oNexus Founder Interview: Paolo Marcattilj, Global Remote Services (GRS)
Paolo Marcattilj co-founded Romania-based BPO provider Global Remote Services (GRS) in 2004, and has since seen it grow to be one of the country’s most prominent service providers. As part of our oNexus Founders series of interviews, we got together with Paolo to get some insight into his journey – and his company’s – and to find out his thoughts on the nature of the “perfect client” and what the future of outsourcing looks like…
Outsource: Let’s begin with a bit of info on you personally: what’s your background, and what’s your role within GRS today?
Paolo Marcattilj: I am an Italian engineer (nobody’s perfect, you know…) with an MBA, and I am currently an international entrepreneur as a cofounder of Global Remote Services (GRS) in 2004, in Romania. Formerly I was a management consultant, at McKinsey & Co, and then a top manager inside multinationals or blue chip companies (Philip Morris Inc., Italian Yellow Pages leader, etc.)
O: Moving onto GRS: can you give our readers a brief overview of the company?
PM: GRS is currently one of the most pre-eminent international service providers of outsourced services based in Romania, serving Western European companies; it’s certainly one of those with the longest experience (if not the longest one), as 2015 is our 12th year of activity. We’re certainly, also, one of the top 10 (and the first “independent” company) in terms of size (about 300 seats), success and growth pattern (over 25% CAGR over the last five years).
GRS performs, very carefully and efficiently, for its customers main core activities, either inbound (customer caring, technical help desk), outbound, or back-office processes. Our growth pattern is the main proof of this. GRS had, even from its first day, a “first-class mentality” and grew with a “strive for excellence spirit”. That was, on the other hand, unavoidable, given that two MBA degree holders, former top managers at multinationals, founded GRS, and given also that almost all our local management grew professionally inside the company, with exactly this culture. Consequently, dialoguing and sharing common goals and values, between our clients and us, comes very easy and effective.
O: What do you see as being the key advantages of GRS’ Romanian heritage, and how do these manifest themselves in the way you operate?
PM: As I wrote in an article recently, Romania structurally is (and has recently become even more) almost a perfect, if not the best, location for outsourcing services, when a Western European company strategically wants to place them in “nearshoring”.
Most of the key underpinning items, for the above, are HR related; just a few examples are:
1. a pool of talented young people (quality and size of it);
2. their “spirit” in terms of “willingness to succeed”;
3. their “mittel-European mind-set” which intrinsically means they have a strong orientation to care about details of quality and procedures;
4. flexibility of labour regulations allowing either service cost elasticity to clients and delivering high service quality levels (most of activity controls are allowed).
Other very important items are the ITC country infrastructure (being at the highest European standards) and the overall cost position. We feel that GRS have been able to put together intelligently all the above-mentioned “ingredients” in the way we operate and deliver services to our customers. This feeling is enhanced even more today after over 11 years of experience.
O: Have you seen an increased appetite for nearshore customer service offerings in the last couple of years and, if so, what do you think are the key drivers behind this trend?
PM: Yes, indeed. We notice, year after year, an increasing orientation to nearshoring, but I also feel that the available potential is still widely underexploited, particularly as far as Romania is concerned, by a large part of Western European users.
In my view, underlying drivers for strategically placing core activities in nearshoring are very simple and clear and belong to three areas:
- In order to benefit from an advantageous cost/price position there’s no need to force your loyal customers to dialogue in English with an Indian, Filipino or South African, or in French with a North African; there’s no need also to force your outsourced centre managers to cope with several hours of time-zone difference for a video-conferencing, or with about one day of travelling, in order to coordinate/supervise providers.
- Cultural, social, linguistic “proximity”, like the one nearshoring can give, is highly valuable in the dialogue between a brand and its final customers. A very serious consideration and weight are placed on the decision of a brand to give to an external party the responsibility of managing the relation with its customers.
- Any “healthy” sourcing strategy should procure core services from a cluster of geo-socio-political areas, rather than staying too concentrated, especially when this means relying on potentially low-stability areas, or those far outside the EU context.
O: Where is your growth coming from at the moment in terms of both geographies and verticals of your clients?
PM: Our growth comes from three sources:
- Existing customer base: active clients who quite often ask us to broaden, year after year, the array of services sourced from us.
- Geographical expansion: GRS has been very recently reoriented to increase its presence on the French and UK market. Consequently those markets, relatively new for us, represent an important part of the current growth, even if we are just at the very initial phase, particularly for UK, and therefore the potential is still entirely to be exploited.
