This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers. 


Utility Customer Service During These Troubled Times

image credit: ID 95144628 © Flynt |
Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
  • 1,004 items added with 508,571 views
  • Apr 6, 2020

The coronavirus is causing nearly everyone (and every business) to change their ways of thinking.

For utilities, on the surface things aren’t all that different – the lights are still coming on for customers – with some temporary humanitarian changes, such as not shutting off the power to delinquent accounts.

But now’s also a good time to examine your customer service and consider making changes.

How often have you, when calling a businesses, gotten irritated by the experience? We all share horror stories of phone trees that lead to nowhere, getting passed from one customer service rep to another or not being able to even understand a rep who speaks heavily accented English.

Is this the experience your customers have when they call you? It’s not a bad idea to create a few customer scenarios, call in and see how well your team does. You might be surprised.

In any case, there are a few things to consider when it comes to customer service.

Do you outsource your customer service? It was a huge trend not too long ago, but the backlash has caused a partial pullback in its use.

You may be saving money by using foreign customer service reps, but is it worth it if they can’t solve problems – or create new ones?

Then there are phone trees, which are a gold mine of materials for comedians everywhere.

Yes, phone trees serve a purpose, but often they’re far too complicated. You probably would do well to “trim” your phone tree options – and always make speaking to a live representative an option at any point during a call.

When it comes to the conversations, maybe you should consider abandoning or at least modifying the scripts many customer services reps have to use. It’s not difficult for customers to figure out when a script is being used and it can quickly add to frustration levels – like being required to provide account numbers over and over again. General guidelines for reps are fine, especially more experienced ones.

Perhaps an alternative is to put new reps on scripts, but once they’ve proven themselves, allow them to follow the general guidelines.

Also consider other options for communicating with customers. Live chats can be helpful and email should always be an option.

Two other general notes:

First, have your reps always get a callback number for customers in case they’re disconnected, which happen fairly often. It’s really annoying for customers to have to call back in and start the process with a different rep.

Second, make sure your customer service number is featured prominently on your website, bills and any other communications that might warrant a customer response.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Apr 8, 2020

"First, have your reps always get a callback number for customers in case they’re disconnected, which happen fairly often. It’s really annoying for customers to have to call back in and start the process with a different rep."

Thanks for pointing this out, Andy. Even after giving customer service reps my number in case of a disconnection, I've still found myself waiting around in vain for a callback. I really don't understand it. 

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Andy Gotlieb on Apr 10, 2020

It perplexes me, too, and can be irritating having to start the process over with a new rep.


Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »