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The warm smell of fresh donuts rose through the air of the ActivEngage office breakroom. A ping-pong table lined the far wall of the room, and a sign requiring employees to moonwalk out of the office hung over the exit. Soft beanbag chairs and oblong ottomans furnished in green and orange – a colorful contrast from the bleak, gloom of the Florida rain. I knew immediately this room was like no other I’d ever been in. High above the desks of nearly a hundred young professionals was a single statement, inscribed upon the wall in bold type:
“Every chat. Every word. Every time.”
ActivEngage is the most trusted live automotive chat provider, a service company on the bleeding edge of the Internet age. Teams of Virtual Sales Assistants (VSAs) monitor auto dealership websites to personally meet, greet, and assist online shoppers. But despite the constant clatter of typing and the huge array of computer screens, this was far from the ordinary call center. These chat representatives are not automated robots who are programmed to regurgitate canned responses to frustrated, disinterested customers. At the heart of ActivEngage’s chat philosophy, honest conversation matters above all else.
ActivEngage rejects the homogeneous dialogue of a typical chat provider and instead celebrates the humanity of its VSAs. The company provides its employees with complimentary gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, weekly workplace involvement activities, and even provides a free lunch monthly.
I was one of 12 new recruits hand-picked to join the next generation of ActivEngage VSAs. Over the next few weeks, the fresh faces around me would transform into the best conversationalists in the industry through an intensive two week training program. Director of Virtual Sales Carol Marshall smiled with pride as she greeted us in the lobby. She gave us the grand tour, guiding us past a popcorn machine and a printer named Bob Marley (because it always be jammin’), up one floor to the newly-renovated third story, and into the training room. There we met the ever-stylish president and COO, Ted Rubin, who was visibly trying to resist the temptation of the baked goods below us.
The official VSA training began with our introduction to soon-to-be mom Jennifer Friedline, glowing with a kind of joy and enthusiasm completely unrelated to pregnancy. She asked our class what everyone thought they were there to do. What exactly is a VSA? Some of the new recruits responded:
“We will communicate with customers over the Internet.”
“We provide leads and contact information to dealers.”
“We are contracted agents who speak on behalf of dealerships.”
Jennifer smiled, acknowledging that all this was true. But providing leads is just a small part of the service that ActivEngage provides. VSAs are primarily conversationalists, dedicated to making real, human connections with people through the chat medium. ActivEngage does not believe in scripted conversations – scripts create robots and call centers. The company encourages personality and humanity when chatting, because it believes that the most effective and engaging kind of conversation is honest and personable.
Suddenly the wacky furniture, the leisurely accommodations, and the quirky nature of the VSA office started to make sense to me. ActivEngage seemed to realize that its own growth hinges on the personal development of the individuals that comprise it. The VSAs relate all the fun and happiness of the workplace through their chats, and website visitors can see it. This spirit of enjoyment makes it easy for people to open up to our staff. It is our corporate culture that allows us to be the best chat provider in the business – every chat, every word, every time.
Stephen will be posting weekly updates about becoming ActivEngage VSA every Monday. Learn more about what makes our chatters the best by subscribing to our blog!