Familiar Faces: Betty Smith feels right at Home
A doorbell rings as the front door opens to reveal a beautifully-appointed Christmas tree. Inside, guests are greeted with a holiday scent, festive tunes, and welcoming smiles. At a nearby desk, Huger resident Betty Smith sits ready to make those who come to visit feel right at home.
Thatâ€™s the whole idea behind the services offered at Daniel Islandâ€™s Home Telecom office. And Smith is all too happy to make the experience as pleasant as possible for her customers. As a Customer Care Support Specialist, she takes orders for phone, Internet or cable needs, and also helps troubleshoot problems.
â€œI have wonderful customers,â€ Smith said. â€œI love my customers! They are like my family. And when they come in here, itâ€™s like theyâ€™re coming home for me to help them solve their problems.â€
A Lowcountry native, Smith and her husband, James, have two adult children and four grandchildren. Although they have spent much of their lives in Huger, they lived for an extensive period of time in the New York area. Her brother, Melvin Wright, Sr., serves as the pastor of True Light Healing and Deliverance Ministries in Goose Creek.
Smith, who is affectionately known as the â€œQueen Beeâ€ among her co-workers, has been with the company since it started on Daniel Island some 14 years ago. At that time it was known as Daniel Island Media. In 1999, she was working at the Hampton Inn on the island, when one of her customers, the late Dr. George Brumley, singled her out for a position in a new company he was launching to serve the islandâ€™s emerging telecommunications needs.
Mr. Brumley was a frequent guest at the Hampton Inn and built a friendly relationship with Smith when she worked at the front desk. â€œI didnâ€™t know who he was, or what he did, but knew he was a very nice man. Then one day, he came up to the desk and he said â€˜call me.â€™â€
Smith later made the call and Brumley offered her a job. The new company set up shop in a wooded area along Daniel Island Drive, across from Cape Street. Conditions in those early days were a bit challenging, said Smith.
â€œWe started in a little construction trailerâ€¦We had folding chairs and a folding tableâ€¦And we had to trudge through the mud to get to the trailer!â€
They began with a few hundred clients, she recalled, serving the Danielâ€™s Landing apartment complex, a couple of businesses, and a scattering of homes in Codnerâ€™s Ferry Park, the islandâ€™s first neighborhood. Eventually, the company moved into a new location along Seven Farms Drive, beside what is now Vespa Pizzeria. But tragedy struck in 2004, altering Daniel Island Mediaâ€™s course and future. Dr. Brumley and 11 of his family members were killed in a plane crash while flying over Mt. Kenya in Africa. The news of his death was devastating, said Smith. His surviving family members decided it was time to sell the company. Home Telecom, based in Moncks Corner, purchased the business and eventually moved Daniel Island operations to the Ryland Square building on Seven Farms Drive, where the company remains today.
Home Telecom has continued to thrive on Daniel Island, where it now serves thousands of customers, Smith added. The independent telecommunications company utilizes cutting-edge fiber optic technology to offer phone, high speed Internet, cable television, wireless, and security services. Smith is one of 166 staffers employed by Home Telecom throughout the region.
â€œWhen I come in every day, I come in with the mind ofâ€¦sometimes I have to reach out above and beyond,â€ she said. â€œI am a Christian. And every morning I ask the Lord, â€˜What will you have me do today?â€™ And nine times out of 10 I do help someone! Just a hug, just to let someone know that you care. Itâ€™s just to give the best customer service I can in whatever aspect.â€
Smith calls herself â€œthe peacemakerâ€ when it comes to dealing with frustrated customers. In talking calmly through equipment or services issues, she helps solve problems and quickly get things back on track. When it comes to Internet malfunctions, Smith said the biggest culprit is when power is inadvertently unplugged by customers.
â€œMost of the time, especially in the summer or spring, they turn on their sprinkler systems and unplug our piece of equipment! Now at Christmas time, they unplug our equipment to plug in their Christmas lights, and that shuts off their service. So we get that. Thatâ€™s a typical day!â€
Often, her customers will come back and thank her for her handling of the situation. One recently brought her a souvenir from Paris.
â€œI get flowers, food and candy!â€ she exclaimed. â€œAt Christmas time, they bring me gifts, too. One lady always brings me little mini roses. It makes me feel special.â€
And when Smith sees that her customers need a little extra TLC, she is quick to offer a listening ear.
â€œOne calls to ask me to say a prayer for her,â€ said Smith. â€œOr theyâ€™ll come in, and some are going through a divorce and theyâ€™re hurting. Theyâ€™ll sit there and I can see the hurt. And I can just relate and Iâ€™ll try to calm them down.â€
All in all, the company is a great fit, said Smith. Not only does she enjoy the people she serves, but also her fellow staff members. Although she is looking forward to retiring one day, Home is definitely where her heart is.
â€œI love my job!â€ she said, sitting comfortably in the companyâ€™s inviting Daniel Island office. â€œI love my co-workers. I just love working for the company, period. I think itâ€™s excellent. If I had to do it all over again, Iâ€™d do it again.â€