After a KSAT 12 Defenders investigation in November revealed a slow response to calls from CPS Energy operators, the utility has announced that a call center is being hired to help answer customers’ calls. An upgrade to the phone system is also being phased in.
Over a three week period in November, the Defenders called the county, city, San Antonio Water System and CPS Energy to see how long it took to get through to a live person.
At some entities it was just a few seconds, but not at CPS Energy. When there wasn't a busy signal the wait was lengthy.
Complaints to the Defenders showed some people waited more than an hour to talk to a customer service representative.
The Defenders found the average telephone call was answered in about 35 minutes.
Lacey Zars, a CPS customer said, said she waited over an hour on the telephone. "So I used the callback option and they never called me back," Zars said in November.
CPS Energy Vice President of Customer Service Maria Koudouris said the utility was aware of the problem.
"We apologize first and foremost for the inconveniences that our customers are experiencing," Koudouris said in November.
Koudouris said 25 to 30 more customer service representatives were being hired and the phone system was being upgraded. A month later, it turns out the plan has changed.
CPS Energy Chief Delivery Officer Jelynne Burley said nobody extra is being hired but a call center will soon be utilized and the phone system now allows people to set up a specific time to talk to customer service.
"Your phone will ring and there will be a live person on the other end," Burley said of the new call appointment feature on the phone system.
Burley said a Texas call center will handle any question a customer has when a CPS Energy agent is busy.
"We have sustained call volumes in excess of our ability to answer the phone for some time," Burley said. “All of (the current customer service representatives) will continue to provide the great service that they do today. And we will supplement them by outsourcing or having a vendor take care of that other call volume.”
CPS Energy will always handle emergency and storm-related calls. Training will begin at the call center in January and it becomes operational in February.
The utility did not have a figure on what it will cost to employ the call center, but Burley said it would be cheaper than hiring, training and paying salary and benefits to new full-time employees.
In the meantime, Burley encourages customers who do not want to wait on the phone to go to a walk-in center, some of which have extended hours.