Points of View

Sykes Buys ClearLink to Target Omnichannel: But can it Integrate the Pieces?

Mar 10, 2016 Melissa O'Brien

The blending of digital and offline worlds, as well as bridging gaps between phases of the customer lifecycle is a challenge and opportunity for all involved in the customer experience ecosystem, as we examined in Omnichannel Customer Experience: Moving Beyond the Hype.


With all the possibilities for understanding and reaching the digital customer, service providers are eager to gain digital marketing capabilities to help clients capitalize on this wealth of information. Sykes is the latest service provider to follow this trend, with its acquisition of ClearLink, a digital marketing agency specializing in search, demand generation, and lead conversion, bringing the capability to help convert marketing leads into sales.


This combination of integrated digital marketing and sales generation from ClearLink, combined with Sykes’ core contact center expertise, creates the potential for an end-to-end customer lifecycle offering. This should enable Sykes to help clients develop a digital customer experience strategy that can elevate the role of contact center operators in growing the businesses they support.


Because contact center operators are already deeply embedded in their clients’ customer centric processes, they are in an advantageous position for marketing services as well. As the lines between sales, marketing and service continue to blur, the opportunity for contact center service providers increases, with the potential to change the dynamic of contact center operations. Helping enterprises turn leads into sales can pivot engagements to a performance-based model, and shift the contact center from a cost center to a revenue center.


One major issue Sykes and other contact center operators developing these capabilities should be aware of is ensuring talent development and incentives are aligned to taking advantage of these opportunities. Adding marketing analytics and insight to traditional contact center operations will require more skills from agents to use the information and tools at their disposal to improve customer experience and drive sales. Service providers will need to implement different hiring, training, and performance management initiatives to address this change, and ensure the sales and the care are truly connected in a way that creates value for the business and the customer.  


Most of Sykes’ largest competitors have a version of this strategy, whether through internal development of digital capabilities, partnerships, or acquisitions. The most notable similar acquisition in this space was TeleTech’s WebMetro acquisition in 2013. This also echoes a trend in the larger services industry where all the large providers are also gobbling up various digital agencies, most recently with Deloitte Digital’s acquisition of Heat and Capgemini with Fahrenheit 212. We believe a common goal of these acquisitions is greater ownership of the customer experience to ultimately drive return on the business processes being managed. As these acquisitions continue, it is the service providers’ integration of these new capabilities into existing service offerings that will create clarity and differentiation in this digital ecosystem.