Five Star Call Centers
Customer service experts
Business View Magazine interviews Joel Sylvester, CMO, and Troy Holt, COO, of Five Star Call Centers, for our focus on Fastest Growing Companies in the U.S.
For over 35 years, Five Star Call Centers has been providing exceptional results as an outsourced contact center, specializing in high-quality customer service, sales, and technical/product support. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the award-winning Five Star team is passionate about building relationships and collaborating on solutions (inbound, outbound, chat, email, social media, and technology) that allow their clients to succeed by building customer loyalty through an outstanding customer experience.
Parent company, Lawrence & Schiller (L&S), was founded in 1976 as a provider of traditional marketing services and launched its TeleServices division in 1987 to fill the need for quality call center services. By 1998, L&S had moved to a 125-seat facility, then, after a succession of acquisitions, relocated to a state-of-the-art 250-seat facility in 2006. Six years later, a new leadership team was brought in to manage the business. Rapid growth ensued when Troy Holt, Chief Operations Officer, Ray Paterson, Chief Customer Officer, and Joel Sylvester, Chief Marketing Officer, created a strategic plan with the goal to be the most proactive call center in the country. These executives have over 60 years of experience in the call center space, managing global call center operations and multi-disciplinary teams. They have invested heavily into the company and will own 100 percent of Five Star Call Centers by 2022.
By 2015, Five Star Call Centers had doubled in size and added a location in North Sioux City, SD, allowing the business to scale up and down, increasing capacity as needed. Next came acquisition of another call center in Sioux Falls, SD, which included Midco Connections in Fargo, ND, as well. Midco Connections offered BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) services to some of the largest retail companies in the country and was a great synergistic partnership for L&S right from the start. Five Star opened in its fourth market in Wichita, KS in 2017. By creating strategic, long-lasting relationships with clients, the company has grown from $3.2 to $21 million in annual revenue since 2012, and continues to thrive.
According to Sylvester, “Sioux Falls, our headquarters, is definitely a call center town. Several major banking institutions and insurance companies have customer service centers here. You have the mid-west values and work ethic, and it’s a very favorable tax climate with a relatively inexpensive cost of living. Today, we have about 800 seats and we focus purely on inbound, world-class, customer support and service.”
Inbound services include live chat and email. Five Star also consults with clients to develop programs such as Net Promoter Score Evaluations and Voice of the Customer. Sylvester notes, “We’ve seen great growth over the last 10 years because companies are truly starting to value and understand that if you create a product, it’s probably going to be ripped off within a year, but world-class customer service is difficult to replicate and it’s something that customers have come to expect.” He is excited to see businesses of all sizes making changes. Chief Marketing Officers have become Chief Customer Experience Officers or Chief Customer Success Officers. Companies that 10 years ago were talking about efficiency and cost are focusing more on the customer experience and great customer service.
Five Star Call Centers has about 500 full-time employees and will bring in 500 to 600 team members to cover seasonal spikes during holidays and tax time, when their clients have short term needs. “We’re passionate about providing the best processes and solutions to our partners,” says Sylvester, “and that resonates from our hiring process to our onboarding training throughout. Among our 30 management leaders, we have more than 500 years of customer service experience. We focus on results. We think winners keep score, and we do keep score. The type of employees we bring on react to that. They want to win, whether that metric is first-call resolution, or people continuing to do business with us, or whatever the case may be. We track those things real time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Because we have proven results, we are trusted, and the largest source of our business is referrals.”
The call center business is a fairly small, well-connected group. They know each other, and while they could be competitors, there’s a right fit – culturally and organizationally – for everybody. Five Star turns down more prospects than they take on; preferring to stay where they’re providing great customer service, and innovating, and creating best-in-class processes. For potential customers wanting more of a transactional model, or cheaper model, Five Star refers them to partners in the space that align better with that business model.
Operating in a handful of different industries, from healthcare, to financial services, retail, manufacturing, and hospitality, Five Star Call Centers gleans best practices from each of those and applies them where it makes sense. As Sylvester explains, “Maybe a hospitality client has a really good idea, but one of our banking clients can put that into place, as well. At trade shows, we not only tell our story, but learn about what’s going on in the industry and identify ways we could implement that for our existing partners and new partners coming onboard.”
Net Promoter Score and Voice of the Customer has become a key part of marketing. If you manufacture a product that has the best Net Promoter Score in the industry, you’re able to move your space up in retail; Amazon will highlight you. So, Five Star listens closely to actual callers to provide actionable Score results that their partners can utilize. “We are the eyes and ears of our customers, and we’ve made great strides there in the last 24 months,” Sylvester states. “From a tech standpoint, understanding how we can utilize AI and automation is important, but doing it in such a way that’s enhancing the customer experience. Along with cutting operational costs, it allows customers to answer more quickly.”
Holt agrees, adding, “We’re extremely pleased about our partnership with Mitel. We’ve worked with them for seven years. The investments they’re making in phone technology R&D (they are Google’s primary partners in the call center space) to focus on AI, are really helping call centers manage the experience for our team members. We’re well known within the Mitel organization for the innovative ways we use their full suite of products – IVR, chat, email management, messaging, etc. – that companies who outsource to us expect these days.”
The future outlook for Five Star Call Centers is full of positivity, with expectations to double the size of the company by 2025. Sylvester credits a variety of reasons for their huge success and growth: “We have an amazing team; many people have been here for decades. They are so invested in helping every single caller and protecting the brands we represent. I’m impressed that each location and group has its own personality. We’re like a family. That’s a fun piece of it. The second thing is our amazing partners that go the extra mile to give us the tools and resources we need to help every caller, emailer, and chatter.”
Holt concurs. “From a culture standpoint, we have a lot of fun here. We’re committed to our team and encourage team members to make a space of their own. Culture is what we’re building our brand on. Without our good people and the longevity of our team, it’s difficult to grow a business these days. And we have the best.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Five Star Call Centers
WHAT: Multi-disciplined, global reach call center operation
WHERE: Sioux Falls, South Dakota