A machine could never replace a Mary

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

In a day and age when Baldwin EMC’s members have several options for paying their bills that don’t require them to come into the co-op’s offices, people still lined up to see Mary. They would talk to her about the hard times behind them and the better days they were praying for. They would discuss recipes for banana pudding, where to buy the best watermelon and how no one seems to make good lemonade anymore.

Last month, after 38 years of service, Mary Middleton retired from her position as a cashier at Baldwin EMC’s headquarters. When the Board of Trustees presented Mary with a resolution thanking her for her loyalty, they asked her to share some of the wisdom she had gained during her years with the co-op. “People want you to remember them. They want you to remember what they told you the last time they came in,” she said. “With as many members as we have, it would get hard, but I would always try.”

She would always try. And that’s what kept people coming back.

As our use of technology continues to minimize how much we’re interacting face-to-face with one another, the Marys of the world are still a breath of fresh air. While Baldwin EMC’s members appreciate the convenience of a payment kiosk or online billing, I know they still value being able to see or talk to an actual person, not a machine, when they call or come in one of our offices. That’s why we have and will continue to maintain a call center right here at home and member service clerks in each office lobby. The employee on the other end of the phone or the other side of the desk might be your neighbor or your child’s Sunday school teacher. He or she might be someone you’ve never met, but you can be sure you matter to that
person all the same.

Baldwin EMC is the largest cooperative in the state of Alabama. We consistently operate on the cutting edge of technology. We embrace whatever software or equipment that will be cost-effective and improve the way we do our work. But I’m not at all embarrassed to say there are still some things we’ve been doing the same way for 80 years. You’ll still be greeted with a smile when you walk through our front door. If your power goes out, men in uniform are still going to show up to fix it. When you need help figuring out how to save money on your power bill, an actual person will still walk you through the steps you need to take.

You see, no matter how many advanced meters we utilize, no matter how many members sign up for automatic draft, no matter how many payment kiosks we install, there are some aspects of our business that can’t be replaced by a machine. It’s the Marys of the co-op that are its heart. And without heart, what would we be?

I was never more aware of this than in December, when we gathered to honor employees who had reached milestones in their years of service to Baldwin EMC. During that special ceremony, which was attended by both current employees and retirees, I was reminded of how the loyalty of every one of the people being honored and every person in the room had helped make Baldwin EMC what it is today.

We can replace a computer, a truck or a pole. We can’t replace a Mary or any of the other people who have dedicated themselves to the mission of this co-op. So what do you think we value more?You won’t need a computer to figure that one out.

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