STARTEK Inc.’s employees are not only agents for its clients, but “brand warriors,” Director of Supply Chain Lori Gallegos says. “We are really out there, living, breathing and promoting a customer’s brand.”

STARTEK provides customer care, sales support, order processing, receivables management, technical support and additional services for the telecom, cable, retail and healthcare sectors. The firm started in 1987, performing packaging and fulfillment services for Hewlett-Packard Development Co. L.P. and Microsoft.

“As we were doing fulfillment for them, we started taking customer service calls,” Gallegos explains. In 1995, STARTEK made the move to being a provider of comprehensive customer care service solutions.

Today, STARTEK has 15 locations in the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras and the Philippines, and its clients include many Fortune 500 firms that often require customized services. “We don’t ever take a cookie-cutter approach [to services],” she asserts. “That’s what keeps customers coming back.”

Fast and Flexible

STARTEK has to stay flexible to meet its clients’ needs, Marketing Director Rosemary Hanratty says. “That’s the state of the market these days,” she asserts. For instance, STARTEK has to be ready when a new customer comes on board, Gallegos says.

This requires STARTEK to hire and train its agents and open a new service site quickly. “We’ve brought up sites in about 60 to 90 days with 300 agents,” she says.

STARTEK also has to employ suppliers that make sure it has the proper supplies for these moves, ranging from trash cans to telephone headsets to software licensing. “You don’t have a lot of time to prepare,” Gallegos admits. “You have to go out and source suppliers that can respond quickly and [efficiently].”

Back to Fundamentals

Gallegos joined STARTEK in December 2012 and has since worked to implement strategies to make its supply chain more holistic, rather than each site acting independently. Previously, “We had a lot of decentralized processes,” she admits.

“A lot of our individual sites were doing their own thing, [such as] writing their own contracts and sourcing their own suppliers,” she says. Many, she notes, did not even see themselves as part of a supply chain.

Her changes have included bringing different organizations and sites together and developing an authorization matrix for STARTEK’s supply chain. The company is about to introduce a preferred supplier program.

“We’re really just getting back to some of the fundamentals of the supply chain and really trying to integrate the different organizations,” she says. This helps STARTEK’s departments move away from silo thinking and view the supply chain more holistically, promoting key supplier partnerships and volume pricing.

Because of this old mentality, many issues often did not get resolved, Gallegos says. “It’s really [about] trying to assess what’s going on across the entire supply chain and thinking more as a whole,” she says.

Many issues have been resolved, and it has retained some suppliers while replacing others with partners that are a better fit with its supply chain vision. “We’ve been really looking for companies to partner with [that share our vision],” she says. STARTEK also has saved money, and its suppliers’ performance has improved. “It’s been a mutually beneficial progression,” she says.

Strategies for the Future

STARTEK will continue providing quality services, Hanratty vows. “If we do a good job, we will grow,” she declares. “Our strategy is to operate well and deliver for our clients.”

The company also plans to enter new markets, as it did recently with the healthcare industry. “Healthcare is a complex growth industry; we are experiencing an increased need for outsource services.”

Gallegos predicts more changes ahead for STARTEK’s supply chain. “We’re still trying some new things,” she says, noting that this includes reworking its procurement policy. “Within the next six to 12 months, our supply chain will not resemble the supply chain we had a year ago. We will be delivering maximum value to our internal customers, delivering quality products and services when they are needed, in a consistent manner, at lower prices, in addition to visibility into each organization’s [spending] with value-added suggestions of how they can continue to optimize this spend. This will continue to keep STARTEK competitive.”

When finished, the new system should be “well defined, well documented [and work] well for the company,” she says, adding that STARTEK also wants to have “a smaller group of preferred suppliers that we have more established relationships with.

“We want to identify fewer, key suppliers that are trusted partners with us – they need to understand our business model, our customers, and bring competitive pricing and value added services to the relationship,” she elaborates. “STARTEK in turn will reward them with more business and help them remain profitable.” ­­­