grow with you over the long termone that brings additional solutions to you throughout the relationship," he says.
And the more an ISP puts into the relationship with its helpdesk provider, the better their services will be. "They really need to make the necessary investments in terms of the ISP's time and resources in developing that partnership, in terms of training, in terms of insight into the business and where it's going, so the partnership can be successful," Hernandez says.
The fact that Sykes has been providing call center services for over a decade gives the company a solid background in the ISP industry. "Starting with dialup providers, and then progressing all the way to broadband, we've been there every step of the way," Hernandez says. "It's given us the ability not only to grow with the industry, but also to see where the industry will be going."