December 22, 2008
TMC ITEXPO Spotlights Presence Technology
By Rich Tehrani
CEO, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC
Presence Technology, a global software company which provides technology to Call Centers, was developed at a large Contact Center Outsourcing Company with a profound understanding of Call Center Operations and the daily needs of companies.
The company’s European headquarters are based in Spain, while the U.S. headquarters are located in Atlanta, where the entire US market is covered, in conjunction with a consolidated, first level partner network.
Apart from Europe and the US, the company's international operations are mainly focused on the South African and Latin American markets, creating powerful alliances with local partners specialized in the Contact Center industry.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with José Luis Castaños, EVP and Founder of Presence Technology:
Are you generally optimistic, Pessimistic or realistic?
Optimistic for sure, as is our company culture! When we work with our customers and partners, we listen to them carefully and execute what they are requesting in a positive, yet realistic way. The whole company has a “Elastic Contact Center” mindset, meaning that not only as it applies to our solution, but in all that we do - we have great flexibility and can address many business operations and process issues unique to the specific clients environment – when we know it is mission critical, we make it happen with a ‘can-do’ attitude.
How many frequent flyer miles have you amassed?
Not really sure, maybe quite a lot because our company is based in Europe, and we currently have clients in over 13 countries around the world.
How surprised are you at the global financial situation?
Not really very much because there were many signals that predicted a slowdown in the Economy. Perhaps I did not expect that this would happen so soon globally, but everything pointed that problems would arrive sooner or later. Economies always have cycles, so what you have to do is adapt your business to your environment or the current situation. You can also find great opportunities when the Economy is not doing well. As an example, collections become very important in a bad financial environment, while it is remains in a secondary place when the Economy is healthy.
Nevertheless, our experience with the financial situation has been different in different countries and continents. From the outside in, a Spain perspective, we have enjoyed great growth and didn’t have a lot of warning until the beginning of 2008; in RSA our business is still growing greatly. In the US we are finding that because our solution has a really strong ROI specific to productivity, the decision to move forward is perhaps delayed and scrutinized, but with demonstrated results and some flexible payment/pay-per-use options, we still are able to implement solutions for clients.
How is your company changing the way it does business as a result?
We have developed several options on payment, because the reality is that companies have to move forward to survive or as we say “Servive” in a call/contact center environment they are taking care of their biggest asset, their customers. They cannot afford to delay everything or there won’t be anything to decide later! Customer service is bigger than ever as a key differentiator as well, so we try to make buying our solution fit the customer’s model and remind them of why they should not skimp on Service.
How have customers reacted to the slowing global markets?
A little bit of wait and see, and ride out the storm but mostly looking internally to find out how they can be more efficient which is great for Presence Technology and our solutions. We have even developed a program with one of our partners around the “hidden contact center” and we talk about “finding your inner contact center.” Bringing the software solutions that contact centers use to a broader set of job titles in a company is a great way to get more efficient and maximize your human capital.
Do you see this time as an opportunity or a rough spot to get through quickly?
Clearly an opportunity; we are increasing our marketing spend in the US, and emphasizing why now, more than ever, customers need to be thinking about THEIR customers.
What will companies need to do to survive this downturn?
Invest in themselves a little and stay the course on strategies they have set – don’t over react, but at the same time, it is an opportunity to clean house a bit and make sure your leadership is top notch, are focused and you are working closely and listening to the needs of your market/customers and partners. Actually, you should always be doing this, but now more than ever.
How do your company’s products help customers in a slow market?
As mentioned earlier, we improve the relationships between our customers and THEIR customers with contact center solutions that are efficient (so productivity gains), easy to implement (minimal downtime) and flexible (change as the company changes – which in this environment, could be significant).
What do you feel is the strongest segment of the communications space? Technology?
Without any doubt, Technology has changed the way that people communicate. Internet, wireless communication, Open Source applications…. All in all, communication is totally different today than only a few years ago. Today we are not just receiving information. We “participate” and decide on what, when and how we communicate. Today we all use the “On Demand TV”, wikis, chat, RSS, twitter, SMS, etc… I think cellular is the strongest segment currently and wireless a huge technological strength.
