Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of woman with headphone looking at computer screen. Photo submitted by Crystal Caputo.

Author Crystal Caputo answers phone calls, helps customers in person and online, and squeezes in other duties in a normal day as a DNR customer service representative.
Photo submitted by Crystal Caputo.

February 2013

At your service

A day in the life of a customer service representative.

Crystal Caputo

"Department of Natural Resources, this is Crystal. May I help you?"

That's the start of a wonderful relationship I am about to have with a customer. One of the biggest rewards of my job as a customer service representative for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is to know that by the time our relationship is over, my customer will have received the best service I can provide. And that's the way I treat every customer, every day.

My work day begins when I log in to the statewide call center system, put on my ear piece and the phone rings. It is a typical November day as hunters from around the state (and the nation) are calling to find out the latest about this year's deer hunting regulations. It doesn't matter to the customer that I am sitting in Oshkosh today. He just wants to know what he can harvest this year from his hunting land, wherever that may be.

I respond with a question. "What county and unit are you hunting in?"

"I'm in Crawford County hunting at an apple orchard," he replies.

So, here I am sitting in the northeast part of the state and Crawford County is in the southwest. I look up the deer management unit map and note that Crawford County is divided into two deer management units and the dividing line is Highway 61.

"So, are you east or west of 61?" I ask.

"I hunt at an apple orchard. You know, down the dirt road," he tells me.

"Do you live in Crawford County? What roads do you take to get to the apple orchard?" I ask.

"No," he says. "I live up north and I take the highways to the dirt road that takes me to the apple orchard."

In the meantime, I have been looking online for apple orchards in Crawford County. I discover that there are many. I start reading some of the orchard names off to him. None sound familiar. He then offers that the property is in his brother's name.

"Maybe I'll have to check with him and see if he knows the unit," he says.

I ask for his brother's name and type it into the Crawford County GIS land records database. I find a property and read him some of the surrounding roads and cities.

"Yes," he says. "That's it!"

With his location established we are able to find the regulations for the area. He's excited to learn he can harvest a buck and an antlerless deer. As we end the conversation, he says, "Boy that is good because those three apple trees I planted 10 years ago have really grown up and the deer are in there all the time. So maybe I'll get a chance at one this year!"

Hmmm. No wonder I couldn't find the place – a three-tree apple orchard?

With that call cleared I am ready to move onto the remittances from the previous day's over-the-counter work and I have to get the counter ready for the day.

Before long my computer task bar starts flashing indicating that I have an internet chat to answer. Through our statewide CCAnywhere phone system, we receive typed chats/questions from all over the state. This time, a man is asking about hunting at Hartman Creek State Park. Using the DNR website I search "hunting in a state park." I copy the link for the park map so he can view it or print it out. I tell him that he needs to buy a state park vehicle admission sticker if he plans to park a vehicle in the park. State park stickers can be purchased at the parks, DNR service centers and at hunting and fishing license vendors around the state.

"Okay! Thanks for the info. I'm so glad you have this option to chat online. Love it!" he writes as he signs off the chat.

As the doors to the service center open a woman walks in holding a plastic container.

"I don't know what it is but I found it in my bathtub this morning," she says.

An investigation is underway and I search online for "brown hairy bug with many legs." It works. We find a photo that looks just like her capture. It's a silverfish, which is common in Wisconsin. Mystery solved.

I grab a stack of deer registration stubs that have just arrived. They are from the archery season. Each stub is hand entered into a computer program that stores the information in the customer's record. Excited deer hunters filling out a registration stub means smeared, dirty and unclear numbers that I have to decipher.

Next, I'm on to reading emails regarding new firearm transport laws. In between phone calls, I read and highlight information so I am familiar with the law changes before the questions start coming in. I also need to add these changes to my regulation pamphlet so I can easily see the changes when questioned about the laws.

At this time of year the calls keep coming, as do the chats and customer visits. The art of multitasking comes into play.

The mail arrives. It contains batches of ATV, snowmobile and boat applications. When someone mails in an application, the application is bundled as part of a batch that could be sent anywhere in the state to be entered into the computer system. I'm expected to work on entering batches in between answering phone calls, chats and meeting face-toface with customers. When we have deer registration stubs and batches, we really need to manage our time wisely so that we can keep up with both and make our completion deadlines.

The next call comes from someone asking about manure spreading. She thinks it is illegal to spread manure in her area and she saw someone doing it. She is across the state from where I am working so I am not familiar with the local ordinances. I assure her that I will help to get her in contact with the right staff person. I also refer her to our website and together we read the information posted regarding manure spreading and runoff. She is shocked to find out the wealth of information that is posted on the DNR website.

I give her the contact information for the agricultural runoff management specialist in her area. At the same time, I send the specialist an email giving him a heads up that she will be contacting him. Shortly after, I receive a return email that says he has already looked into the situation and can confirm that the person spreading the manure does have all the necessary permits to do so. I relay that to the concerned caller who is very thankful for the quick response.

As the day progresses the service center sees a steady stream of customers coming in to buy deer licenses and share their "up north" adventures. The customers usually take time to look around the office and see the animal mounts on display. They page through publications that are available and that usually sparks additional questions.

Photo of man talking to customer service representative at counter. Robert Manwell
Crystal Caputo sells a hunting license before the fall deer gun season opens.
Robert Manwell

A couple stops by the office on their way north. They want to buy their gun deer licenses and find out what they need in order to burn a small brush pile. We have a pamphlet for just that question (and information available online). I show them how to find the daily burning restrictions in their area by calling or checking online. It turns out that they live in a county that requires a burn permit, so I bring up the burning permit application online, fill it out for them, print out their permit and they are all set to go.

The woman says she hopes there is still some leaf color left when they make it to their northern destination. I look up the Department of Tourism's Leaf Color Report at travelwisconsin.com. On the report we see that peak color has passed but there are still reports of some good color in the area. The couple leaves satisfied and astonished by how much information they gleaned during their visit.

I take a few minutes and continue editing the fishing regulations. I'm part of a group of customer service representatives who reads through the regulations before they are printed. We look for grammatical errors and provide suggestions on how to reword confusing content.

At the end of the day, I close everything up and run the daily totals. I bundle the deer registration stubs and batches we entered so that they go out in tomorrow's mail to the office where they are stored.

Before I log out I see that on average staff at this office answered about 70 calls, 11 chats, entered 300 deer stubs, completed a batch, and helped about 100 customers at the counter today.

And sometimes our days don't end there. There's a pretty good chance that when I stop at the grocery store on the way home, I'll run into someone who recognizes me and says, "Hey, you work for the DNR. Do you know anything about (insert your issue)?"

Crystal Caputo is a lead customer service representative for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She works at the Fitchburg Service Center.