Off Center
 
Almost as challenging as handling all the customer contacts that Active Network’s contact center receives is managing the slew of job applications and resumes that arrive daily. Once you hear about how much Active Network values and empowers its staff, it’s easy to understand applicants’ attraction.

The San Diego-based company’s heavy emphasis on agent wellness, development and empowerment – as well as its popular work-at-home initiative – are among the key reasons why the resumes keep flowing in and existing employees keep sticking around. In fact, San Diego Business Journal named Active Network among San Diego’s Best Places to Work in 2011 and listed it among the finalists for the magazine’s “Healthiest Employers Award” in 2010. 

“The leaders of Active Network believe in our mission of connecting people with the things they love, want, and need to do,” says Dennis Triplett, Senior Vice President of Operations at Active Network. “This extends to, if not begins with, our employees. From the first day of training, our call center agents feel empowered to provide high-level customer service to our clients.”

Active Network is the largest network of activities, organizations and people linked by world-class technology. The company’s flagship media property, Active.com®, is the leading online community for people who want to discover and participate in activities about which they are passionate.



A Healthy Approach to Contact Center Management

Agents at Active Network don’t merely feel empowered; they feel powerful –thanks to the company’s passionate commitment to employee health and well-being.

Agents at each contact center location participate in a comprehensive employee participation and wellness initiative called “Active X”, which includes such offerings as daily exercise programs, walking/running groups, nutritional behavior workshops, smoking cessation courses, yoga classes, nutritional seminars, and community volunteer opportunities.

“ActiveX is the internal manifestation of our company mission, and one of the reasons why we are frequently listed as a best place to work,” says Triplett. "Our wellness beliefs are rooted in participation and the intrinsic outcomes of being part of something healthy. And our [wellness programs] are filled with success stories – in just a short period of time, they have made significant changes in our employees’ lives. These lives have touched others, infecting active participation across our company, spreading to their families and into their communities.”


Ensuring Agent Success

Having physically and emotionally fit agents on the frontline is a big benefit, but wellness programs alone don’t drive lasting agent engagement and performance improvement. That’s why Active Network invests a lot of time and effort in agent development and recognition, too.

After a careful applicant selection process, new-hires are immersed in a rigorous and engaging training program featuring a healthy mix of traditional classroom training and role-playing as well as e-learning via the center’s Learn.com web-based training/testing application.

Active Network’s agents continue to receive ample training and coaching throughout their tenure. Those committed to serious careers in customer care can take part in the contact center’s Leadership Development program, which grooms staff for more advance positions within the division. “Agents are able to apply for open positions not only in the call center,” explains Triplett, “but also in other departments in our division – particularly with the Customer Service and Help Desk departments. The majority of our call center Support staff, Supervisors, Team Leaders, and Call Center Senior Management began their career as call center agents."

There’s still plenty of opportunity and allure for agents who don’t go the Leadership Development route. For instance, all frontline staff are encouraged to participate on teams and task forces committed to enhancing performance and employee engagement. Direct agent involvement on such projects has led to numerous new programs and initiatives, including a couple of rewards & recognition programs (“Kudos” and “Shining Star”) and improved system workflows (e.g., scripting for sales calls).

Driving additional agent engagement and performance is the extra cash that agents can earn by learning advanced new skills, and by achieving goals set around such key metrics as quality, attendance and sales productivity. Says Triplett, “We foster a ‘The more you know, the more you can earn’ philosophy.”  

Not all incentives in the contact center are monetary; agents enjoy plenty of public praise and recognition whenever they exceed key performance objectives, show notable improvement and effort, or receive positive comments from customers.  
  
 

Work-at-Home Works Well

Many agents get to enjoy Active Network’s enticing culture without ever even having to show up to the contact center. That’s thanks to the company’s progressive and thriving work-at-home initiative, which features up to 170 home agents during the peak season.

Unlike home agents at many other organizations, Active Network’s virtual crew members are truly untethered – they can live pretty much anywhere in the U.S. Having such a non-restrictive geographical policy is a big boon to the contact center’s recruiting efforts and ability to handle an ever-fluctuating workload, says Triplett.

“We have the ability to hire high quality customer service agents in a seasonal environment without expanding the operational hours of our ‘brick & mortar’ locations.”

The only people happier than him and his management team are the home agents themselves.

“We have seen an increase in our [overall] Employee Engagement results," Triplett says, "specifically with the work-at-home team.”


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Active Network – the Big Picture:
Location: 7 brick & mortar centers (+ numerous home agents) located throughout the U.S.  
Hours of operation: Most centers are 8 am-10 pm ET. One center is 24 x 7.
Products/services provided/supported: Inbound sales and inbound/outbound service for Active Network’s technology solutions (for online registration, transaction processing, and marketing services)
Channels handled: Phone, IVR, email , web self-service, and social media
What’s so great about them? Their heavy emphasis on agent wellness, empowerment and development drives a highly engaged frontline to deliver exceptional customer service.


JR Hardenburgh
10/31/2011 10:44:22 pm

Thanks for the article Greg. Nice to hear about a company that "gets it" when it comes to agent satisfaction. Their customer sat rates must be exceptional without any extra effort since empowered agents create happy customers.

Reply
10/31/2011 10:54:54 pm

You've got that right, JR. I was very impressed with Active Network's grasp of the "people piece" of the contact center puzzle. They fully understand that engaged agents beget engaged customers.

Thanks for your comment!

Best,

GL

Reply
Sami J.
11/10/2011 08:51:39 am

Interesting post...
I am a former employee of one of Active.com's companies and I know that the culture that you wrote about was NOT at that company and I sure hope it has changed for the better. I loved working there however there was NO focus on healthy work habits or supporting people at the company in terms of healthy lifestyles, reducing their stress, or telecommuting. I will spare you of the details, as one of these people is in a senior position with Active Networks currently, however discriminatory remarks are against the law in North America.

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