Payment Processing Pays It Forward

(From left to right) Sarah Boothe, Susan Hofstetter, Andrea Bush (seated) and Meriam Arocho make up DEC's payment processing department.

Regardless of the department, all DEC jobs go deeper than just wire and electricity. While our first and foremost goal is providing efficient, affordable and reliable electric to our members, it is equally important that we provide a quality member experience in the process. Nowhere is that dedication to friendly and welcoming member service more apparent than in the payment processing department – these are the employees members see when they pay their bill inside our building or at our drive-through window. DEC’s team of payment processors always make the member a priority.

Senior accounting clerk Meriam Arocho worked at Bank of America before making the move to DEC. Similarly, payment processors Susan Hofstetter and Andrea Bush came from banking backgrounds, and Bush and payment processor Sarah Boothe also worked as hairdressers prior to coming to the Co-op. And yet, with so much of their work backgrounds in common, they will be the first to tell you that they all bring their own spin to the job. According to Boothe, that’s what makes their team work so well together.

“The little isms of everybody, you bring it together and it helps make everything flow,” Boothe says.

With all the responsibilities entrusted to the payment processing department, a seamless workflow is a necessity. A normal morning starts with opening the cash drawers for the day ahead, then reconciling the drawers from the day before and posting any payments left in the drop-box overnight. While one person makes a mail run to the post office, the rest pick up where they left off the day before. When the mail arrives, it is processed and distributed to the appropriate departments. Then, work on remittance starts. That’s all happening before 10:30 a.m., and doesn’t include the ongoing onslaught of emails, phone calls, and drive-thru appearances from members asking questions or paying their electric bills all day long. It’s a nonstop juggling act that requires employees to be diligent and think on their feet.

“There are multiple things that can occur in a day,” Boothe says. “Anything that comes through the drive-thru and the window, we’re addressing as we do the other processes that are occurring.”

Still, even when things get hectic, customer service takes top priority. Part of that customer service includes being precise when processing member information. Members trust us to handle their accounts with care, and that’s never more important than when it comes to their money.

“I think it’s important, because we make sure the accounts are correct, payments are posted correctly, and I think that makes a big impact,” Bush says. “If members hear someone’s payments aren’t being handled correctly, that’s going to spread through the rest of the community and reflect poorly on the Co-op, so it’s important that we’re giving them the best customer service by making sure things are handled efficiently and properly.”

The other major part to the customer service element of payment processing is the customers themselves. No one in the department is ever too busy to offer a kind gesture, a friendly word, a smile or even a hug to someone at their counter or window. It’s important for members to feel seen and heard, and it’s equally important for the Co-op to continue to be a positive presence in their lives, in both good and challenging times.

“We have people that come through who have lost a loved one, and we have an opportunity to make an impact in someone’s life. Not just by helping them with their account, but by offering a smile,” Boothe says.

“Nothing would stop any one of us from going outside and hugging, for example, a gentleman who’s crying through this drive-thru because he just lost his wife. And you take that simple hug, and some encouraging words, and then next month he comes back and you can see he’s surviving. He’s doing better in his grief,” Hofstetter adds. “You leave that lasting impression. The community knows that DEC is here as a family, not just for employees, but also for the community.”

While some member interactions are more difficult than others, the women of payment processing understand their job frequently requires perspective – everybody has hard days. As far as they are concerned, it’s up to them to meet every situation with patience, compassion and empathy.

“Even over the phone,” Arocho says. “People can tell when someone’s not really listening, or not involved, and if they’re already on edge about something else, they will definitely test you. But by the time they leave here, their whole demeanor will change.”

Any member who has worked with our payment processing team can tell you how superb the experience is. It’s like getting together with close friends. Whether your day has gone well or you’re counting down ‘til Friday, you’ll always leave with a smile. Balancing bills while bringing joy to members is simply all in a day’s work.