THE WELLS ETHOS
The Wells ethos has built the company a strong reputation as a team of teams, that not only delivers, but forms long-term partnerships with it's clients.
It's something every person that works for Wells innately has or develops over time. It's not easily defined, particularly when asking Wells staff, who will simply tell you - "it's just what we do round here".
Mark Benson went from being a Meter reader in Whangarei to managing Wells metering services for the entire country. This was achieved with both opportunity, and personal drive...
A POWER HOUSE OF GETTING IT DONE
Wells Electrician Dan Meyer explains the importance of how accepting a coffee, having the right information, and the right approach led to a customer having a totally different view on tradespeople...
A POWER HOUSE OF DOING IT RIGHT
Wells trains people to be employees for life - Not necessarily to work for Wells forever, but to definitely take that Wells ethos with them. Some, like Mark Benson, call it being a “Wells person”. If a Wells person does a good job, they get recognised with greater opportunity.
Mark Benson is the National Operations Manager for Wells Metering Services. Managing remote based staff from Kataia all the way to Dunedin. Mark keeps in touch with the meter reading team in the far north as much as he can, probably because he’s loyal to where it all started for him at Wells.
Before working at Wells Mark had a background in horticulture. He lived in Kerikeri along with his parents who owned a couple of citrus and sub-tropical orchards.
He had experience in security-related work prior to coming on board with Wells working as a night patrol officer and security guard for a hostel.
Mark had seen meter readers in his neighbourhood, but didn’t know much about the work that was involved. When he saw an ad for meter reading in the local paper and thought he’d give it a crack.
Mark ended up working in the Whangarei area so it was pretty much full time from the beginning. He started meter reading in the far North and Whangarei, and after a few years took the opportunity and moved into a team leader role for this area. Mark then had another opportunity to become the Regional Manager for the Hamilton area. So Mark and his family made the move to Hamilton.
“It was a hard choice, because all my family are up North. Having said that it was quite nice to be moving to the city from Kerikeri.”
It was hard yakka looking for places initially. Mark started staying in motels before the whole family moved down. He sold his house in Kerikeri and bought in Hamilton.
Mark progressed from Regional Manager, to National Operations Manager for Wells Metering Services. He’s been working for Wells for 8 years now.
Mark broadened his horizons from local neighbourhoods in Whangarei, to the entire Hamilton region to then the entire country. There’s an old saying “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s where you water it”. Mark took his opportunities, and much like the fruit in his parents orchard, he grew from doing so.
Marks says there have been other people at Wells who have probably had opportunities that have outweighed their skills, but from their strong work ethics and determination they have been successful.
He calls it being a “Wells person” and he adds there are a number of people out there who are Wells people, they are willing to go the extra mile. and that’s what drives the company forward.
Wells Meter Readers encounter all sorts of terrain in order to get the reads. On one particular occasion, Helen Smyth added "seawater" to this list, and it's an example of the can-do attitude shared by many Wells employees.
Going back to the nineties, Helen Smyth worked as a meter reader in Auckland for Mercury. She’d left the police force and kind of stumbled into meter reading to fill in for a few months before she decided what she really wanted to do. She found she really enjoyed it, the freedom of working in the outdoors.
Helen proved her worth at Mercury, and when changes took place, she took her opportunities and became a full-time employee and in charge of the meter reading side for mercury.
Helen had lots of interactions with Wells, as they were Mercury’s main service provider. When she moved up North to the Bay of Islands she rang Wells seeing if there was anything she could do for them, turns out there was, and Helen became a member of the Wells team.
Helen set up the structure of the monitoring process for the New Plymouth office and the meter reading bases. Which led to her role now as the operations support for metering performance.
Helen’s been working at Wells for 6 years now.
At a meter reading meeting that Helen attended there was talk of a remote site causing a problem. The house was on a peninsula, there were other houses on the peninsula, but this particular house was on a section that could only be accessed by water.
The Customer had switched to Mercury because they liked the idea of monthly meter reading, but when you’re living somewhere that’s only accessible by sea, it’s hugely expensive to get the meters read. There’s usually a special rate for the remote sites to be read, normally these remote sites are on 6 monthly or 12 monthly reading cycles, but this particular house liked the idea of monthly reads.
It was mainly because it was quite a point of difference. It was slightly before the widespread release of smart meters, there were meters that would communicate wirelessly, but they were mainly commercial sites.
It was likely that they would need to pay for a water taxi, or would need to pay one of the staff for the use of his boat. Trouble was, he would have to launch it from Waitangi right out across to the bay where the house was, even if he got his boat as far as Russell, either towing it, going across on the ferry, or launching it, however he was going to do it, it would’ve been expensive.
Helen listened to the conversation about the house and realised the house was in the Bay of Islands, she knew exactly where it was, she could see it from the deck of her house. There was the main house, with a caretaker’s house too, her friends brother had been a caretaker there.
Helen spoke up saying that if it was fine weather, she’d go out and get a reading. She wasn’t a serious Kayaker, but did enjoy paddling in places near her home in the Bay of Islands and in areas of Auckland harbour. She occasionally liked to go out with the fishing line and try to catch a Kahawhai.
That particular weekend it was beautiful, so she took a picnic (Sandwiches and pikelets) stored it in the little hatch on the kayak, and Kayaked across. It only took Helen 20-30 minutes to get across, it was a flat, calm, beautiful sunny start to the day, she pulled up to the shelly beach.
