When Chris Conway criticizes government intervention in business, it may surprise you to know he isn't talking about federal and state restrictions placed on telemarketers.
“ ‘Do Not Call’ and other regulations have been in place for more than a decade,” said Conway, executive vice president and chief financial officer of DialAmerica Marketing. “We’ve learned to live with that.”
What DialAmerica is wrestling with now are two other forms of government action: talk about hiking the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour, and increased expenses as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
DialAmerica, a Mahwah-based, family-owned company, has long been a force in the telemarketing industry. Today it has 22 contact centers across 13 states and a workforce of 4,500, averaging 200 million calls a year — and it’s No. 62 on this year’s NJBIZ Top 100 Privately Held Companies list.
The firm provides outbound services, or sales calls; inbound services such as customer support centers; and other sales and marketing solutions to a range of industries. It had $134 million in revenue in 2013, according to NJBIZ data, a decline of about 3 percent from 2012.
Raising the minimum wage is a hot-button issue for DialAmerica, given the trend for telemarketing services to go offshore to take advantage of lower labor costs. All of DialAmerica’s contact center agents are U.S.-based — a setup with many advantages, but one that comes at a price:
“We currently average pay of $9.75 to $10 an hour for our agents, but a shift above that would dramatically limit our ability to incentivize them,” Conway said.
As for the Affordable Care Act, the company is anticipating $400,000 to $1.2 million in additional expenses.
Business challenges notwithstanding, DialAmerica thinks it can prevail in the notoriously volatile telemarketing industry for one major reason: its ability to deliver superior service.
“We don’t view our business as a commodity, but as a value-added service,” Conway said. “We try to act as an extension of our clients — for example, offering insights into their business based on what we learn during client calls.”
In fact, DialAmerica coined the term “ThinSourcing” to describe its approach to client calls. The company says it offers the expertise of an in-house staff for a lower cost, creating what it says is a “thin line” between insourcing and outsourcing for its clients.
As a private company, Conway said, DialAmerica has the ability to invest its money in a way that’s good for the company’s long-term prospects. One priority is technology infrastructure and staff.
“Sometimes the people you have doing the program is a more important factor than the technology itself,” he said. “Also, we’ve chosen a platform with a very open architecture that allows us to be creative. As a result, our differentiator has been the ability to address client challenges quickly, whether that means integrating with an existing system or creating a complex voice-response scenario.”
Another area of investment is training for call center agents. The company has client teams “that focus on different verticals and are continually educating themselves by going to trade shows, seminars and so on.
“This is particularly important for very complex fields like health care and financial services, which have ever-changing guidelines that affect how call centers can be managed,” he said. “We do our due diligence so we can educate our agents.”
Finally, there’s the fact that Dial- America operates only out of domestic facilities, employing U.S. residents. The company says this setup allows it to provide better customer service, which in turn enables companies to create and maintain good long-term customer relationships.
“We can show our clients the value of our services through a variety of metrics, such as a yield basis or a cost-per-order basis,” Conway said.
Moving offshore to cut costs, however, is not in the cards for DialAmerica.
“Is there any American consumer who thinks to himself, ‘Boy, I really hope I get connected to one of those offshore centers so I can get my problem solved?’ ” Conway said.
#62 DialAmerica Marketing
Leader: Arthur Conway
2013 revenue: $134 million
Last year’s ranking: 58