Cordena acquires Teltel

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THE HAGUE, the Netherlands - Cordena Call Center Management last month moved into a fifth country through acquisition of Teltel, a German call center group with subsidiaries in Duisburg and Duesseldorf.

Cordena is building a pan-European network of local call centers that use local languages but are managed centrally out of the Hague. The company was launched last year with the purchase of Hulsink Direct Marketing (HDM)

Jules Kortenhorst, a Harvard-trained Dutch marketing executive, lined up US venture capital financing for the acquisition of HDM located in Almelo, a small Dutch town hard on the German frontier.

The acquisition included call centers in the Netherlands, France and Denmark. This spring Kortenhorst added Exeter-based Saletrac, a British call center and fulfillment house.

Teltel gives Cordena a strong presence in the vital German market. Teltel owns two operating companies - DTS, a center with 250 agents in Duisburg, and Intercall with a 130 seat call center in Duesseldorf.

Both are state of the art facilities, marketing manager Susan Boyle, an American with years of experience in the US market, said. "They are among the nicest sites I have ever seen," she added.

"When a call comes in the screen changes almost instantaneously, literally in a nanosecond, and recognizes the called number, telling the agent what company he needs to respond to.

"They do a lot of customer care for major companies like Johnson Wax and Carglass, a company that replaces automobile panes 24 hours a day." Other clients, she said, include Advance bank and Conrad Electronics.

Both DTS and Intercall are 24 hour a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year operations. "They handle overflow calls for Lands' End and for several other banking clients," Boyle said. Overall Teltel brings 100 new clients to Cordena, which currenlty has about 200 clients.

Although Cordena favors local service delivery - unlike call centers in Ireland and the UK which offer multi-lingual services from one central location - it will handhold US and other foreign clients going from one country to another.

"If a client using our call center in the UK wants to break into the German market our account managers in the Britain will make sure that the client is set up in Germany the way he needs and wants to be handled.

"We look at their needs and requirements and make sure that agents handling the account in Germany, say, are properly trained. We handle reports, payment, fulfillment and all their other needs in a new country.

"That means clients need to come to us only once and don't need to reinvest time and energy into new call centers or fulfillment houses every time they enter a new European market," Boyle said.

Cordena offers standardized reports which currently are done manually "but we are in the process of automating our reporting system and hope to have that completed in a few months."

Fulfillment is handled from the company's Almelo warehouse, an operation that is "advantageous for everybody because the Dutch are more lenient in customs regulation, taxation etc. than are other countries.

"So most of the time it is more cost effective for our clients to warehouse in Holland and to ship to other countries from there." Cordena has added another warehouse to handle returns, and returns, Boyle explained, "can really mess up your warehouse."

While other acquisitions are in the works - one in Austria is close to conclusion - Cordena knows "that we need to grow organically. Some of our US friends got into trouble by only acquiring and not growing organically.

"We need to get more clients under the Cordena name because we have a unique approach that offers not only call centers and response handling, but warehousing, pick and pack, and cash and credit management. Basically we are a sales channel for those wanting to break into Europe.

"Now that we have a good base we will be actively contacting companies in the US interested in Europe."

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