A leading provider of CRM solutions for medium to large-sized businesses, Group 1 Software has a diversified line of product offerings in the areas of data quality, marketing automation and unified customer messaging. With offices throughout the United States, the company is headquartered in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Lanham, Maryland, and also has offices in Canada, Europe and Latin America.
"Group 1 started out as a computer time- sharing company in 1967," states Robert S. Bowen, chairman and chief executive officer of the company. "We offered time-sharing on massive, mainframe computers back in the days when they were water cooled. Our services were primarily offered to federal government agencies, and we were very successful."
"When it became less fashionable to outsource computing power, the marketplace started contracting," explains Bowen. "We were already involved, to a small extent, in a software effort dealing with postal coding and postal sortation for the United States Postal Service, and we decided to focus our efforts in that direction. The postal service recognized that they had to automate in order to remain viable and began offering sizable discounts for large volume mailers that used postal coding and sorting procedures. Because of the processing steps involved in coding and sorting, software was necessary to take advantage of the discounts offered. This product line was already a good small business for us, so we opted to focus on that technology. We grew to be leaders in that area, and it took us into the variety of adjunct businesses that we're involved in now."
"In 1984, I was brought in to revitalize the business and turn the company around," states Bowen. "At that time, the running rate of revenue was probably around $7 million, and the company was losing money. Happily, we had a cash position that gave us some breathing room, and we also had a strongly supportive board of directors and the opportunity to obtain substantially greater capital if we saw appropriate business applications for that capital. We successfully sold the time-sharing operation, extricated ourselves from some business activities and managed to revitalize the company. We identified the software business as our path to growth."
"It became apparent that marketing was the last area of business to be automated. It was equally apparent that with the availability of enormously greater computer power, at much more modest costs, several areas that previously could not be automated were now prospects for automation," explains Bowen. "It was obvious to us that database marketing whatever that meant to anybody at that time represented an opportunity for future growth. We also recognized that the most important part of any database has to be the quality of the customer and prospect name and address data. Our core competency at the time involved name and address data quality for the mailing operations, so expanding our product line into database marketing was a logical direction for Group 1."
"We are a cross-industry vendor with customers in the financial services, banking, retail, e-business, telecommunications, hospitality, publishing, utilities and insurance industries. We help 3,000 of the world's leading businesses find, communicate with and keep their customers," states Bowen. "Our customer base is something that I regard as truly our strongest asset, an asset that is extraordinary for any company our size."
"DM1, our database marketing system, is a comprehensive database marketing system that can be tailored to an organization's specific requirements. DM1 integrates Group 1's leading customer data quality solutions and third-party technologies and can be accessed via ASP or implemented in an organization. It has a menu of offerings all the way from data quality on the input end to fulfillment at the output end with our customer relationship document offering. We can supply a complete solution from beginning to end with a full phalanx of professional services to support it. Nobody else is even close to supplying that array of offerings right now," says Bowen. "In database marketing, our Model 1 is the finest data mining system for marketing applications."
The future looks very bright for Group 1. Bowen relates that a recent survey of professional IT managers revealed that 81 percent of these managers cite improving the quality of their data as their number one
priority. Customer relationship management (CRM) was a close second, cited by 80 percent as an imperative for their organizations. "Effective customer relationship management is impossible without quality data," comments Bowen. "For that reason, DataQuality.net was developed, en-abling real-time customer and prospect data quality over the Web."
Launched this past September, DataQuality.net allows e-businesses to obtain and utilize enriched data about customers and prospects by combining worldwide address verification with appended customer demographics and geographic coding. The demographic information enables e-businesses to develop highly targeted marketing programs including real-time message and response interaction with Web site visitors. Because the demographic information does not include personally identifiable information, privacy concerns are minimized. The geographic data provided by DataQuality.net includes latitude and longitude, state, country, city and place name (for potential taxation purposes), enabling Web sites to easily direct their customers to the nearest physical retail or service outlet. The ability to deliver goods to correct addresses in a timely fashion represents a significant challenge to today's e- tailers. Therefore, a key feature of Group 1's DataQuality.net is the validation, correction and/or formatting of customer and prospect addresses for the United States, Canada and more than 200 countries worldwide.
"With the increasing globalization of e-commerce, this functionality has become mission critical," emphasizes Bowen. "We have a very impressive list of early adopters for DataQuality.net, including CyberSource and Ty, because the product is so powerful in terms of international address management and address correction. Nobody gets close to us in that arena. While a company may not use the international aspect of the product to a great extent today, lots of companies have international requirements on their horizon and they want to be ready. They want to know that their vendor-partner can take them there and we can."
Robert S. Bowen
Bowen sees Group 1's financial strength as a key asset that customers consider when choosing a vendor. "We are a public company and have an unusual financial strength for a company of our size. We're dealing with mission-critical applications for our customers, and they have to know that we're there for the long haul with them. It's clear from our financial strength that we will be."
The asset which Bowen feels is most responsible for drawing customers to Group 1 is the company's focus on providing extraordinary support for its customers. "Everyone at Group 1 is strongly committed to our customers," states Bowen, "and this dedication manifests itself in terms of unusually supportive after-the-sale service. Our customers use our products for very mission-critical requirements, and we are focused on providing them with technology that earns their confidence. We are determined to aggressively pursue a leadership position in anything we touch by delivering products that are well planned and carefully developed." Group 1's efforts, however, go beyond just delivering products to customers. "After a customer implements one of our products, we support them to the fullest," Bowen emphasizes.
Group 1's commitment to its customers is woven into the corporate fabric. In fact, the company's annual report highlights the number one corporate objective of the company:
The first and foremost objective of Group 1 Software is the total, unreserved satisfaction of each Group 1 client satisfaction with Group 1 products and product support, with Group 1 people and with all other facets of the client relationship. Every other corporate objective is subordinate to and is addressed by this one.
A visitor to any one of the Group 1 offices throughout the world will find this credo prominently displayed along with the signatures of the employees, emphasizing each employee's commitment to customer satisfaction. "We start with a new copy each year. We have an annual dinner actually three annual dinners because we have grown so much where we talk about our plans, the state of the company and our plans for the future. At these dinners, all employees rededicate themselves to our customer priority objective by signing their names. On behalf of all Group 1 associates, I present this to our customers at our annual users' conference. I also tell our customers that we're realistic and know that we will never be able to achieve that objective 100 percent of the time. I emphasize that when we happen to stumble, it's our response that makes us different. How fast, how effectively and how forcefully we take care of any problem that may occur is the real measure of us as a company," says Bowen.
Another real measure of a company is the people who comprise it. "The technology is nothing without the people. We have a really great group of people. They are highly productive, very creative, determined and dedicated. They're also fun to be around. Finding the right people for any high-tech firm is a major challenge, but luckily we've been more successful than most in keeping our people. We go out of our way to do many things to keep our people stimulated, interested, excited and pleased with their work environment. I believe in surrounding myself with bright, aggressive people and letting them do their work. My job," Bowen explains, "is to help seek agreement on objectives and make sure the resources are available. The right people thrive under that type of arrangement. They accept responsibility and grow. I'm very proud of everyone and everything at Group 1. I thoroughly enjoy seeing people succeed in every dimension to get excited professionally, to do well monetarily, to have more responsibility and to do things of lasting accomplishment." Robert Bowen has definitely discovered the keys to success for Group 1.
GROUP 1 SOFTWARE FACT TABLE
Publicly traded (Nasdaq: GSOF)
THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL NATURE OF ROBERT S. BOWEN
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