Evoke Training


“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

― Vince Lombardi

In our line of work the hardest part of the job has to be when a manager needs to counsel an employee about an error they made which possibly inconvenienced a customer. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s life and it happens.  We call them ECR’s which is short for Employee Counseling Records.  A simple transposition of  a VIN (vehicle id number), date, dollar amount, or an address can dramatically change the outcome of a transaction.

In an effort to reduce ECR’s,  my Current Collections Director, Tony Conboy, recommended that we look into Evoke Development, a Florida based company.  They offer unique training courses that “saves you money, increases productivity, and improves operational efficiency. Employees who complete accuracy training typically reduce their errors by 50% and increase their processing speed by 7%.”  We also took advantage of the “train the trainer” program which enabled our staff to conduct the training after they were trained. Our Quality Assurance staff was the obvious choice to be the trainers.

To date we have had 51 employees participate in the seven hour course.  We generally do an afternoon class with a morning class the following day.  So far we have had a 59% reduction in errors (104 pre-course assessment errors, 43 post-course assessment errors).  We have also had a 1% decrease in speed (6 minutes 30 seconds average on pre-course assessment, 6 minutes 35 seconds average on post course Assessment).  Eight staff members made zero mistakes on the pre-course assessment compared to twenty-four on the post course assessment.

I had the opportunity to participate with seven employees in the February 12-13 classes.  They were all wondering how I would do since I have an aptitude for quickly calculating numbers in my head.  Turns out it has nothing to do with the course. On the pre-course I made five errors in 6 minutes 50 seconds.  On the post-course I made one error in 7 minutes 28 seconds.  This basically confirmed what I already knew; my staff can run circles around me.  Of the 51, we had a handful achieve perfect scores in under 5 minutes; to me, that is mind boggling.

Time will tell if we see less ECR’s due to accurate data transfer.  On ten random exit surveys the staff had high marks rating the trainer with a 99 out of 100 possible points and the actual training course 95 out of a possible 100 points. For me, I ranked them 100/100. I thoroughly enjoyed the training.

For more information on Evoke Development you can find them at http://evokedevelopment.com/.


Superman Plate

Superman plate unveiled in Ohio on October 7th

The recent release of a Superman specialty license plate in Ohio popped up recently on the internet.  As much as I enjoyed growing up in the 1960’s with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Spiderman – this one has me worried.  Why? How long will it take for a Florida Legislator to sponsor a bill to have a Superman plate in Florida?  It is bound to happen.

How did all these specialty plates get started?

Challenger Plate 1987

Challenger Plate 1987

It is our fault.  On January 1, 1987 Florida introduced the first ever specialty license plate called “Challenger.”  It was supposed to have a definite life time but on September 30, 1991 it was extended to indefinite.  It made so much money everyone else with a cause jumped on the bandwagon. Today there are over 150 plates in Florida alone generating million of dollars per year for every cause you can think of.

Top selling specialty plates in Florida

FSU Out of State

In some states it is possible to get a Florida State University specialty plate for your North Carolina registered vehicle. And we now have Superman.

Why are there so many specialty plates to choose from?

Because specialty plates are what I call “legislator friendly.”  It helps a good cause, the state gets a setup fee, it is not a tax, and the consumer does not have to buy it but can if they want it.  Legislators can also go back home and report back their good deed while they were in session.

Keeping Up With Competition

Another concern I have is once you have Superman – how long before Batman has to have one?  Back in 1999, the United States Marine Corps plates went on sale and within four years all the branches of the military had their own Florida specialty plates for sale.

No Extra Compensation

For every specialty plate offered it requires keeping an inventory for each one at every office.  So for Manatee County with 4 office locations means over 400 different inventories to keep track of .  Back when there were just a few we used to post the plates up on our walls for customers to see but there isn’t enough room to do that anymore.  Today we have a document that staff can easily pull out and show to those interested.  We also only offer the top selling and new plates at every location.  Our Desoto location offers every plate.

Tax Collectors are like a private sector business – every service we provide we get a statutory fee to run our operations.  For each vehicle registration we process we receive $3.00 and for every title transfer we receive $4.75.  The last time we got an increase from the Florida Legislature to perform these transactions was 1985.  Imagine trying to run a business in 2013 and getting compensated in 1985 wages.  So having to keep up with all these new specialty plates every year with no additional compensation is getting old.  Fortunately the fees we receive from the collection of property taxes makes up for the shortfall but in the smaller Counties where their is a lesser tax base Tax Collectors struggle to make ends meet.

Save the Sea Monkeys!

Sea MonkeysI am still holding out for the Save The Sea Monkeys specialty license plate to appear in our offices.  When we start selling that one I will know it is time for me to retire or the world will be coming to an end.

GoRenew.com is the state’s portal to allow customers to process a variety of transactions so they can avoid using the mail or visiting a County Tax Collector’s office.

On Friday March 22nd the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) emailed the Florida Tax Collectors about a necessary security change at the GoRenew.com website.  The change was effective immediately.

