How a Prison Call Center Exceeded My Expectations

Sevki Inan, Vice President of Inside Sales, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

When you think of a prison, what comes to mind? For many of us, orange jumpsuits and barbed wire fences are probably part of that mental image. I suspect that very few of us would think of a fully functioning call center staffed by skilled professionals. And don’t worry if that wasn’t your first thought. Not too long ago, the latter scenario wouldn’t have been top of mind for me either.

I recently had the unique experience of visiting one such call center located within the Perryville prison complex in Goodyear, Arizona. The call center is operated by our lead generation partner Televerde and is staffed by women who are currently incarcerated at Perryville. Televerde is a sales, marketing, and customer care services company first and foremost, but at the core of their business model is providing second-chance employment to currently and previously incarcerated women.

Several members of the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence Inside Sales team and I were there to meet our account team and tour the center. While the Televerde team made sure Jeff, Beth, Aaron, and I were well prepared for our visit and briefed on what to expect, I’d be lying if I said we weren’t still a bit nervous before we arrived.

The nerves faded away when we met up with April Mooney, Televerde’s Director of Strategic Accounts, and Alicia Rasta, their Vice President of Sales at the Televerde office in the morning. Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Vince Barsolo also met with us after our visit. He’s been with Televerde since inception, and he had plenty of incredible stories he shared with me and my team.

We had been advised that visitors aren’t allowed to bring electronic devices into Perryville. Our phones and tablets stayed in the car, safely tucked away in a Yeti cooler to keep them out of the Arizona sun. (Shout out to Alicia for that brilliant bit of forethought…The Televerde team truly thinks of everything!) Then, after a pleasantly uneventful trip through security, we were inside and ready to meet the team.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve been working with inside sales teams for over 20 years now, and leading teams for a significant portion of that time. While I am quickly approaching the one-year mark in my current role as Vice President of Inside Sales at Hexagon, I’ve spent the majority of my career leading technology-based inside and remote sales teams. As you can imagine, my requirements and expectations for the teams I work with are stringent.

We have a good number of Business Development Representatives at Hexagon who perform splendidly and are crushing their goals. As a sales leader for a company focused on growth, I recognized a need to augment our internal teams. After evaluating several potential lead generation partners, I landed on Televerde due to their agility, unique value proposition, and projected ROI for the campaign. I knew that booting up a new team internally would be time-consuming and costly due to tightness in the employment market, and Televerde was able to move as fast as we could. Beyond that, knowing that we would be supporting their mission of providing incarcerated women with a second chance was the perfect cherry on top.

After we entered the call center, my team and I got the full tour courtesy of Alicia. As we made the rounds and met many of the women, I was truly amazed by the environment. After spending a few hours in the call center, one could almost forget that it was inside of a prison. The professionalism, excitement, engagement, and energy of Televerde’s reps is impressive. All of the women took a moment to introduce themselves, explaining their roles, and telling us about their experience with the program. And the time spent getting to know the women that support our account really cemented the feeling that they are a part of our Hexagon team.

And while I am satisfied with the early results our Televerde team had produced, I was keen to meet the team in person. It was important to me to know that these agents really had the skill set we needed to drive the growth we are looking for. We were able to listen in on some of the calls and asked plenty of questions to our Televerde team members. I was left feeling not only confident in the agents’ abilities but impressed by their knowledge of Hexagon’s products and solutions. Their ability is on par with any of our internal hires, and they were able to achieve that level of expertise without many of the same resources, including having knowledged team members within their facilities and open access to the internet.

My Takeaway From the Visit

Part of every visit to Perryville is a roundtable with the Televerde women. We got to hear their stories, ask questions, and share our own experiences and it was truly a great, open conversation. It was the most energizing and impactful part of an already great day, and something my team and I have discussed several times since.

As we were wrapping up for the day, we got to see the Televerde “tree of life” which shows the women’s departure date from the prison system. This really drove home the impact of this program and how many lives have been changed. It’s exciting to know that so many women have earned a second chance outside of prison.

If I learned anything from this visit, it is that you absolutely cannot judge a book by its cover. I would offer that advice to any leader who is on the fence about considering second-chance hiring or partnering with a second-chance organization like Televerde. From my experience, I can say with confidence that any woman who can succeed within Televerde’s organization could succeed in a similar role nearly anywhere. I would put this team against any other sales group doing a similar function and be confident in the results they could produce. These ladies have a willingness to learn and succeed that is hard to match.

The partnership between Hexagon and Televerde is driven by business results above anything else. But it is meaningful for my team and I to be working with a partner that is making a difference for others. I’m excited for what the future holds, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

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