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News : Department of Water and Power Customer Service is Improving after Billing Troubles
Sept 19, 2014 -- Department of Water and Power officials told a skeptical Los Angeles City Council on Friday that it has been able to make improvements in its billing and customer service system that has plagued the utility over the past year.
Randy Howard, senior assistant general manager, said the agency has reduced the number of customers who received estimated bills to 4 percent and cut customers’ wait time for calls to be answered to under 10 minutes.
"Even during this week’s heat storm, we were able to answer our calls in an average of 10 minutes," Howard said.
The DWP also has reduced the number of bills that were delayed from 75,000 to 15,000 of its 1.4 million customers, Howard said.
Councilman Mitch Englander questioned the success in dealing with problems.
"We keep track in our office," Englander said. "Last month, in August, we had 40 cases we opened. So far, in this month, we have had 45. And we are hearing complaints of how difficult it is for people to get to talk to a supervisor."
Howard said part of the issue is a rise in demands in starting new service by students who are returning to campuses in September.
The DWP has been under sharp criticism for the past year as it implemented a new billing system that resulted in thousands of customers receiving bills two and three times what they should have been and other customers receiving no bills and then being hit with a large payment.
One solution that had been used, a customer call-back feature so people would not have to stay on hold, has been dropped, Howard said.
"What we found is that it was bumping people who were on hold," Howard said. "We didn’t think people who stayed on the line because they were told they would have a half-hour wait should be bumped back because of the computer calls."
Howard said the agency is also looking at opening supplemental call centers for use when there is a sharp rise in calls.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Los Angeles Department of Water and Power:
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the largest municipal utility in the United States, serving over four million residents. It was founded in 1902 to supply water to residents and businesses in Los Angeles and surrounding communities.
Published: Monday, September 22, 2014