Which would you rather be president of and why? Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco (News - Alert), the United States.
Well, I know people in all of those places except the Whitehouse, but would have to say Yahoo or Google because they are service companies with technology engines, so they can be very flexible and move with velocity in addressing their markets. They are continuously adapting and creating new businesses with the technology as a base. From the outside, what you perceive is that they are great people and not too impressed with themselves, yet.
What does President Bush need to accomplish before he leaves office?
This is tougher for a European based company, but I would say he needs to apologize and let the world know that the actions of his office were not all bad, and based on information available at the time. And, that in and effort to try to please, they may have missed the mark or opportunities. Also, we all need to be reminded that economies and governments don’t break in a day and can’t be fixed in a day either!
What does an Obama administration need to do to help communications and technology become more pervasive?
Facilitating the access to technology for everybody will make a great difference. Schools and kids are the future of any Nation, so giving them the chance to use technology while they are young will allow them to use Technology as a tool for their challenges in the future.
Will this slowdown present an opportunity to reinvest in your company/market? If so, where will you invest?
I may be redundant here, but we are increasing our spending in programs, not in people – but we use an indirect channel model so that works for us and keeps our margins healthy. Again, we are investing in the US and South Africa as we see lots of opportunity and have a great set of VARs coming on board as well.
Also, customer retention becomes very important in these days – as we know it costs a lot more to get a customer than to keep one. So when we are advising our clients we show them how we can improve productivity, saving them money and time that can be redirected to create great, proactive customer care programs. Customer retention is largely based on the service experience and our solution optimizes that experience.
Which country will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
Again, the US and I would also say South Africa and Latin America in general – in that order. That is also how our targets are allocated for out business plan so my pay depends on it!
What device(s) do you use and wish you used?
I use an iPhone and MAC. I am an Apple fan, but any new device attracts my attention.
If Nokia (News - Alert), RIM, Google and Apple devices are stranded together on an island, who survives and why? Apple, because they are survivors and know how to transform themselves and listen to customers – they have at least 9 lives! They are very lucky.
I understand you are exhibiting at ITEXPO (News - Alert) which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. What will you be showing there?
We are doing live demonstrations of our Presence OpenGate solution with our contact center software suite. We are in the Digium (News - Alert)-Asterisk World section in booth D-15 – Seeing is believing so please stop by!
What sorts of companies/people should come to your exhibit?
Companies who care about their customers, supply help desk support and/or want to find their inner call/contact center- we can help them. Again, Booth D-15 in the Digium-Asterisk world section.
Why should customers choose your company’s solutions – and how do they justify the expense to management?
We have a very complete call/contact center solution suite that is modular and integrates with ANY PBX (News - Alert) or can standalone with our Presence OpenGate solution. The cost justification will come from three key areas Productivity gains, improved customer sat, agent interface (usability) and retention.
I am a purchasing decision-maker, why do I need to speak with you before I buy?
You may be being told that you have to buy all new PBX systems and upgrade pieces of your solution that you really may not need to at this time. Presence Technology and our partners help you make the most of what you have purchased and implement a solution whose lifecycle is not dependant on any other pieces of the solution. You would be foolish not to talk to us first...
What is your favorite part of your job?
Meeting with customers and helping them improve their business in large or small ways. It always amazes me that so many companies don’t know how to get the most out of their contact center or agents and with just a few changes we can have a great impact. I enjoy the discovery, listening and then demonstrating how we can help. I spent many years in the IT and operations side of the largest outsource call center in Spain, so I know their pain!
What do you look forward to in the future and why?
To become a reference company in the manufacturing of Contact Center software, our objective is to penetrate the main international markets and ensure the sustainable profitability through continued growth. Our customers are at the center of our priorities, and our products have been developed to guarantee that we meet that goal.
And the day when, really, “everybody is an agent” in business! Think about it – we will all be connected, knowledgeable and productive! Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Jessica Kostek