Three out of four customers are satisfied with FPB customer service
Moves already underway to address indicated concerns in customer survey
FRANKFORT – Seventy-five percent of FPB’s customers are satisfied overall with the customer service they’ve received in response to questions, problems or situations, according to survey results presented to the Frankfort Plant Board Tuesday night. At its May meeting, the board accepted results of a customer service survey, accepted a report on Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and set June 6, 2017 as the date for a public hearing on upcoming rate changes.
Last fall, the board commissioned Comer Research Consultants to conduct a customer transaction study focused on the interactions customers have with FPB’s customer service department. Between October 2016 and March 2017, 532 customers were contacted and interviewed regarding their interaction with customer service representatives and FPB personnel. Leanna Comer presented a report of the findings.
Professionalism (86 percent) and friendliness (87 percent) were the highest-rated attributes of the customer service representatives (CSRs). This was followed closely by how well the CSR listened to the customer (84 percent) and then the CSRs level of knowledge (81 percent). Comer reported that these scores indicate a high level of service being provided by the CSRs.
A review of transaction satisfaction by reason for contacting the utility found that scores ranged from a low of 67 percent for payment arrangements to a high of 85 percent for starting or stopping service. Scores for other transaction types were: report a problem, 70 percent; change service, 71 percent; and billing question, 75 percent.
When asked to gauge overall views of FPB, more than eight out of 10 customers agreed that the utility is customer-friendly and reliable, while seven out of 10 consider it a good value. When examining findings by the nature of transaction, agreement levels varied little when it came to reliability and customer-friendliness. However, on the value measure, those changing service or making a payment arrangement were less likely to consider the Plant Board to be a good value.
Satisfaction with wait times to speak with a CSR was 54 percent, which was significantly lower than overall transaction satisfaction. Additionally, customer comments throughout the report suggest that wait times are often the reason for preventing overall scores from being higher.
When asked to consider the overall service they receive from the Plant Board, in general, nearly two-thirds of customers indicated satisfaction. Again, customers contacting the utility to make a payment arrangement and those changing services were less likely to be satisfied with the Plant Board as a whole than those contacting FPB for other reasons. Comments focused on price, as well as concerns about internet and cable service reliability.
“We are pleased to see that a majority of customers are content with the service they are receiving,” said Ralph Ludwig, FPB board chairman. “But more importantly, the survey points to where we can improve. That’s what makes this process meaningful as we determine how to proceed from here.”
In fact, FPB has already made moves to address the main points of concern revealed in the survey – wait times and internet/cable service.
“Cycle billing is one way we can increase the ease in which our customers can reach us,” said Monique Gilliam Avery, Director of Customer Service. “With the workload spread out over two cycles, that frees up our customer service representatives to be more available to customers and shorten wait times.”
Other efforts underway include decreasing the ratio of customers to staff by filling two CSR positions, exploring new ways for the customer to contact FPB and reconfiguring the phone system to increase efficiency.
The new administration building will also offer amenities designed to increase convenience for customers – like more spacious and private customer service stations, drive-thru service, front door parking and a drop box at the front turnabout.
As far as internet/cable service, FPB did experience significant broadband consistency and reliability issues from late 2013 through October 2016. This prompted an investment in a new headend facility with new broadband equipment.
From July 2016 through October 2016, FPB moved the entire network from an old building to a new building. Service to every broadband, cable TV and phone customer was affected several times during this four-month migration process causing numerous complaints.
“Now that we are in the new headend and the new broadband equipment has been installed, reliability and consistency issues should be minimal from here on out,” said John Higginbotham, Assistant General Manager of Cable/Telecom. “Additionally, FPB now offers higher speeds, and we continue to look at ways to improve our internet infrastructure.”
At its monthly meeting, the board also heard results from a business case study on an electric and water AMI system. Because this system of smart meters would enable immediate two-way communication between FPB and customer meters, it would increase efficiency, automatically alert FPB of specific outages and allow FPB to send commands back to the meter. AMI would provide more information on energy usage and deliver more accurate billing. It would also give FPB flexibility for future changes in the way it bills.
After several onsite work sessions, the study performed by VASS Solutions included a comprehensive cost and benefit model and a proposed implementation plan. FPB staff recommended accepting the AMI business case advising that it is a positive business plan and makes financial sense and include a future implementation of AMI in the budget. There will be no rate impact. The board accepted the report.
In other business regarding the reservoir replacement, the board agreed to deliver the latest reservoir renderings, fencing cost estimates and a site survey of existing utilities in close proximity to the property line to the Tanglewood Neighborhood Association at a special meeting on May 30.
The board set June 6 as a date for a public hearing on upcoming rate changes. Kentucky Utilities has notified FPB of an estimated 7.08 percent wholesale rate increase, including projected ash pond cleanup costs effective July 1, 2017. This would be a 5.9 percent residential increase estimated to cost residential customers an average increase of $6.71 per month. This increase is a 100 percent pass-thru to KU. None of that increase would stay at FPB.
A recent Cost of Service study indicates water revenues fall short of revenue requirements. In an effort to minimize larger future rate increases, FPB staff recommended smaller annual incremental rate increases over the next four years. The recommended 4.8 percent overall rate increase averages to approximately $1.90 per residential city customer who uses 4000 gallons of water per month. FPB currently provides water to its customers for about a dollar a day.
Another subject for discussion at the upcoming public hearing will be the establishment of rates for Business Telephone features and service. Hosted PBX service will provide an internet-based phone service solution that will help small business get big business features and help big businesses control phone service and costs more efficiently. These features would be optional and in addition to the current Business Telephone offerings.
The public hearing will be held June 6, 2017 at 5 p.m. at the FPB administration building at 151 Flynn Ave in Frankfort.
Other board business included approving INSP and MavTV cable renewals, accepting the new administration building as a permanent location for future board meetings and approving a change order for administration building construction modifications bringing the final total to $15.6 million, which comes in under the original bid amount. The new building will be open for business June 19, 2017.