KSAT Defenders investigate excessive phone hold times

CPS Energy complaints tops in Defenders survey of phone hold times

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SAN ANTONIO - A KSAT 12 Defenders investigation into telephone hold times for people calling the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System found CPS Energy customers waited the longest to talk to a real person.

Calling 311 to talk to a representative of the city was the fastest, with someone answering in an average of just 12 seconds.

The county took less than two minutes to answer a call on average. SAWS averaged about six and a half minutes. But CPS Energy was another story.

Sometimes, the customer service phone line was repeatedly busy. When the call was picked up by the answering system, the message often indicated a lengthy wait.

"Between 35 minutes and one hour, seven minutes," said the recorded voice on one call.

The KSAT Defenders found that the phone call was answered in an average of about 35 minutes.

CPS Energy customer Lacey Zars said she waited over an hour on the phone to talk to someone at the utility.

"So I used the callback option and they never called me back," Zars said. “I would just say that they need to beef up their customer service. And make more people available.”

She said she finally got help via CPS Energy's Facebook page.

“You could actually message someone on their Facebook page,” Zars said. “So their representative ... got back to me within 20 minutes.”

On KSAT's Facebook page, Kristen Salas posted that wait times for her ran about three to five hours.

Another posted: “Those aren't help lines. They're frustration lines.”

"We apologize first and foremost for the inconveniences that our customers are experiencing," said CPS Energy's Vice President of Customer Service Maria Koudouris said. “We appreciate our customers' patience as we work through this, but we are looking at changing and improving our service levels.”

She said CPS Energy has realized there is a problem and has expanded customer service hours. In addition, she said the utility is bringing in 25 to 30 more customer service reps next month and is upgrading the phone system.

She said customers can also get help online. "They can pay their bill, they can set up installment plans, they can adjust terms," Koudouris said. “We really encourage our customers to go online for 24/7 support. Everything that a (Customer Service Representative) can do over the phone is available online.”

She wants fewer complaints and more customers like Tim Harrison. "I've always left my name and my phone number and always been called back on time," Harrison said. “Not one single problem.”

In addition to trying online to get ahold of customer service representatives, one other tip is to try social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

For a list of recent stories Brian Mylar has done, click here.

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