Top Workplaces: Why every new employee at Provo’s Engagex gets a turn making calls

It’s part of the CEO’s plan to put everyone “at the front lines” of the marketing company.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carter Buck, CEO of EngageX in Provo, a company that does appointment scheduling for national insurance companies, is pictured on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. The company is recognized as one of The Salt Lake Tribune's Top Workplaces.

At Provo-based Engagex, all new hires try out the “product” firsthand.

Engagex is a marketing company whose product is arranging appointments for insurance agents and their customers, explains CEO Carter Buck. Employees reach out to agents from several national insurance carriers and work to increase the agents’ revenue, particularly in the property and casualty areas.

“Anybody who comes to work for us, regardless of their position, we start them out for a period of time just making these calls,” said Buck, who set the policy. “They make these calls, and they really understand being able to apply their skills into growing the company.”

Having employees start out this way puts them, Buck said, “at the front lines” of the business, no matter where in the company they eventually work.

Everything comes back to the calls, Buck said. “How we service our customer, what that bill looks like. … The call is a little unique, in that it’s not a sales call, it’s a bit of a customer-service touch point.”

Understanding the specifics of the calls helps create content that will appeal to the insurance agents who are Engagex’s customers, Buck said. (Many of those agents have recorded testimonials praising the company.)

“We’ve got a very active blog, understanding these calls and the results of these calls, why they make sense. There’s a real practical application into the content they create, as opposed to just understanding the theory about why this might be helpful to somebody,” he said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carter Buck, right, CEO of EngageX in Provo, checks in with new employee Diesel Moody, team leader Lexi Jepperson and HR Specialist Tiana Flake, from left, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. The company that does appointment scheduling for national insurance companies is recognized as one of the Salt Lake Tribune's Top Workplaces.

The policy helps the company, Buck said, because its appointment-setting product fills such a specific niche.

“It can be the difference maker for somebody who is starting in a marketing role or an H.R. role or even an accounting role,” he said, “because you understand how our efficiencies affect our profitability.”

Engagex started in California, Buck said, and moved to Provo under new ownership in 2011.

The company was created, he said, to fill “a very specific need” in the insurance market. “When you go back to the data of what really drives business for an insurance agent,” he said, it shows “that they need to build relationships with their current customers.”

Because agents struggle with the “busy work” of making calls, Buck said, the national carriers wanted to find a way to make “the deliverable” — the appointment — be made easily. That’s the premise Engagex was founded on, and national insurance carriers noticed the service and grabbed onto it, he said.

The company now has 18 administrative employees and 150 part-time employees — the callers — who all work out of Provo. Most of those callers are college students, Buck said. The company employs some callers who speak English and Spanish.

“It’s the perfect job for a college student. We relocated up here being in the shadow of [Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University] and other schools that are around. There’s a huge student population for what is really kind of a small market,” he said. “We’re able to recruit and hire great folks that probably wouldn’t typically work in a call center and have a job reaching out like this, but we’re super, super flexible with their schedule.”

That flexibility, Buck said, is like a “secret sauce item” that allows them to get “good folks.” It also brings high employee turnover, usually when the semester ends, he said.

“From a cultural standpoint, we worked really hard to build an environment where people feel like they want to spend their day, their extra hours, their money-earning hours with us,” he said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Buck said, Engagex leaders were worried about the harm it might cause the company. “Even though what we deliver to our customers is a phone interaction, what we were setting up for them was a face-to-face interaction,” he said.

Instead of a drop in business, he said, they saw an increase — as the company and its carrier partners adapted, as the rest of the world did, to using online tools and virtual meeting spaces.

“People had worries, and they wanted to talk to somebody — like their insurance agent — because they’re somebody who [is] worried about their health insurance or … not being able to make ends meet financially,” he said. “We actually saw a huge increase in our contact rate and being able to reach people, and a huge increase in their interest in meeting with their agents.”