The Face of The Cooperative
SVEC member services makes your experience better
As a cashier, Debbie Edwards is always aware that she might be the only person a visitor to the cooperative meets.
They might never need to speak to an engineer. They may never have to call in about an issue. But they will come to her to pay their bill.
“We’re right there in the front, and they see us before they see anyone else,” Edwards says. “So we smile and try to present ourselves well for the co-op. We’re like the face of SVEC, all of us in member services.”
With nearly 20 years of experience, Edwards is well-equipped to represent the cooperative. She has worked as an engineering service representative, a job in which she connected new members with SVEC engineers, and an accounting aid. Then, she found her niche out front.
From that vantage, she watched SVEC change over the years to serve members better. Perhaps the biggest change has been the installation of meters that can automatically send readings to the cooperative.
That particular advancement not only saves time and money for the cooperative but also gives members unprecedented control over their electric usage. With meters sending new readings daily, members can track their usage using SVEC’s online and mobile SmartHub app. Members can easily see how simple changes in energy use can impact their bill.
Now, approaching her retirement on May 18, Edwards looks forward to spending more time with her kids and grandkids, as well as the opportunity to travel with her sister and to become more involved with outreach programs at church.
But she expects there will still be days when she misses her work family and the chance to be that important point of contact for members.
“I think I’m going to miss the members that I’ve been serving,” she says. “I enjoy meeting with the members. Some of them come in, and you get to talking to them. It’s a good feeling to be able to help them out.”
The Right Connection
At any given time, Member Service Representative Christy Tuckey could be working through one of a dozen different issues for a cooperative member.
She could answer a question about a member’s bill or account one moment and troubleshoot an issue on SmartHub the next. If a member wants to add a new account, is having problems with their area light, or wants to report a tree that has fallen and taken some power lines with it, the process starts with a member service representative.
“Any of those things go through us first before we pass them along to the service department or engineering,” Tuckey says. “We’re kind of the middleman who gathers all the information and then figures out what needs to be done or who it needs to go to.”
As if that weren’t enough, Tuckey can walk members through those solutions in two languages. Born in Puerto Rico, she’s one of two service representatives at SVEC who can answer questions for members in both English and Spanish.
“It helps us be more available for our members. I speak with a Spanish-speaking member more or less on a daily basis, so it’s good to have that skill and that ability to help them,” she says.
Answering such a wide variety of questions requires SVEC representatives to be knowledgeable about everything happening at the cooperative. The Member Service Department also regularly sends employees to conferences so they can bring back updates on the latest trends and new practices that can make them more efficient.
“It can be challenging because there is so much info out there and projects happening in other departments,” Tuckey says. “We want to do our best to stay in the loop because by doing that, we keep our members in the loop.”
While finding time to both problem-solve and build personal relationships can sometimes be tricky, it’s a challenge that Tuckey finds exciting.
“You form relationships with people you’ve helped in your time here,” she says. “I like the behind-the-scenes work that goes on, but I get as much enjoyment out of the connections we make with our members.”
A Better Experience For You
With so much of members’ personal information at their fingertips, employees in the Member Service Department place a high priority on security. That means members should always be prepared to verify information like their address, account number and phone number when visiting the cooperative or calling a member service representative.
“We must keep personal information safe,” says Tuckey. “Therefore, we ask questions to verify the identity of the person we are speaking with.”
Without such verification, representatives may only be able to help the member in a limited capacity.
In addition to making visits to the cooperative and phone calls easier, providing up-to- date information can also help the cooperative provide better customer service in other ways.
Up-to-date information in the outage reporting system ensures that the next time a member reports a service problem, the co-op can respond more efficiently. That information also allows members to pay their bill through the automated payment system, get account notifications from the cooperative, and link up everything in their online account so that it works smoothly when they want to check their balance.
At the same time, SVEC is constantly looking for new ways to make it easier for members to do business with the cooperative. Sometimes that involves changing how automated systems work, so members should always pay attention to menu prompts when calling on the phone.
The cooperative also knows that it’s not always feasible to call or make a trip to the office. That’s why SVEC also offers live chat service on its website, as well as the ability to make inquiries through SmartHub.
But even as SVEC continues to adopt new technology to better communicate with members, the cooperative will always be dedicated to providing a truly personal experience.
“We want to strike a balance between moving forward with these technology advances and being there for that human connection with our members as well,” says Tuckey. “If someone want to talk to another person, we’ll always be here for them.”