ClientLogic Buys Pan-European Call Center Firm

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THE HAGUE/NASHVILLE, TN - ClientLogic last month bought Cordena Call Management in a major expansion of the Nashville-based company's European operations. Dutch-based Cordena has call centers in seven European countries.

Jules Kortenhorst created Cordena in 1997 through acquisition of Hulsink Direct Marketing, a major DM company with extensive warehouse and fulfillment facilities in Almalo, a Dutch town on the German border.

He went on to acquire call center companies in Germany, the UK, Austria and Switzerland, a startup in Norway, and, following the merger, a French company, Groupe Adverbe, in Paris.

ClientLogic was formed in 1998 when parent company Onex put together North Direct Response, a Toronto company it owned already, with Softbank Services, a firm it bought last year from Softbank, a Japanese company with extensive foreign holdings.

Among other assets that Softbank Services brought to the merger are call center companies in Dublin and Watford outside London. Dublin is a pan-European operation, the Watford facility services clients in the UK.

"Two reasons for our moving overseas," said Bob Fetter, ClientLogic's chief marketing officer, said. "First, our client base in the US wants global service providers.

"Most of them are large e-commerce companies that have built substantial US businesses and are now moving to Europe. And secondly, the whole Internet commerce business is moving into Europe very quickly.

"We've been looking in Europe for about six months trying to determine whether our best bet was to build or buy and Cordena just proved a good fit. We have services they don't, like database marketing, which we will push.

"People moving online in Europe are either startups or spin-offs from existing companies and neither has a strong marketing or customer relationship focus, concentrating instead on customer acquisition.

"We offer a full range of end-to-end customer relationship services - everything from backend warehousing of goods, inventory, and shipping to post sale order requests, database building and marketing strategies."

SalesLogic will take over Cordena's European clients to add to "some of our own" and will look harder to find more of them. "Europe is making a strong Internet push and we are looking for European clients," Fetter said.

For Cordena, "this is a tremendous opportunity," Kortenhorst said. "We ran into each other three months ago and came to the conclusion that we were mirror images of each other on two sides of the Atlantic."

Both companies, he added, are committed to providing "global solutions in the new economy," which Kortenhorst defined as business based in cyberspace.

Kortenhorst noted two important changes in the call center business. The first is the advent of the Internet, which has caused a shift from traditional speech-based call centers to "true multimedia contact centers."

The second change is the growing realization in Europe that outsourced service providers need to offer higher value-added and higher quality services.

"We need to migrate to higher value-added integrated services in order to make money. Don't just take first line calls with quick transaction handling but offer second and third line support.

"Do more with your clients' data. Analyze data files and you carry transactions beyond merely processing orders to fulfillment, cash and credit management and other advanced service options."

Cordena's name was at once changed to ClientLogic but the company's European headquarters will remain in The Hague. The Netherlands was an early adopter of the Internet and is "an excellent location both from the logistics and tax and infrastructure point of view," Kortenhorst said.

While the country has long been a hub of pan-European activities, the rush of Internet-based companies is new. ClientLogic and @home are only a few of the US Internet companies moving into Holland to set up operations.

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