Time to get back to the blog.

At the annual Florida Sterling Conference they always tell us that it okay to use someone else’s best practice.  It makes sense not to reinvent the wheel but from my experience it rarely happens.

Each year we do thousands of appointments for our customers so they don’t have to wait.  It also helps us better manage the crowds.  Out IT staff developed a very slick application developed in Fox Pro to manage it and we used it for years.  The only problem was that our staff had to book the appointments and Fox Pro was discontinued in 2007.  So recently we began to look a new more innovative approach.



After much due diligence and comparison of several systems we ended up going with a web based application that was already used by the Alachua (Gainseville) and Okaloosa (Crestview) County Tax Collector offices. The photos provided were matrices written up on a wall to look over all the options each system had available.  It looked so impressive we hated to erase it.

The online appointment system went live Monday February 2nd but wanted to share what it took to make it happen:

  • 508 cumulative hours spent (research, testing, meetings, set-up, training, etc.)
  • 37 FAQs updated on website
  • 33 Customer Information Publications updated
  • 11 webpages on taxcollector.com updated (1 of which was created for appointment-related transactions)
  • Media release announcing system rollout
  • Brand new “Schedule Appointment” button on front page of taxcollector.com
  • Revamp of our lobby PC interface (layout, added new section to schedule an appointment)
  • 102 email templates and 19 recorded voice transaction boxes updated
  • 90 staff members trained on using new system (front line staff, receptionists, and field service staff)
  • Manual input of 652 appointments into the new appointment system that were scheduled in the old appointment system for February and March

In the first four days 573 appointments were scheduled

  • 476 (83%) of which were scheduled by customers online
    • 79 were scheduled while the office was closed
    • Various times of the day; i.e. 7 PM, 9 PM, 1 AM, 5 AM

Assuming that it previously took our associates an average of 2 minutes to schedule an appointment in our old appointment system, those 476 online customer-scheduled appointments saved our associates 952 minutes of processing (almost 16 hours or 2 man days).

With the new online appointment system, we are averaging over 140 appointments scheduled/day.

In the old appointment system, only offering during our working hours (9 AM- 5 PM) during the last week prior to rollout (January 26 – January 30), we averaged 72 appointments scheduled/day.


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/.


Nearly 1,500 customers were turned away at the Desoto Branch office from October 21st to 23rd because our connection (as well as 300 other Tax Collectors offices statewide) to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is connected with antiquated technology. None of our local  fiber based technologies were affected in the same time frame.

The letter is written to the state’s Department of Management Services not the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles because they manage many administrative functions for all the sixteen state agencies.

Although I have no control over the issue, I can say I am sorry to the 1,500 customers that were impacted and I can write a letter to the person in charge about and share an opportunity for improvement.

Craig Nichols Letter

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.

Specialized Drivers Licenses at Our Desoto Branch


This Thursday April 4th marks the 2 year anniversary of the our office taking over driver licenses from the state.

In the  two year time period we have some impressive stats:

  • Appointments – 7,499 served with average wait time 02:33 minutes
  • Road Tests – 6,985 served with average wait time 02:42 minutes
  • Written Tests – 8,674 served with average wait time 02:36 minutes
  • Non US Citizens – 10,573 served with average wait time 12:32 minutes
  • Suspensions/Revocations/Cancellations 19,366 served with average 12:53 minutes

These transactions are by far the most difficult and time consuming to process and because of that they are only offered at our Desoto Branch Office.   We offer limited driver license services at all locations.

We spent a whole year making preparations to take these duties on.  Our management team did a great job coming up with a game plan and the staff bought into it and have executed way better than expected.  I am very proud of them!

How we did it

What our customers value the most?

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.

The Big Game The Day After

Dedicated employees are the key to any successful organization.  Big events outside the office like the NFL Super Bowl can force some to take the easy way out and call in sick the following day.

For the Florida Tax Collector Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days of the week and if it is the beginning and ending of the month only makes it worse. Today being the first Monday of the month is one of those days.  It would be very easy for staff to call in sick due to a huge weekend event and for us  that translates into longer wait times.

After doing a quick survey, I am proud to report we are all fully accounted for today.  Below was an article published today about Super Bowl fallout.

By David Schepp
Posted Feb 6th 2012 @ 6:30AM

Online Story

In the lead up to this year’s Super Bowl XVLI, fans of the New York Giants and New England Patriots likely devoted some of their work time discussing or analyzing what is arguably America’s premier sporting event.

Yet employers are likely to see the greatest impact on productivity today — the day after the big game — as workers congregate around water coolers, chat over cubicle walls or otherwise gather to discuss it.

For each employee, companies lose an average of $3.16 for every 10 minutes of time used discussing the Super Bowl and activities related to the game, such as managing office pools, according to employment-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Super Bowl revelers find the Monday after particularly difficult to manage, Challenger says, noting that some devoted fans have even started a campaign to make post-Super Bowl Monday a national work holiday.

Separate surveys conducted by employment-information website Glassdoor and Kronos Inc., a workforce management consultancy, show Americans are more likely to waste time or call in sick on the Monday following the Super Bowl than any other day.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos estimates that some 4.4 million employees will come to work late today, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Harris Interactive. The survey further shows that absences related to the Super Bowl are high among young adults, especially men aged 18 to 34; more in that group reported calling in sick than any other, according to the poll of more than 3,000 adults.

The findings were similar to those of Glassdoor, which found in a survey last year that about 3 percent of employees will take a sickday on the Monday following the Super Bowl, while three times as many plan to use a vacation day to avoid coming to work.

Among other findings, Glassdoor’s survey revealed that a fifth of employees surveyed say that morale is typically better in the office the day after the Super Bowl.

However, 22 percent of employees also said it’s commonly a less productive day than usual.

“[Today] is going to be a day of impaired productivity, for sure,” human-resource consultant Jack Milligan tells KTAR in Phoenix.

Many people are expected to overindulge at Super Bowl parties and then call in sick to work, says Milligan, principal at Leathers, Milligan & Associates LLC.

Statistics show that some 6 million to 9 million workers are expected to take the day off, he says.

For more results from Kronos’ 2008 Super Bowl survey, check out the infographic below: