Argo Marketing Group
Chris talks with Jason Levesque, CEO of Argo Marketing Group, about Argo’s growth, how call center jobs have evolved to incorporate new technology and how those changes have created unique, flexible and exciting opportunities for a wide variety of people.
On Today’s show you’ll discover…
- … how Argo’s recent acquisition of a contact center in South Portland Maine has lead to new employment opportunities;
- …how call center jobs at Argo are the perfect choice for everyone from those just starting out to retirees who want a flexible, fun way to make some extra money.
Call Center Services
[0:50] Tell us a little bit about Argo marketing and the services you provide?
What we do primarily, is contact customers on our client’s behalf. We handle all other interactions whether it be chat, telephone, social media, text, fax however the customer wants to contact the client we’re there to facilitate that communication.
[1:31] You have three locations?
Yes, we have a location in Pittsfield Maine, Lewiston Maine and, just recently, a location here in South Portland Maine.
[1:48] Argo has grown tremendously, in fact, you’ve been listed on the Inc.500l5000 Fastest Growing Companies as one of the fastest growing companies in America! As I understand it, that’s two years running now?
It is two years running and it’s still amazing for me when I look back and see that growth.
Types of Calls
[2:37] Tell us a little bit about the types of calls you typically take.
A lot of companies in Maine that people would be familiar with like L.L.Bean, TD Bank, Carbonite, they are all vertically oriented so they handle calls for themselves. Argo is a lot more diverse than that, we are a third party service center so numerous clients contract with us to handle their inbound sales or customer service calls.
We also provide outbound call center services, chat, and social media. So we have a broad base of call center services and a large number of clients we work with.
[3:23] A lot of us have an image of what a call center looks like but that seems to be changing now. You mentioned the internet, social media and live chat and other things like that. Can you talk about that?
It is interesting because even with today’s technology you still need that live person. That comforting voice at the end of the phone or on the other side of the email chain. That’s what Argo is providing. There are no two days that are exactly alike at Argo. There are always different challenges and that keeps it interesting.
[4:03] Can you share some of the different types of calls or companies that you take calls for?
We have some really great clients that most of your listeners here can identify with like:
- Nestle – We support sales and customer service for their coffee machine.
[5:07] I read in the newspaper about the recent acquisition in South Portland. What does that mean for Argo going forward?
As we’ve discussed, Argo is growing and we saw a need to expand our footprint in the Southern Maine area. Dr. Newton’s has a fabulous call center and reputation built over 20 years of experience. We saw their employees and international reach as a wonderful addition to the Argo family. Dr. Newton’s rounds out what we did not have which was a larger, robust inbound sales department.
Additionally, they have a great outbound managed care department where folks are contacted on behalf of the client to find out how they are doing. The team works almost as a personal consultant with them on their health and wellness needs.
This acquisition has opened up great opportunities for Argo, for the Dr. Newton’s employees and future employees.
[6:25] So you have taken over their facility as well?
Absolutely, it’s a top rated facility, great design, and it has excellent functionality. It’s in a wonderful location close to downtown, the airport, and it’s right of the interstate. It’s easy to get to and it allows us to look at a larger pool of people we can hire from now.
The Perfect Candidate
[6:49] Talk about that, describe the perfect candidate someone that would fit well into what your vision of Argo is. What are some of the qualities?
The great thing about having a contact center with a multimedia approach is that we can hire a broad range of people. Over time, we’ve seen that the person who’s going to have the greatest success at Argo is someone who is looking for a career.
Just Starting Out and Looking for a Career
Maybe it’s a first career for someone that is looking for a safe, comfortable environment and a chance to learn sales skills and advance. As an interesting fact, 80% of Argo’s management team started out on the phones.
Rejoining the Workforce
The other group are those people looking for a second career. Maybe their kids have gone off to school, they haven’t been in the workforce for a few years but they want to come back. Perhaps they are retired and they just want to work 15 or 20 hours a week and still enjoy life, family, and friends. We have a very fluid schedule and, in many cases, can even arrange for them to work for the call center from home.
[8:41] Share a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Maine, went to college and decided to challenge myself by joining the army. I spent 8 years as an infantryman and the last three years as a drill Sargent. I came back to Maine after my time in the military was over and ended up working some odd jobs.
Then I ended up working part-time in a call center taking Inbound calls. The same thing we’re doing now. That was my first experience in the call center industry and I learned a lot. I learned what was good and what was bad and should be avoided.
