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CEO plots course for Televerde women's prison call centers

Working at a Televerde women's prison call center outpays many inmate jobs and sets agents up for careers on the outside. CEO Morag Lucey discusses how the company keeps current.

Televerde launched in 1995 out of a prison ministry. It was purchased later that year by entrepreneur James Hooker. He served as CEO until earlier this year when he retired.

Current CEO Morag Lucey, previously of SAP and Avaya, and COO Vince Barsolo discuss how the Televerde women's prison call center model evolves to keep agents up to date with current sales and marketing automation cloud platforms, such as Salesforce and Marketo, while, at the same time, serving the company's mission of making its female inmate agents -- which the company refers to as ladies -- employable after prison.

Editor's note: This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity and is the second of two parts. Click here for part one.

Morag, what attracted you to the job?

Morag LuceyMorag Lucey

Morag Lucey: [Former CEO Jim Hooker] and I would get together and talk about Televerde. I was always really attached to the mission. When you've been with as many large companies as I have been, the idea of social purpose is really appealing. When I left Avaya, we continued getting together for breakfast or lunch, and I would tell him what I thought Televerde's direction should be.

At that point, Jim asked if I had any interest in sitting on the board and working with the management team at Televerde. When the opportunity arose to come in as CEO, it seemed like a natural progression. [I asked myself], 'OK, can I move from a multibillion-dollar company with a ton of resources to a smaller company successfully?' Yes. The people in Televerde are unbelievable in what they can do and how they adapt to change.

What are your plans for Televerde?

Lucey: Building the technology stack to ensure that we have human interactions where they have the biggest impact. We have customers that use some common technology components, such as Salesforce; it could be Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Outreach, etc. We have other customers that have none of it, so we're building capability to have an end-to-end sales and marketing technology stack that will assist our customers in ensuring that we increase the contact rate and conversion rate of their pipeline.

Either way, we want to use our human interaction to have those conversations that will help conversion.

Why did Televerde settle on Salesforce as the CRM foundation for its correctional facility call centers?

Vince BarsoloVince Barsolo

Vince Barsolo: We looked not only at the customer base that we had, but also at the customer base that we're looking to work with in the future. Salesforce has the lion's share. It's important to be able to interface and interact with our customers' systems so information flows back and forth smoothly -- so they know what we're working on and what our efforts are doing so that there's no duplication of effort.

You're planning on expanding to Scotland, Australia and Argentina. What's the business need for your customers?

Barsolo: What it really comes down to is the dialect for the region that you're looking to penetrate. We have offices in Córdoba, Argentina; Glasgow, Scotland; and Melbourne, Australia. These operations are really geared in the dialects of the language.

As we were setting up in Scotland, I had one of the providers that we were working with tell me, 'Vince, just because we're both speaking English doesn't mean we're communicating.' That's the heart of it. There are cultural nuances that you have to be aware of in these locations to be successful. By extending our footprint globally, that was the mission we were looking to achieve.

We've discussed how Televerde women's prison call centers are different. What are the common challenges you share with civilian call centers?

When they transition from being incarcerated to the outside world, they're not just call center agents -- they are now technically skilled ladies who know Marketo, Salesforce, Mintigo, social selling.
Morag LuceyCEO, Televerde

Lucey: We're like every other call center except for the security aspects of our business. I think the challenge for all call centers is that call center is narrow in terms of what customers now want. If you tell somebody they need a call center, it doesn't matter what business they're in, they'll -- unless they are a help desk or outsourcer -- say, 'I don't need a call center. I just need to serve my customers.'

Every single business needs [superior] customer experience. We connect our customers' customers to a consistent experience from inbound and outbound along the trajectory of the interaction and transaction with that customer. Technology helps us understand how customers want to transact and interact, the channels they want to use: voice, chat or text. We have to be able to adapt to an omnichannel environment -- but omnichannel from the customer's [point of view], not 'We'll provide all channels, but you'll still do it the way we want to do it.'

How are you evolving with the times as more customer contact goes to online channels, adapting your approach to agent training to build better career opportunities for incarcerated women?

Lucey: We have technologies that allow omnichannel experiences; we do inbound and outbound. If you look at when Televerde first started, I call it 'butts in seats, dialing for dollars.' [Now] we are more sophisticated in the ability to target customers that have intent, to be able to nurture customers the way they want to get nurtured, get information in front of them so that we're helping educate and understand their journey. Then, when they want to interact, it is over whatever channel they want.

We have longevity in our agents; it's beneficial for us to train our agents in all the technologies because they stay with us. The other huge benefit to that is that, when they transition from being incarcerated to the outside world, they're not just call center agents -- they are now technically skilled ladies who know Marketo, Salesforce, Mintigo, social selling. They know how to use LinkedIn effectively. Somebody asked me the other day, 'Well, when they come out, isn't it a different world than when they went in?' And it's like, 'Not for our ladies, because not only are they selling technology, but they are also using technology to get the job done.'

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