Helen thought to herself that any locals who saw her would wonder what she was doing, not expecting someone kayaking up to a house and read the meter. She went up to the meter, wrote it on a piece of paper, wrapped it up in plastic and popped it in her life jacket so it wouldn’t get wet. She then Paddled off to another spot for lunch. She decided to take the long route home and enjoy paddling around some of the other bays.
Helen took all the risks of kayaking into consideration and managed them, just like she used to when meter reading and dealing with a dog on the property.
Helen knew it could be done, she had all the right equipment, she could swim, and had food and water if things went wrong.
Mark Benson, National Operations Manager for Meter Reading Services at Wells was really pleased with Helen’s efforts. Mercury was also equally pleased, because it meant that at the end of the day, the customer got an accurate bill, which is exactly what they wanted.
Wells Electricians are always on the go, typically installing 12-15 meters per day. Wells provides electrical services 24/7, including holidays.
For every job, Wells ensure on getting the little things right, and it’s attending to that detail that can make a big difference to customers.
When Wells received a call from a customer, really upset and angry about the work that was proposed, it was no surprise that Wells could make the situation right. They were however a bit surprised to receive a call from the customer later saying that the electrician from Wells has changed her perspective on tradesmen for life, and she will recommend Wells to anyone. Turns out, it’s all in a day’s work for Wells staff, and on this occasion it was thanks to Dan Meyer’s efforts.
The first thing noted when talking with Dan Meyer, electrician for Wells is his warm welcoming manner, then you notice his South African accent, as he describes his absolute commitment to the customers, and to a getting the job done right.
Before moving to New Zealand, Dan worked as a supervisor for a mining company in Zambia. It was a challenging role. There was no infrastructure and everything from point A to point B had to be constructed through manual labour, there were no diggers or heavy machinery.
Dan then moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife, he initially worked for a large international company, but decided to leave the company, as their work ethics did not fit with his, knocking off at two o’ clock in the afternoon to go drink beer wasn’t agreeing with him. After seeing a position opening at Wells Dan decided to take
Dan was working for Wells on the meter replacements for the Smart Metering project when the admin person called Dan warning of a potentially challenging customer.
The customer Ms Ellis had called sounding quite upset, she was unsure why her meter was going to be replaced, and who had given the electrician permission to
Wells admin prepared all the necessary documentation for the customer to prove that consent was given and briefed Dan before he visited the house.
The appointment was at ten o'clock. Dan arrived bang-on ten o’clock and knocked on the door. When Ms Ellis opened the door, her first words were not good morning, it was “you.. are… exactly on time” Dan smiled and introduced himself, that set the tone for the rest of the visit.
Ms Ellis invited Dan in and explained that she had a legal background, and that an electrician doesn’t have the right to come onto her property. Dan politely replied asking if he could give Ms Ellis some additional information, and that by law Wells have the right to enter a property to access a meter.
Ms Ellis replied with a series of challenging questions on when the law changed and who authorised the visit. Dan answered all of the questions with no sweat, due to some handy work by the Wells administration team preparing notes. It was Dan’s apparent knowledge and calm tone that helped Ms Ellis feel confident about the situation, and allow Dan to continue the work.
Turns out Ms Ellis had some horror stories in the past with tradesmen. She had a builder who was hired to fix a leak in our roof. He said he could do the job for a reasonable price, turned out to be much more, and there was a heck of a mess to fix up. Ms Ellis ended up having to go to the small claims tribunal.
Because of that experience she became very guarded with any tradesmen entering the house. The Wells electrician had been different though, Dan had explained what he was going to do and why, and while he was talking he unpacked his equipment and moved the bookshelf and all the items out of the way, Ms Ellis had loads of teddy bears and ornaments on the bookshelf, Dan took extra care in removing the items from the shelf before moving it, much to the appreciation of Ms Ellis.
The job wasn’t straight forward as the meter board was an old one. But Dan’s experience came in handy when dealing with the more challenging meters.
Ms Ellis made Dan a cup of tea for his efforts, and thanked him – not only a job well done, but for regaining her confidence in tradesmen and becoming a life-long advocate for Wells Electricians.
Alona first started working for Wells as a meter reader, it was advertised in the paper, at the time she cleaning motels and she wanted to do something different. She decided to give it a go.
Alona began meter reading in the Waitakere region. She found her first day difficult, and thought of leaving, but then she calmed herself and said “no, I’ll see this as a challenge”. At the end of the next day she felt just as awful. But she said to herself “you can beat this”.
That’s how Alona has grown, seeing barriers as challenges to overcome and be better for. Alona stuck with meter reading, she then started reading water meters as well for the Waitakere Water Council.
“It’s quite physical work meter reading, it’s head down ass up in the ground, digging or pailing”
Operations manager David Boyle noticed Alona’s determination. He asked Alona to be team leader, she was a bit sceptical as she hadn’t been there long, and the others in the team were more experienced. But it worked out, and Alona was team leader for two years before slowly moving into the office environment. She was promoted to Health and Safety officer, in which she completed course in Health and Safety. Then she was asked to become meter reading supervisor.
“I’ve learned many things from being in the office environment, for example how to use a computer. Previously I didn’t know how to turn a computer on, let alone have computer skills! I’ve learned that all through my experience working in the office. I feel very lucky that I have been given these opportunities at Wells.