In 2003 when we decided to open our own contact center, I said, “I’m not going to do that” (the bad things) and we formed Argo. We grew slowly at first in a little facility in Lewiston and then expanded to a larger facility in Pittsfield. We’ve been growing ever since and today, with our recent acquisition, we have over 600 employees.
[10:17] You did a major revitalization in Lewiston recently as well.
It was an old department store and it was empty for 35 years, it was boarded up. We went in and decided to do a 2.5 million dollar renovation of the building. Today, it’s a state of the art facility with over 300 employees. It’s a beautiful work environment with skylights, energy efficienct lighting and heating and even a 250 gallon, saltwater, aquarium we built into the wall. It’s a great facility and one of my biggest accomplishments professionally.
Call Center Jobs and Other Opportunities
[11:26] Talk about what you see for opportunities over the next few years.
- our workforce is extremely motivated here;
- the work ethic is second to none;
- our company is growing and growing rapidly. We are going to continue to grow as rapidly as we can find good people.
I can bring business in and I want to make sure we have the best employees in the country.
Positions at Argo
[12:03] What are some of the positions that you are currently looking for?
We’re looking for full time and part time people to take Inbound phone calls in either our customer service call center or on our sales team. We’re also looking for people who speak English and / or French. We are a multilingual call center.
We’re looking for good people in all three of our locations. We also have state of the art technology available that allows people to work from home. If you’re concerned about the commute talk to us.
[13:54] What about previous experience?
Everything you need to be successful at Argo you learned in kindergarten. You need to know how to:
- be polite;
- work effectively as part of a team.
It’s part of our work ethic here in Maine.
[14:51] What about the diversity and the kind of clients you have? When someone comes in new to Argo are you able to take calls from all different types of clients?
We’re going to get your feedback and evaluate you to make sure we find the right match. We want to make sure we match the right type of call with the right employee.
How is Argo Different?
[15:27] How do you see the local environment with regard to opportunities and how is Argo different than other call centers in the area?
At the end of the day, call center jobs come down to a personal decision. Does it fit well with your schedule and your skill set? If you look at call centers in Maine there’s been a rough history over the past 30 years.
At Argo, we look at the entire call center industry and work to be a little bit better in a lot of different ways. For example we offer things like:
- paid breaks;
- full benefits programs;
- career path and a track that’s outlined for you from the start.
The opportunities are endless and that’s what makes us different.
Benefits and Earning Potential
[16:53] What kind of benefits do you offer and if I’m a really good salesperson is there any cap on what I can make?
There’s a different comp plan for everyone in the company because it’s self-driven. Argo’s guiding principle is to make sure everyone gets paid a livable wage. Not minimum wage but a livable wage. Our salespeople are making $16, $17, and $19 per hour. Some are making even more than that!
We bundle in different options:
- long term and short term disability;
- paid time off.
As soon as you start, within 30 days, you start accruing paid time off.
We even have some unique programs like our “Paid Volunteer Time-off Program.” One day, every three months, you can get paid to take time-off and volunteer in your child’s school or any other non-profit you would like to support.
Call Center Services
[18:54] Let’s talk about the types of call center services you offer?
One of the fastest growing parts of our company is offering after hours answering service support. Doctors, plumbers and a lot of other local business want that answering service to happen with a live agent. Because of our size and technology we can provide answering services for 20 – 30% less than firms would pay for out of state options. The nice thing is:
- it’s less expensive for local Maine business and;
- the work stays right here in Maine.
[20:06] For clients that are looking for call center services what are some of the highlights that Argo provides?
Argo fits a specific segment. We are a boutique mid-sized contact center that is based in America. We can handle a broad variety of calls and, with over 600 employees in 3 locations, a large quantity of calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
[21:29] You just got another award the other day, what was that for?
This was a complete surprise. Argo was awarded Bronze Ranking nationally among all call centers for providing quality customer service. So we’re in the top ten for call centers nationally, that is wonderful and we’re really excited about it.
[22:10] Talk about some of the things you do for the community.
When we give back to the community it comes from our employees, it’s important that it’s something we all believe in and can get behind. There is an organization in Lewiston called Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services that many of our employee’s children receive services from. So we decided to give substantial contributions on behalf of our employees to help support their organization.We also give to the American Heart Association, Good Sheppard Food Bank, and The Food Pantry so we’re doing a lot of different volunteer activities.
[24:31] Any final thoughts you want to share?
If you’re looking for a new career, you need some extra income or you want to re-join the workforce contact us, talk to us, talk to our employees. Find out what we’re all about. Don’t shut the door on an opportunity that can help you better yourself, mentally, financially, and physically. Argo is a great opportunity. We are growing and we need people to help us grow.