Irish Examiner Article: “Arema’s shared platform keeps lid on costs”

Silvia Planella/ July 7, 2017/ blog

Money and Jobs Arema Connect article in the Irish Examiner
PDF version here: Arema Examiner Article July 2017.pdf

Transcript:
Arema’s shared platform keeps lid on costs
My job: Pat Keogh
In conversation with John Daly

Having established Arema Connect’s parent company, Key Answering Systems Group, in 2001, Pat Keogh has since grown the group into a multi million pound business with operations in the UK and Ireland.

“Our fundamental objective was to reduce our clients’ administration and receptionist costs by offering a shared agent platform,” said Keogh. “We rebranded to Call Management in 2004 and our relocation to larger offices enabled us to consolidate and expand our service offering to 24/7 support.”

Responding to client demand, the company subsequently broadened its service offering to include market research projects, which included customer satisfaction surveys and bespoke database management.

“Our client portfolio has grown extensively to include clients from all corners of the world, ranging from our initial SME sector to large multinational companies based in America, Britain, France and Australia.”

In 2012, the company was nominated for the European Business Awards, Small Firm Awards and Irish Sales Champion Awards.

“Call management has grown significantly over the last 17 years, and we have developed expertise in managing customer contacts through email, social media and live chat, in addition to our 24/7 telephone answering service.
This multi-channel approach meant that we decided to re-brand and launch Arema Connect in 2013 to reflect the growth in technology-based solutions within the Customer Relationship Management field.”

Having previously worked with Imagine Telecoms, Diageo, Showerings and James Adams Vintners, Mr Keogh is responsible for the strategic direction of Arema Connect, while also maintaining a direct involvement in the day-today running of the business.
The company was awarded the ‘Highly Commended’ Best Growing Call Centre in 2014 by the Contact Centre Management Association.
“We are opening our second office in Blackpool this month, and we will be recruiting up to 50 customer support agents to support our clients in the UK, USA and Australian market,” he says of the company’s current trajectory.

“The last four years have been extremely positive for Arema Connect in terms of growth and employment, and we have doubled our turnover in that period and increased our manpower to 55 full-time employees. This has been achieved by developing long-lasting relationships with national and international clients.”

The company’s business plan of 17 years ago is very different to the services it offers today, he explains: “A number of key elements have changed since 2001, including the services that we provide, our processes, technology and workforce. Initially, we focused entirely on telephone answering services and our primary market was the SME sector. Our client base now is very different, allowing us to provide Omni-channel customer support to national and international clients.”

Technological advances and customer needs have a major impact in their market sector, he says:

“In order to be competitive and offer our clients what they need we have a host of new services including e-mail handling, webchat support, social media monitoring, market research, database management and administrative support. A lot of our clients would know us as ‘Call Management’, but we have outgrown the name as we no longer handle calls only. The easiest path to growth is creating new business from existing clients and we realised a few years ago that the name needed to be changed to reflect our current and future positioning. We now trade under the name Arema Connect so that we can promote our company and develop a well-known brand from Cork.”

With the telecoms industry having changed immeasurably over the last 17 years, Arema Connect can now source telephone numbers from all over the world at competitive rates. “Call recording is now standard, as is fast reliable broadband — which is imperative for our business. In order to stay competitive, it is essential to keep up to date on new technologies, and social media has had a huge impact on our business both as an opportunity for growth and as a service level metric.”

Choosing Cork as its geographical centre has benefited the continued growth of the company, he says:

“Cork was always the only option for us and we moved to a purpose-built space at The Atrium Building in Blackpool in 2008 to allow for future growth, as well as proximity to the city. Cork is a vibrant city with a large pool of potential clients and staff, and we are extremely fortunate to have so many excellent 3rd level institutions here and continue to work closely with them on various projects. There is a very strong customer base in Cork and we try and source our own suppliers from Cork as much as possible.”

In a business dedicated to providing customer relationship management support, employees are the company’s most important resource. “We started with three staff in 2001, and now we are 55 full-time employees — which will rise to 90 by next October.”

Arema Connect recruits from various sources, including referrals from existing staff, universities, online and recruitment agencies, and have a dedicated training support team where all new recruits are given extensive training prior to joining the frontline team.

“The sector is competitive and in order to combat this, the larger business process outsourcers specialise in a specific market sector and gain economies of scale. We are proud to be part of the Crios Group, which was set up in 2012 by 10 of the largest BPO’s in Ireland in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland.
“The main aim of the Crios Group is to attract international clients looking to outsource and put Ireland on the map as a potential solution. So, in effect, we are working with our perceived competitors for the benefit of Ireland and job creation. The outsourcing of social media monitoring is going to be a huge growth area over the next few years,” he predicts. “Customer support via video for technical support queries will have to be factored in as well.” So far, 2017 has been extremely positive for the company and puts it on target to increase sales turnover by 33%, compared to 2016.
“In order to service one of our largest clients we are in the process of opening a second office with a capacity of 60 additional seats, and we will be concentrating on the American market in the short and medium term. The main aim
is to work with American companies looking to export to Europe and UK, where we have the experience and the knowledge to assist them in all aspects of their CRM requirements.”

Looking to the future, Pat Keogh is quite optimistic: “Thankfully, our client base in Cork is getting stronger, so there certainly is an upturn and long may it continue.”