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CLERK OF COURT & COMPTROLLER

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA

Curtesha Howell million dollar deputy clerk

Call Center generates $4 million in credit card payments in first year

You might call Curtesha Howell the million dollar deputy clerk.

That’s how much she generated in fines, fees and costs in one year through credit card payments at the clerk’s Call Center.

The Call Center, which was created in October 2013, began accepting credit card payments by phone on March 1, 2015. Most of the payments are for traffic tickets, though criminal court costs and civil infractions can also be paid through the Call Center.

Paying a traffic ticket is never fun and it can be very expensive, but paying by phone has proven to be a popular service. It certainly beats driving to downtown or one of the clerk’s other locations and standing in line.

Payments also can be made through the clerk’s website, but often customers use the Call Center because they have questions or are more comfortable talking to a real person. You can make a payment by calling (813) 276-8100 ext. 4338.

The average daily amount collected by phone tripled over the first year, from about $7,000 to $20,000. But some days as much as $30,000 is collected by phone. April’s average was $20,000 a day. The single biggest day was Feb. 10, when $47,433 was collected.
“We didn’t even advertise,” says Call Center Director Bonnie Rushing. “It was just word of mouth.”

So far, about $5.6 million has been generated over the phone. In the first year of the service, about $4 million was generated, which means Howell raised a fourth of the total herself. How did she do it? Patience and persistence, with a dash of empathy.

“My job is to get the payment,” she says. But getting it often means dealing with angry or frustrated callers, many of whom have been on hold for up to 45 minutes. “You just have to learn to be empathetic,” she says. It helps, she says, that she spent time as a team leader dealing with unhappy customers. So she tries to keep the customer focused and usually completes the transaction in less than 10 minutes.

Howell’s original goal was to generate $10,000 a day, but as more people have discovered the phone service, that number has increased. Last week, her total since the start of credit card payments was $1.8 million.

Soon she’ll be the $2 million deputy clerk.