Brigade Corporation, a San Francisco, California BPO supplier, opened its doors in 1998 as a customer relationship management (CRM) vendor. Today Ray Bayley, the company's new chairman and CEO, wants to add other stakeholders to the mix.
"We're good at taking care of customers. We have the skills and the software to manage relationships between our clients and their customers. Now we want to take what we know and extend that expertise to a corporation's other key stakeholders: employees, investors and suppliers," explains Bayley.
The company's four founders opened their doors to provide CRM services to American companies using call centers in India. Major corporations like Compaq outsource their email customer response services to Brigade.
Enter Bayley, who joined Brigade in July 2001. Bayley has been in BPO before BPO was cool (15 years); he became a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partner when the accounting firm purchased his company. As its North American leader, he grew the PwC's BPO business to annual revenues of $500 million.
Having long observed the BPO landscape, Bayley felt CRM should be expanded to ERM (Enterprise Relationship Management) and then to BPO. The common denominator is managing relationships. All have rules-based processes associated with them that allow a supplier "to manage relationships across the enterprise," he explains.
For example, he sees little distinction between email help in the CRM realm, an IT help desk, or providing a finance and accounting process, if it's his job to take care of employees.
Executing the Strategy In India
The key to being successful is having offices offshore. Like many American outsourcing suppliers who choose to use employees in other countries, Brigade's executives were attracted to India because they felt they "could provide higher quality service and far better productivity at a cost advantage," explains Bayley. The company currently has over 500 people in India working at operations centers in Hyderabad and Chennai.
While American suppliers often have difficulty staffing contact centers, Brigade was able to staff its Indian centers with college graduates. In fact, 60 percent of the people who answer emails have graduate degrees. He says on average his staff has completed almost 18 years of schooling. He contends U.S. contact centers typically average just 15 years of education, 20 percent less than his Indian employees.
Bayley points out the company's strategy included Indian offices from its inception. "We didn't purchase an Indian supplier when we determined its employees offered advantages. Operating in India was a key component of the initial strategy," he says.
Brigade's Acquisition Strategy
Bayley's plan to transform Brigade into an ERM and BPO player is to purchase shared services operations in North America. Brigade then plans to leverage their capabilities by sending some of the work to India as well as changing the work culture of the operations here. The goal is to increase the productivity at the shared services center to generate surplus capacity that Brigade can sell to the marketplace.
General Atlantic Partners, a venture capital firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut, committed $50 million this year to fund these acquisitions.
So far Bayley says Brigade has had a positive response from shared services executives who will consider selling their operations to him. "We have the ability to help them capture the hidden value of their operations as well as enhance the value of the company by potentially increasing its share price," he says.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- A move to India created an integrated global delivery system that allowed Brigade to have highly educated employees handle CRM duties.
- Brigade is expanding its CRM work into ERM and BPO to include suppliers, employees and investors as well as customers. A successful company must manage it relationships with all four groups.
- Brigade plans to grow by acquiring other shared services centers in North America.