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How to differentiate in a highly commoditized industry: offer your expertise for free and become a business development partner to your clients – an interview with Golden Gate BPO Solutions

Every entrepreneur dreams of the moment they’ll make it to the Inc.5000, a signal of success and industry recognition. We’re interviewing B2B Inc.5000 companies to crack the code of HOW to get on the list (and ideally stay on!). This series will hopefully become the playbook to your success too. Today, we’re interviewing Stephen B. Ferber, CEO & Managing Partner of Golden Gate BPO Solutions.

NXT: What is Golden Gate BPO?

Many companies are so busy running their day-to-day that sometimes they overlook or don’t have the expertise to provide proper customer service & technical support.

That’s where we come in!  At our core, we are a value-added outsourced provider of multi-channel customer care, technical support and other critical business processes.

We carefully craft a strategy and implementation plan based on each client’s unique business goals, culture and priorities. We then implement those customized solutions at our global contact centers.

We bring strong regional and niche contact center operators into our consortium as a joint venture “certified operating partner” after raising their operational and technological best practices to the level we require.

We currently have 9 certified operating partners: 4 in Latin America/Caribbean, 1 in the Philippines, 1 in India, and 3 in the US.

NXT: What is your value proposition?

As a small/mid-size company, you have two options:

  • Large outsourcers bring global scale to their clients, at the expense of customization and service quality.
  • On the other hand, smaller regional players are confined to a single geography or constrained by their niche capabilities.

We bring to this market the full package – a global footprint AND a broad set of capabilities, through our consortium of smaller regional providers.

Each of our provider partners operate on our best practices platform as an extension of our C-level team so we can deliver services at a higher quality, with more flexibility, and at a lower cost than our larger competitors.

NXT: How did you get started?

I started in this industry in ‘96 as the general counsel for a Miami-based company that was an outsourced provider and had a couple contact centers with about 400 employees.

Eight years later and after amassing over 14,000 employees in the US and Asia, we found ourselves in the middle of an industry that quickly became commoditized. Because we were one of the larger and faster growing players, we became more reliant and dependant on our bigger clients, like the AT&Ts of the world, with massive customer care needs and purchasing leverage.

They demanded a lot from a financial and performance standpoint causing our own margins to fall drastically.

I left that company in 2004 and started doing some consulting and legal work. Then, I had an opportunity to work with a contact center company again, based out of the Philippines this time.

They needed help expanding to the US, and I ultimately recommended they set up a new company in the US that would focus on building a strong brand in the outsourcing space through business development.

My consulting client ended up implementing my recommendations so long as I agreed to be the CEO. I said yes, and the first person I hired was someone I had regarded as the best sales & marketing professional within the entire outsourcing industry, because I knew consultative business development was key. We were granted 30% ownership in the new US entity in addition to equity in their well-established Manila-based publicly traded software and services company.

Although we had achieved some success over the course of the first two years, our Philippines partner had the opportunity to acquire a large US-based outsourcing company and short-cut their growth. That company happened to be the same one I originally joined in ’96 as general counsel.

I still saw value and a new vision for Golden Gate BPO (the US brand), and our partners in the Philippines allowed me to acquire 100% of Golden Gate BPO in 2008 and pursue that vision and business model, which is what we are today.

NXT: What type of clients do you work with?

We work with clients of all sizes, and we are in almost every industry from online businesses to brick and mortar stores, telecommunications, financial services, etc.

We mainly handle customer service and technical support, so that’s largely phone, email, chat and social media support. We also provide complex tech support, including hardware, software and networking issues. For retailers, we help with product and billing inquiries, return requests, etc. And because we have operations in Latin America, we are also able to provide bilingual sales and services for clients that need it.

NXT: What is something that most people don’t know about having a customer service centre?

People think customer service is simply a cost item on their P&L, but they are very mistaken. In today’s demanding environment, customer service should be top priority for any business.

Companies need to be quick and present in the channels their customers prefer in order to create positive experiences and bond with the consumer base.

We’ve even heard CEO’s of fast growing companies say that they now view customer service and customer reviews ultimately as their top marketing channel, since so many customers make purchase and re-purchase decisions based on others’ experiences.

They could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing efforts, yet that wouldn’t have nearly the impact as a handful of good (or more importantly, bad) reviews have on their business.   

If you do customer service right, there’s a high chance you’re going to resolve customer issues well, which leads to almost a 90% chance of repeat customers. If you handle customer service poorly, the repurchase probability drops below 50%.

NXT: How do you get clients? What do your marketing efforts look like?

In this business, it’s a consultative sales process because it’s important to be able to share with marketing, operations and other executives a clear message of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and why.

A typical contract is multiple years and ranges from $2 to 6 million a year, so the client’s due diligence process is quite thorough prior to finalizing an outsourcing agreement. An unsuccessful outsourcing relationship can disrupt the client’s business and ultimately cost somebody their job.

