Customer Service? What's that?!?!?!
I opened my utility bill from the City of Naperville (which covers water, electric and sewer) and my eyes bulged out of my head. My bill (beautifully presented in a spanking new format - including a how-to-read-this-new-bill insert) was higher than I had ever seen in the almost 9 years I had lived in this house! Surely something had to be completely haywire! I knew that Naperville was in the process of installing SmartGrid technology on every one's homes, but the box outside my kitchen window looked the same as it always had. I called the customer service phone number and spent almost NINE minutes on hold before I reached a live person (at 3:45pm on a Friday afternoon). Clearly, I was not the only resident who received such a crazy bill. As I patiently waited, I checked their social media sites to see if there was any news about this bill snafu. Nada.
Once I reached a live person (who shall remain nameless - let's call her Ms. X for the purpose of this story), I gave her my account number and explained the situation. It was then that I was informed that the City "estimated" my last months bill, and this one was playing catch up because the estimate was off. Excuse me, what??? My bill increased almost 40% in one month because someone estimated wrong? Well, Ms. X informed me, I should be thankful because there were people who's bills went up almost 60%! I'm sorry but that does NOT make me feel any better. Isn't that a giant, flashing neon red flag of problem with the system?
After spending 15 minutes on the phone with the lovely Ms. X, I learned the following information:
1. Because of the record heat in July, they did not want the meter readers out doing readings so they used their right to "estimate" my bill. (Makes sense - it was really hot and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be out in that).
2. They use the last 3 months worth of bills to do the estimating. (Not quite sure about that. Wouldn't it make more sense to use the actual usage for the same month in question from LAST YEARS bill plus the months on the front and back end to get a more accurate reading?)
3. As a resident and customer, I am entitled to call in an ACTUAL reading to the City if I do not want to have an estimate used. (News to me! There was no notification from the City to its residents, either by mail, posting or social media, that they had made the decision to estimate. How were residents supposed to do this before the bills were generated if we didn't know? The only notification residents were given was the word "estimate" next to the "Current Reading" box on the bills we received.)
4. That she IN NO WAY can promise or make any guarantees that my request to be notified PRIOR to an estimated meter reading occurring so that I can call in an ACTUAL reading so that my bills are ACCURATE and not a guessing game that will screw up my monthly budget will actually happen.
I can only assume that Ms. X had been hearing about this for the better part of the day because she was not interested in servicing the customer (me) but in continuing to remind me that she has no power and no control over any part of any thing. There is a part of me that felt bad for her - I understand that she, personally, made none of the decisions that caused the insanity that is my bill. And I've worked in customer service and been on the front lines when it came to dealing with complaining customers. So I get it. But at what point to you have a responsibility to make it better? Even at the lowest point in an organization, when you are dealing with customers you are a representative of that company. Don't you hear what the customers are saying, make a list of the biggest complaints (or good things) and bring it to people that CAN make changes so that you stop getting the calls from people who are frustrated?? Doesn't that ultimately make your job easier? It's just a thought.
In the meantime, I'm off to dig under the couch cushions and see if I can come up with the "under-estimated" difference in my bill . . . .
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