The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power continues to be plagued by long customer call wait times, thousands of delayed bills and other problems related to its switch to a new billing and customer information system, officials said Wednesday.
Call wait times still average 57 minutes, and the utility has on its plate 6,000 “troubled accounts” in which customers have not received bills for as long as eight months, DWP officials said in an update to the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee.
The utility plans to add 37 customer service representatives by Friday, but DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said they actually need another 100 to work the phones and will be training more soon.
Training takes about 10 to 12 weeks, she said, though the utility is working to have trainees begin answering some calls sooner than that.
DWP officials also detailed a hiccup in a “call-back” feature that was supposed to have cut down customers’ on-hold wait times. The feature allows customers to hang up and wait for a call back when a DWP representative becomes available, but it has instead made wait times even longer for those who decide to stay on hold.
The utility has resorted to using the call-back feature from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., after which it is turned off to cut down on wait times for those who stay on the phone.
Officials also said estimated electricity and water bills make up about 7 percent of all bills, down from the figure of 22 percent given when the new billing system was rolled out last September. The estimated bills sometimes led to wildly inaccurate charges to customers.
Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who chairs the committee, said that while it’s not unusual for transitions such as the billing system overhaul to encounter problems, DWP’s “rollout is very untypical.”
He asked the public to “be patient with the utility.”
“We still are apologizing for this rollout,” he said. “We’re going to have more updates.”
— Staff and Wire Reports
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