Milena Ramcheva, CEO, on the advantages of outsourcing logistics and customer service
Business growth is the thing each company aims at, but selling more goes hand in hand with enlarging storage capacity, enhancing logistics, hiring more people, and implementing new processes. The shortcut to making this happen in a fast and effective manner is finding a partner who can do it for you. Metrica is an agency profiled in marketing and logistic solutions with a rich palette of services that help businesses enter new markets and build a strong and effective connection with their customers. We are talking with Milena Ramcheva, CEO, about the advantages of outsourcing, the power of expertise, and the talent to find solutions. Milena Ramcheva is a graduate of North-West College of London and has impressive professional experience, which includes leading marketing positions at companies like Reader’s Digest and Blue Fox.
What are the advantages of outsourced logistics and customer service?
One of the biggest advantages is that we transform fixed costs into variable costs – you pay for what has been serviced. When you build your own logistics or your own customer service department, there are rented premises, software applications to be used and full licenses to be paid for, regardless of the number of orders you have or the number of calls to be made. You have a permanent staff that needs to be kept busy, even if you have fewer sales at a point. And in case of a rise in sales, you need to look for and hire new employees. The other significant plus of outsourced logistics and customer service is the fact that in this case, you are leveraging the expertise of many people who have accumulated experience and expertise over time working on different projects and can provide new and diverse solutions.
In most cases, companies that are profiled in logistics and customer service own specialised software and have developed effective operation processes. Behind the infrastructure that is being built, behind the human resources, behind the software, there is actually an overall system of processes that connects it all. Specialised companies have already built these processes. And you don't have to start everything from scratch and look for ways for improvement and optimisation because someone has already done it. These are part of the strengths of outsourced logistics and customer service.
What kinds of businesses choose such services?
There are no limits regarding the industry. In order to have an outsourced logistics service, you must have a product that needs to be stored and shipped accordingly to the customers who use it. They can be both end customers and business clients. Our logistics works with both end customer and businesses, and we store all types of goods, except those that require specific temperature conditions. This is the particular thing about logistics – it should be specialised, well organised, and well structured.
When it comes to customer service and our call centre, things are completely different – we can have both products and services. Campaigns vary from servicing incoming customer calls, answering questions, and giving advice, to finding new customers for our clients. We may use their own database or develop and provide a new one. We choose an industry, select companies by size, area, and location, and then introduce the relevant service or product. We generate the so-called "leads" and subsequently arrange meetings between the sales teams – to close the deal, to make the sale of the product or service.
These campaigns may continue for a longer or a shorter period of time, depending on the databases that a client can use. Limitations are connected to the specificity of a product, which determines the range of customers that can be reached.
What is the focus of your partnership with foreign clients?
We work with many foreign clients, providing them customer service in Bulgarian language for the Bulgarian market. We are partnering with automotive, fast-moving consumer goods, and e-commerce companies. In terms of logistics, we provide warehousing and order fulfillment for both foreign and Bulgarian clients. The interesting focus that we have at the moment is related to the Turkish market and to companies that are based in Turkey and are willing to set up in Bulgaria and open the doors to the whole European Union from here. We have built a platform that allows companies to use different marketplaces and sell on them, even if they don’t have their own website. It provides the opportunity to structure all the information that is related to the products – the product description, the different features, the pictures and to automate the process. We help companies get a sales contact and technically transfer the information to different platforms. Then we receive back the orders made through the platforms and fulfill them. Orders can also be transferred to the merchants' own warehouse, but this is an additional option we provide. In the end, our clients have all the information in one place, allowing them to do analytics and decide how and in what direction to grow their business. Orders can be processed not only for Bulgaria but for the entire European Union. Depending on the specific product, we decide whether to ship everything from Bulgaria or to make a second delivery point in some of the other EU countries.
What difficulties might foreign companies experience in Bulgaria and how do you help them overcome the challenges?
