By Holly Riddle
If you think “business process outsourcing” (BPO) and think of call centers and IT, you may be missing the breadth of the concept. Organizations outsource a wide range of the processes that help them continue business as normal, from marketing to design, manufacturing to CX. Here’s a look at how a few national organizations have outsourced some of their key processes to Happy Valley companies.
White glove and world-class
AccuWeather, headquartered in State College, has its consumer-facing services that it’s known for, but there’s another side to the more-than-60-year-old company that directly impacts business and industry around the United States.
According to AccuWeather senior vice president and chief meteorologist, Jonathan Porter, “When you think about BPO, most people think about it specifically as it relates to some of the more widely known corporate back-office functions — things like legal, HR, finance, et cetera — but the services that AccuWeather provides to other businesses are truly white-glove, world-class weather forecasting and warning capabilities. We’re their outsourced weather provider.”
Porter noted that, in a world where businesses are more and more impacted by severe weather events, businesses are increasingly considering how weather might impact their safety, risk, liability and business continuity. As such, AccuWeather steps in and provides services tailored to clients’ needs and criteria.
“Think about an [outdoor] concert venue,” Porter explained. “They obviously have a significant concern around lightning. They need to be extra-aware of any lightning threat within a specific area around their venue, so they can take appropriate actions — stopping the show, sheltering guests and performers, making sure everyone’s safe. They have a very different risk profile than, for example, a hospital that might be very sensitive to a tornado threat, flooding or a blizzard. Each customer has very specific needs and criteria, and our experts are watching those locations and their weather threats, 24/7, and sending the most accurate and pinpointed weather warnings right to those facilities, right to the decision-makers.”
In addition to receiving weather warnings tailored to their needs, clients can also contact an AccuWeather operations center to speak with experts for on-demand consultations.
AccuWeather also works with clients to help them prepare for severe weather in advance of a blizzard, ice storm, hurricane or flooding.
“In those situations, our expert meteorologists will present in an operations call with our customers and possibly their business continuity, operations or HR teams,” described Porter. “They have an all-hands call with the folks responsible for emergency management and operational decisions, about what they’re going to do at each of their affected locations in advance of the storm. We provide extra information about the forecast, answering questions and speaking about the weather threat in the customer’s operating language enabling our customer to have the confidence to make the best decision every time.”
Today, AccuWeather provides white-glove weather outsourcing services to over half of Fortune 500 firms and thousands of other companies across varying sectors including transportation, utilities, retail, insurance and healthcare.
AccuWeather experts protect business locations from weather threats 24/7, with safety plans and procedures tailored to a company’s specific business needs.
Developing a customer success ecosystem
In Bellefonte, Homeland Manufacturing Services serves a range of industries, from medical to industrial sensors. President and CEO John Bonislawski noted that, at least in manufacturing and production, stateside BPO providers — Homeland Manufacturing Services included — have benefited over the last few years, as the Covid-19 pandemic shed a light on the volatility of a global supply chain.
People talk about developing an ecosystem here in Centre County…and we actually did it. We’ve helped each other’s businesses grow.
He said, “We were invited to a global supplier symposium where they talked all about the threat of manufacturing in China, Taiwan and Asia in general... I’m seeing that, with some large OEMs, there’s that trend to bring production closer to their facilities in the U.S., as opposed to offshoring everything. Based on the conversations I’ve had with customers, there’s a real fear of what could happen to supply chains.”
This trend has allowed Homeland Manufacturing Services to recently sign on as a significant supplier to a large global company.
In providing manufacturing services to clients around the country, there are a few Happy Valley-born elements that have played into Homeland Manufacturing Services’ success, such as the Penn State network and, in one case, having similar BPO firms nearby. Bonislawski noted frequent collaborations with electrical engineering design firm Warlowe LLC.
He described, “The two principles [at Warlowe] came to me years ago. They both had worked for companies that were my customers and they said, ‘Hey, we have this idea to start this business.’ We talked and I brought them their first customer, and we’ve closely collaborated ever since. People talk about developing an ecosystem here in Centre County…and we actually did it. We’ve helped each other’s businesses grow. I bring them business all the time and they bring me business all the time.”
Of the firm, co-founder Chris Wharton explained, “We work with different companies all throughout different industries. We take their concepts and design a product for them.” Warlowe’s client base stretches across the country and touches a range of industries, including medical, solar, avionics and more. The team also works with some of the area transducer companies, with Wharton calling Happy Valley “a hot bed for transducers.”
Bonislawski added, “When we started working together, I immediately recognized that we could offer the complete package to the customer…Homeland focuses on manufacturing. Warlowe focuses on design and engineering. We work independently with the customers and it’s worked really well.”
Perhaps this symbiotic relationship is in part due to both companies’ dedication to a high-quality experience, something that has resulted in both Bonislawski and Wharton admitting that neither has advertised their business. Their growth has purely come from word of mouth and client success stories.
Wharton gave an example of such success stories: “Quite a few customers have been on the brink of not being a company anymore, because they went with some other design group and were almost out of money. Then, we came in at the 11th hour and fixed their project up, completely redid it, sent it to Homeland, and now they’re in good standing and have working projects.”
All roads lead to Happy Valley
For AccuWeather, Homeland and Warlowe, the BPO opportunities are only increasing.
According to Porter, “Business leaders are increasingly realizing that, both from the revenue side of their business, as well as mitigating costs [and] liability, and enhancing safety, they have to take weather seriously…We’re seeing demand and expanding interest from many different sectors.”
Wharton added that his team is looking forward to steady, continual growth in the year ahead and, at Homeland Manufacturing Services, Bonislawski noted that the only thing standing in the way of the company’s growth has been getting enough talent to take on new and available business.
These three companies, however, only scratch the surface of BPO firms in the region — proving that, when it comes to achieving customer success, for many, all roads lead to Happy Valley.