In 2018, Wellington’s Customer Service Department handled 43,000 phone calls and assisted 33,000 visitors. The team of 13 people is dedicated to serving the community and takes the relationship between local government and its residents very seriously.
“Instead of each department, we have one centralized location where we can provide the best customer service to the residents of Wellington,” Customer Service Manager Mindi Lockhart said. “Everyone is trained so that residents are getting consistent information and not being bounced around. Resolution is our goal.”
The department covers more than the front line of service windows, it also handles the village’s call center and the main front desk at the Wellington Municipal Complex. Operators are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there’s a plan in place for emergency calls outside of normal business hours.
Lockhart’s teammate Elizabeth Arocho is also a customer service manager. She finds working during the worst of times — specifically during a major storm — a vital responsibility for the department.
“During storms, we have folks here on lockdown. That means they are here before the storm starts, during the storm and after the storm. We don’t leave. We make sure the public has the ability for direct contact with a live person,” Arocho said. “During Tropical Storm Isaac, we had a lot rainfall and flooding. So many residents were calling in scared and worried about their horses. Just watching the call centers take those calls in a calm manner that helped quell our residents’ fears — that was a proud mom moment.”
The team is passionate about this important role. Customer Service Administrative Coordinator Wayne Turpin is a perfect example. After nearly five years in the department, he is still excited about his work, even during a storm.
“I volunteered for it. My family lives close by, so I might as well be here working and helping out. They normally get us in a couple of hours before a storm gets bad, so we are here through everything. In the last storm, we were here Saturday morning through Monday morning,” Turpin recalled. “There is always a liaison from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue here with us. I got a call during the last storm from a resident who lost part of a pergola, and it had punctured a gas line in the middle of the storm. We were able to get people dispatched to address the problem. PBCFR coordinated with us and got someone there to seal it off without any issues.”
Lockhart and Arocho work in tandem to keep the department running smoothly. “Our main goal during a hurricane is to make sure that the public is safe, and our staff is safe. We are all in this boat and have to get through a hurricane together,” Lockhart said. “Afterward, of course, we work to get everything back to normal as fast as possible.”
The recurring theme in the Customer Service Department is teamwork. They treat each other as a second family, but also as an additional resource when dealing with difficult situations.
“People call us for every single thing, from people who don’t know what to do with an alligator to others wanting to rent a pavilion; from what the movie is going to be this weekend to how to get a passport or driver’s license. We have to be on point and have all the information at our fingertips,” Senior Customer Service Representative Christina Fugarese said. “We get calls from everywhere and have so much to offer our residents. We like to wow all our callers and give them wonderful, outstanding Wellington service.”
Arocho has worked for the village for more than 14 years now, in several different departments. She finds her current work very different than when she started out reading water meters in the field.
“Customer service is a bit fast-paced, and you definitely have more responsibility,” Arocho said. “I think it’s because you’re dealing with customers firsthand and making sure that the image we portray is a good one.”
The Customer Service Department team is charged with knowing what all 300 Wellington employees do, otherwise routing calls to the correct person becomes a much slower task. Training remains important to the department, and future plans include finding more ways to better serve the community.
“We are in the process of putting in a training for crisis management so that not only is our call staff knowledgeable about the community, but they’ll also have the knowledge of how to handle those types of calls, too,” Arocho said.
Utilities Customer Service Representative Jashly Botex noted the differences in her past three years with Wellington compared to her experience working with other municipalities, particularly regarding the web site.
“I needed special training on the online system, especially things like troubleshooting with the customers. We will help them set up an online profile or autopay, and they have all other types of questions,” Botex said. “We must have such an understanding of the site and also be consistent both on the phone and in person. We learn to ask the right questions, to go above and beyond, even offering same-day service.”
With a staff that ranges from two to nearly 20 years working for Wellington, all take pride in developing solid, genuine relationships with residents.
“I get very few escalated phone calls because our representatives treat the customers how they want to be treated,” Lockhart said. “It’s also because when you give good, you get good. Our employees do that because they know they are treated well here, and it’s a great place to wake up in the morning and say, ‘I get to go to work, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing.’”
Both managers agree that working for a smaller, tight-knit community allows for excellent customer service.
“My favorite thing is the relationships that you form with residents — it’s a friendship more than a customer-type feeling here,” Arocho said.
Whether handling business tax inquiries, sharing information about public meetings and events, or helping customers solve problems with their homes, the consistency and commitment of Wellington’s Customer Service Department remains strong.