It's difficult when it comes to large volume products. We specialise in order fulfillment for online stores and we deal with storing the goods and then transforming them into small parcels and shipping them out. Small shipments are defined as those up to 2-3 kg that travel by courier. What's tricky in this business is when a product weighs more than 2-3 kg or when a pack of several products gets larger and heavier. Hence, transportation becomes more complicated because heavier means more expensive. In this case, we work with a network of partners or we create a second delivery point at a location closer to the customers, which makes order fulfillment more cost-effective
Last year, the EU changed the regulation on the accounting and VAT-reports of e-commerce sales. Everything is now declared in the country from which the goods leave. The merchant must be registered in the country where their warehouse is located and must submit quarterly information on the VAT to be paid. That is one of the difficulties that we now have to deal with and help with. The other thing is when goods have to be imported from outside the EU. That is something we are working on at the moment – to find a solution for Turkish companies to be able to market their goods in the EU. Turkey is a country that has quite a good production and could very successfully replace much of the supply that currently comes from China. So this is an interesting point of our current work.
What is the role of the supply chain for the online business?
It has a vital role. Creating a proper sales platform, whether a featured online store or a marketplace, requires a serious investment. Providing traffic to the platform, managing product listings and all marketing activities to attract people to the right products are also a significant expense. Then we come to storing the products fast and effectively enough, so that people receive them on time and in the expected condition.
If we want investments to have an impact, the supply chain must be reasonably efficient. That's why we recommend logistics planning and strategy to be made right at the start of any business. Business strategy should go together with logistics strategy. A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking it would be enough to choose a product and upload it to a marketplace, without having a plan for the next steps. But if there is no strategy and the product proves to be attractive and selling well, the business might find itself at risk. It can become unable to keep up with shipping or it can sell out the products too fast, while the interest in them grows higher. In the end, we have disappointed customers, returned shipments, and abandoned products. The loss is quite essential – once from not being able to manage the process, a second time from lost profits, and a third time from unhappy customers who won't come back to us. So the supply chain and logistics play a key role in this business, as important as finding the right product and providing all the marketing efforts that are needed.
What are the trends in Bulgarian e-commerce compared to global ones?
E-trade is growing and will keep expanding because it is a convenient channel for shopping – for both merchants and end customers. In Bulgaria, it is still on a much lower level in comparison to Western Europe and the USA. But it is growing at a fast pace. The pandemic factor from the last two years boosted significantly this growth. The Bulgarian market is comparatively small, but it provides opportunities. It can serve as a starting point to test many products and strategies before their expansion to other countries and across the whole European Union.
Metrica also offers direct marketing services. What’s at the core of successful campaigns in 2022?
Direct marketing is something we have been developing quite successfully since the company was founded. We started with a call centrе and with telemarketing as one of the direct marketing channels, which is still the best direct way to reach any potential customer. What is not being broadly exploited, and would be interesting for e-commerce, is to work more with existing customer databases. This would allow merchants to feel closer to their customers by keeping constant communication with them through phone calls. They should find occasions to hear from their customers, inform them about their new offers, and try to retain them. At a time when we have a tremendous supply and so many products offered, keeping close contact with customers is a quite successful approach.
Our company also offers email marketing, but it has to be used moderately to provide a good effect, as emails are already flooded with advertising messages. Another thing we continue to work on, but is less and less used, is direct mail – sending a personalised letter and a catalogue or brochure to end customers. We have a client in the travel industry who continues to use it and it proves to be quite successful for their business. Direct mail is a channel that e-commerce can also use to attract customers. To be interesting enough to customers, companies today have to combine different channels and work more actively with the databases they have already built up.
How do you build up a trustful relationship with your clients?
Our clients are different businesses. We win them by always having something more to provide. We are always open and honest and put things out in the open. We offer different solutions that can improve the way they work with their customers. When a business decides to outsource, to collaborate with a partner in their logistics or customer service, trust comes first. Our job is to wedge ourselves into their business in such a way that they don't feel our presence. We often tell them to give us the instructions and guidelines as they give them to the people they have hired as employees and to accept us as part of the company. It takes a while for things to stack up and work, but when they do after a few months, everyone is happy.
What added value do you provide to the companies that choose your services?
We provide to businesses an overall expertise and a wide range of services. As part of the Media Post Group, and therefore of the French La Poste family, we have a great range of solutions that we can use to help businesses develop and grow more. Our portfolio includes logistics and customer service, direct marketing, digital marketing, promotional and loyalty programmes. We are working together with colleagues in several other markets such as Romania, France, Spain and Portugal, and we can constantly expand the range of services we offer.
Sofia, 25, Dr Petar Dertliev Blvd, fl. 2
Warehouse and logistics address: Bozhurishte, Sofia – region | Bozhurishte Economic Zone, 19 Simeon Petrov St
+359 2 434 0 845, +359 897 880 023