- In terms of verticals, we experience quite a significantly growing interest from utilities and online retailing, but also from “new” sectors such as airports (we just started the integrated management of Rome Airports, which means both customer care and technical help desk).
O: And what about growth in terms of new offerings: how much of your work is now made up of non-traditional forms of customer contact (ie, web chat, social media etc) and how is this evolving?
PM: We perform the full range of customer contact forms since several years ago, mainly together with one of our customers, from the gaming and betting industry, who is constantly up to date with these trends. Today, non-traditional forms of customer contact represent about 40% of the total customer care contacts (2014), and “pure voice” contacts percentage is below 50% (the rest being email, SMS, etc.).
I noticed since a while ago that the trend is growing, and will definitely further grow. The reason is that it is highly cost efficient and final users have the right to behave as they wish, so brands must comply. Smart brands have to take serious care of this (new generations’ attitudes) evolution, and smart service providers too. Even if this means a short-term revenue lowering, it ensures that the company will be alive and healthy, in the mid-term.
As an example, in Rome Airports’ customer care we introduced a non-human chat facility too, supported by the human one: that is the correct (in our view) current and future way of rendering good service and value to our clients.
O: Are you facing requests from more sophisticated forms of partnership (including new contractual models from your clients as the buy-side matures? And if so can you give our readers some examples of how this is working?
PM: We are not tangibly experiencing this trend. We are noticing it mainly in the B2C tele-selling services area, of which we are not particularly fond.
O: What’s your definition of a perfect client?
PM: At GRS the perfect client is the company which, in order of importance:
- is highly demanding in terms of service quality but is at same time very, very professionally competent, so as to clearly know, and state, what it wants and so we professionally grow together;
- is working with us to identify and fix problems, if there are any;
- regularly pays us;
- looks ahead into the future and is transparent with us on its plans.
O: How does GRS identify and nurture top talent: do you have centres of excellence, for example?
PM: First, it is important to point out our definition for “talent”: at GRS, a top talent resource is someone who performs really well (not necessarily far above standard), and is at the same time:
- naturally capable to become a “role model” for colleagues, from either professional and human points of view;
- highly coherent with GRS’ overall values and style.
Even if some “early hypothesis” about a person can be formed during selection phase, the actual identification of these three characteristics existing all in the same person can only occur “on-the-job”, and only after a certain period. Direct managers, peers and even clients are the key detectors, on that.
GRS pays a tremendous attention to developing further the skills of its people; this is a pervasive attitude and continuous action program, and it involves a much broader staff segment than just top talents. Top talents are just those who naturally take the most out of all this, and take these occasions to confirm their organisational positioning as what they are. Examples are:
- Linguistic skills: GRS is certified as an “official foreign language school” (at the moment just on one language); employees, whatever their level is, benefit from attending internal courses, thus growing up their fluency.
- Behavioural and managerial skills: “themed” courses (project management, business communication, etc..) are constantly performed every year.
- Intense professional training: GRS’s in-house trainers ensure to perform (in or own first class training rooms) a quantity of training / coaching hours per year, per person, which, in average, equals to approximately 5% of total agents’ hours.
O: What – if any – challenges do you see to the ongoing growth of the outsourced customer contact industry, and of GRS in particular?
PM: Perhaps one overall challenge could be “intelligently keeping a fair sharing of the value-chain between the brand and the outsourcer”. If brands, under margin pressure, would not care too much about preserving providers’ margins, then the overall providers’ talent pool will potentially, gradually but progressively, be at risk. That would mean reducing quality of the services and would create a very negative circle.
For GRS, specifically, current (and short-term too) key challenge is geographical expansion. This practically means the company has to be able to communicate, and prove with facts, how valuable it could be to source from Romania for UK and French companies, and inside Romania from GRS itself.
O: Finally, what are your personal ambitions for the next few quarters?
PM: To secure for our people, clients, and suppliers, the same enthusiasm and rewarding working environment and atmosphere that they are used to. This will also be the plan for the next few quarters too.
This interview is part of our oNexus Founders series, featuring Q&As with senior figures from partners of Outsource’s oNexus package, and represents part of a commercial agreement between Outsource and the partner, though the Outsource editor retains final editorial control. For more information on the oNexus please contact the editor on firstname.lastname@example.org…