The added step requires customers to key in a 16 digit code on the back of their driver license.

Back of Driver License

The problem is it is virtually impossible to read and this number was NEVER designed to be used as an online security feature.  I ask my 18 year old son James to read his and he could not.  By Monday March 25th I received my first customer note:

Customer Note

So after a couple of months we collected some data, listened to complaining customers, and made contact with the DHSMV on August 1st:

DHSMV Letter Page 1 DHSMV Letter Page 2

Continue reading »

Most people dread going to the “DMV” because of long lines and the horrible staff working there.  The picture used for this article speaks volumes. In Florida at the local level, elected County Tax Collectors are the “DMV” which is just one of the many duties we provide each day.

We are no different than any other “‘DMV” starting our day with a long line at the door.  On some occasions at our Desoto office the line goes all the way to 301 Blvd.   The difference is how we handle it and the line goes away in a matter of minutes.  Based on stats from our annual Voice of the Customer Survey the #1 choice is “Speed of Service” which does match up with a long line out the door.

Fast Tube by Casper

Here is how we do it:

  • Prior to 9AM Officer Andrew Jacobus gets the customers in 3 different lines:
    • 9AM Appointments (Always go first!)
    • driver license customers
    • all other transactions
  • At 9AM we open the doors and a receptionist reads the following script:
    “Good morning. (pause)
    Customers with an appointment, please come to the front of the line. (pause)(repeat)

    Anyone that is here to process a Driver License or ID transaction, this includes clearing suspensions, needs to have the Driver’s License/ID application completed. If you have not completed this form please step to your right and get the form and clipboard from the associate. You must complete this form before receiving a number.
    Everyone else form two lines at the receptionist desk after entering the building.”
  • A staff person with several clipboards and pens with our office DL application stands ready at the customers right ready to pass those out.
  • In less than 5 minutes the line is gone!

This is a favorite part of my day.

We are blessed with a fine group of part timers at the Tax Collectors office.  We call them our “OPS staff” which mean “Other Personal Services” which is what the Florida Department of Revenue calls them in our budget preparation documents.  They play an integral part to our office goals and objectives.

2013 current collections part timers

L-R Director Tony Conboy, Rebecca Bollom, Heric Fregonese, Tamia Mills, Ken Burton, Jr,, Assistant Director Ronda French, Sherrie Gerrits, and Carole Knestaut. Not pictured is Jashay Woodie and Sully Salinas

Our Current Collections part time staff are made up of greeters.  They greet the public when they first walk into an office and help get them started with their transaction.  As our duties have increased in recent years their job has become more difficult and now has a 3 day training.

2013 operations part timers

L-R Manager Jedidiah Brightbill, Greer Gambill, Zachary Zartman, Raegan Horne, Kim Alfonso, and Director Marie Munford

Our part time Operations staff process the mail and web payments in a timely manner so that these customers see a quick turnaround on their transaction to ensure they will use it again in the future.

2013 FS&C Part Timers

L-R Director Michele Schulz, Auditor Sue Sinquefield, Tanya Ranney, and Kristine Reeves

Our Field Services and Collections part time staff handle the collection of the local tourist development tax also known as the “bed tax” or “resort tax.”  We have seen record  collections in recent years and alot has to do with their collections efforts.

We recognize them every year at a luncheon at our Desoto office reminding them how important they are to the office.

I need a driver license handbook for my teenager?  

A day does not go by when I hear customers ask that familiar question.  Due to cutbacks at the state government level there are times when we are not able to provide handbooks and have to tell customers to go to our website online.  Wasted trip!

At our Desoto office we now offer an alternative to ensure many customers can leave satisfied.  All you need is your smartphone or tablet.  Each of our 4 locations offers free internet access.

Not only can we answer this question but 9 other popular questions based on historical data.

Below is our NFC / QR Board located in four strategic locations for customers to see.


Click on image to see larger image


So how do I get the driver license handbook for my teenager?

On the board one of the questions is Do you need to take any written exams? You have two options to get the answer:

  1. QR (Quick Response) Codes – allows customers to takes a picture of the square bar code using a bar code reader application on their phone/tablet.
  2. NFC (Near Frequency Communication) – allows customers with NFC  enabled phones/tablets to touch their phone to the nfc sticker to access information.

Each question has a track able link that will allow us to review their usage on a monthly basis to measure progress.   We are not expecting huge initial results but moderate growth over the long term.  Cost is minimal to produce and will add to the other three office in the near future.

Special thanks to Operations Department Manager Jedidiah Brighbill for spearheading the project.

After 13 years of processing mail in our Operations Department Mavis Degelman is retiring and we wish her the best in her future endeavors.  During her time with us Mavis collected all the staples that came with the work she processed and I just had to share it.  It fills up a can of coffee.

Mavis Degelman's Collection Of Staples

Mavis Degelman’s Collection Of Staples

Mavis Degelan

Operations Director Marie Munford, Mavis Degelman, and Ken Burton, Jr.