Our inbound marketing has been more about sharing our own original content and offering ourselves up as a resource or free consultant for educational purposes. We write blogs, articles and whitepapers to show people what we’re about and how we approach things. We’re also extremely involved and an active voice in several industry associations and organizations.

An example of a whitepaper topic might be: the financials of building a customer support center, and how much you should expect to pay. Examples of our blog content can range anywhere from very high-level takes on important mergers to very specific and industry-focused subject matter (such as what makes the Dominican Republic an ideal location for outsourcing delivery).

NXT: Some companies think that content marketing is too much effort…

Our approach – and where we ‘win’ – is to ditch the salesperson persona by bringing into our organization business development consultants who once wore operational hats just like our clients.

We then have them share their expertise in the public domain, through our blogs, white papers and by participating in conferences.

One of our four core pillars is to “be a resource”. We do a lot of free stuff, because we are all driven to help people, period. When our audience begins to understand what we do and how we do it, they will reach out to us when the timing is right.

NXT: So how many conferences do you attend?

I was never home for the first 3 years of Golden Gate BPO. I probably attended 30 conferences per year.

The goal was to meet every single person at the conference during the span of the event. I wanted my team to be on their feet from 8am in the morning until they hit the pillow at night. I have never been a big proponent of setting up a booth because I think it is more natural to network in a more personal manner.

I spent a lot of marketing money on sponsoring events in the initial years so we could get our logo and brand out there in areas where people would remember, such as entry door banners, hanging banners from ceilings or Cyber Café home screens.

We often had our logos on highly visible TV screens so people would be able to see our name at least a few times when they walked through the convention centre.

NXT: How well did that ‘event’ strategy work for you?

We would meet 200-300 people a day. If I had to put a number on how many people converted to clients, it would be less than 1%.

It’s not like we were being rejected by the other 99.5% that didn’t convert during a conference, but that was not our goal anyway. Our goal was to build a deeper and broader network every day and to keep that network informed.

This would have a snowball effect in the sense that the bigger the network, deals would eventually close more frequently. I also believe that establishing and nurturing relationships in this manner leads to business relationships that have a better foundation and can truly stand the test of time.

NXT: Can you share a tip to help people get more out of attending conferences?

First, you really do have to enjoy people and have a genuine interest in getting to know them and listening to what they do. Ask questions about their company, about their operations and processes, and what pain points they’re facing.

Never lead with “Let me tell you about my company’s services”. This industry is about taking the time to understand what someone’s needs are and then determining whether or not you can help solve their problem.

Second, you have to go in with the goal and mindset that you are going to spend 3-5 minutes with everyone at the conference, period.  My goal for every conference, to this day, is to talk with 100% of the people attending and get a business card from anyone I meet for the first time.

NXT: Any tips for business owners just getting started?

Three things:

  1. In the beginning, get to know your audience, listen to them, and expand your audience.
  2. Focus on getting those first, second, and third success stories (do not take new business unless you are certain you can deliver).
  3. In-person meetings and events are 100% better than cold calls, emails or blasting out ads seeking new business. Sure, it’s easier to just blast out thousands of emails or ads, but in many cases you won’t get back any results, at least not for the deal sizes we’re talking about.

NXT: What are you focusing on right now: new customer acquisition, client retention, or content marketing?

We are always making sure that we’re providing top customer service to our clients, listening and paying attention to their needs.

Aside from retaining existing clients, I would say our first and foremost goal is to bring in new business and clients. That doesn’t mean we’re getting more aggressive in outbound marketing, we’re still focused on doing things the old way – writing blogs, whitepapers, going to trade shows, and sharing our thoughts via content marketing.

We also just started a once-a-month insights piece, where we share some key highlights to our contacts. We don’t want to choke people with too much stuff.

NXT: What are some mistakes that you see people make?

The sales cycle in our industry is really about 18 months. Oftentimes, during Month 9 or so, the CEO will get impatient and ruin the sales process by micro-managing and pushing the sales reps to move a deal forward.

In order to preserve the relationship they have built and the potential business associated with those relationships, its imperative that sales reps don’t give in to their boss’s pressure.

There are no sales short cuts out there that will make a prospect pull the trigger 3 or 6 months earlier. It will only look bad for you because you start to come across as insincere and desperate.

There’s no silver bullet or magic formula; just stick to the plan of fostering relationships and stay true to what your business stands for – patience WILL pay off!

 

A huge thanks to Stephen B. Ferber, CEO and Founder, who is personally responsible for ensuring that each Golden Gate BPO client and operating partner achieves its revenue and profitability goals. He is focused on driving the company’s strategic direction, oversees and manages all aspects of the company’s business development, operations and works with prospective and existing clients. The company is dedicated in sharing their thoughts on the industry through their blog.

Golden Gate BPO Solutions

Tessa BoardStudios.com

Tess is a Business Development Associate at Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. She's passionate about B2B business models & marketing, and spends a lot of time working on partnership development, content marketing, and scouring for the best business books for BookVideoClub.com. Her blood type is an authentic caffè macchiato.

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