This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.
A long and circuitous path that has taken CGS from it’s beginnings several decades ago to where it is today, but the company is now a worldwide entity with $200 million in revenue.
CGS President and CEO Phil Friedman came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union by way of Italy in 1976. Along the way he experienced a wonderful thing called pizza, and he cooked up an idea to bring the food to the American public. What he didn’t know was that pizza already had arrived on U.S. shores years earlier.
So Friedman instead got job at now-defunct apparel manufacturer Charles Greenburg & Sons, where he installed a homegrown inventory system. IBM (News - Alert) got wind of this and started showing its prospects the product. Friedman, understanding there was a market for this kind of thing, approached his employer, offering Charles Greenburg management an offer of his resignation and his desire to take sell services back to the company. His then-employer agreed, but said they wanted to his new enterprise to include the name of Charles Greenburg, so Friedman called his organization CGS.
CGS started out selling inventory solutions to the apparel vertical -- a business in which it remains to this day. About 25 years ago it expanded into the call center space by providing a solution on this front to IBM in Atlanta.
Today, CGS operates 4,500 contact centers. This part of the company’s business now accounts for 55 percent of its revenue.
Tom Christenson, president of the contact center division for CGS, who conveyed the above story to CUSTOMER magazine in a February interview, said that CGS’s outsourced contact center business has traditionally focused on blue chip clients that have special language requirements. Among the companies using CGS contact center and BPO services including help desk and tech support are Avon, Cuisinart, Dell, Fuji-Film, Honeywell, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and Sprint (News - Alert).
Dell and IBM are key CGS go-to-market partners that deliver the company’s help desk offer as part of their broader portfolios. CGS also has a direct sales force selling into this market.
However, the company is working to expand its reach even further in an effort to rev up growth, says Christenson.
It’s doing that by expanding its business to also target mid-market customers; moving into new geographic markets; and retooling its strategy to be more proactive in reaching out to customers and prospects.
Christenson joined CGS last May to help move this strategy forward.
The company prides itself on its ability to offer services in a wide range of languages (18 and counting), its geographic reach (seven locations in North America, Europe and South America), and its local flavor. CGS services U.S. customers domestically, and all its non-U.S. centers have local businesses that speak in the native tongue. And Christenson says that the high level of expertise that CGS contact center/help desk reps possess speaks to the needs of today’s businesses, which are looking for a contact center partner that can engage with customers in a way that’s higher value add and multichannel.
To date, CGS has been relatively quiet about these differentiators, relying on word-of-mouth and distribution partners, says Christenson. While the company has had a direct sales force in the past, he adds, many of those individuals came from big companies and were move accustomed to wining and dining customers than closing the deal. Starting last year, however, CGS began building a sales team that is proactive in matching solutions to customers. The company is also investing in an outbound marketing campaign focused a spreading the message via e-mail and phone campaigns, the press, as and trade shows. Vertical targets of the marketing effort include consumer products and technology, financial services, hospitality and retail.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi