Maine PUC: CMP’s customer service will thing in fee decision

by Micheal Quinn

When a Central Maine Power power invoice lands in your kitchen desk each month, what’s inside have to be accurate and not come as a marvel – or a whole lot greater, as a surprise.

And but, all through the first public hearings held with the aid of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, we have heard compelling testimony from many Mainers that their electric payments ship a surprise via their family budgets. Most Mainers are penny pinchers. They plan as first-rate they can for anticipated fees and prefer most people, they dread the unexpected price of any emergency.

When a misguided month-to-month application invoice hits an own family budget with surprising and unaffordable prices, it becomes an emergency. This experience by many CMP customers has raised worries for all three MPUC Commissioners.

We’re decided to answer the questions about the reliability of the meters and the accuracy of metered statistics as it flows via CMP’s billing device, completely privy to the impact unanticipated fees have on Maine household and business budgets. We will whole audits and investigations of CMP billing and customer care, we can hear final presentations approximately CMP’s proposed charge growth and how it will likely be carried out, and we can get hold of findings from the Office of the Public Advocate and others – and the MPUC will take motion.

While reaching very last regulatory selections takes time and moves at a decidedly judicial tempo, our Consumer Assistance Division has been in action every day fielding cellphone calls, emails, and inquiries from hundreds of CMP clients. In truth, it changed into our team of workers within the Customer Assistance Division that alerted us to capacity problems with CMP meters and bills. When they spoke back to a spike in court cases from CMP customers and heard a collective refrain of “my invoice can’t in all likelihood be this a great deal,” the MPUC responded via launching an investigation and audit.

An independent auditor, Liberty Consulting, said, “Significant gaps in SmartCare (the CMP billing device) checking out and training… produced unnecessarily big numbers of errors requiring prolonged guide correction earlier than bill issuance…. A scarcity of personnel contributed to the inability to remove mistakes… [and] continuing shortages of experienced personnel unduly behind schedule fixes…, brought on considerable customer problem in attaining CMP representatives and in getting solutions to questions and issues,… and overly lengthy delays in resolving billing troubles.”

As we work thru our research, questions retain to nag. That’s why the MPUC authorized further evaluation of additional CMP payments by way of the Office of the Public Advocate. And our Customer Assistance Division continues to paintings with customers and CMP to resolve billing errors.

We are designing and deploying SmartCare, CMP’s new billing machine, value CMP $56 million. It’s clean that SmartCare did no longer deliver outcomes everyone might assume from one of these massive investment. At the equal time, ongoing shortages of customer service representatives at CMP compounded billing problems and mistakes and, as we have been hearing at our public witness hearings, has pushed purchaser frustration to the breaking point.

Delivering quality customer service, assuring the accuracy of payments and dwelling up to the expectations of clients requires a real funding of money, time, control and education. Every agency or organization recognized for first-rate customer support makes an funding and commitment to reap high marks.

That’s why the MPUC must and is thinking about CMP’s consumer performance as part of the price decision. In truth, based on CMP’s poor customer service, the MPUC staff has proposed a $4 million to $6 million annual reduction to CMP’s earnings. By determining new charges, or by way of maintaining present-day charges, or even via reducing fees of return for CMP, the MPUC will address any service deficiencies.

The massive question we all have about our CMP invoice and CMP’s customer support is also the handiest and plainest: Are we getting what we pay for? That’s the query heaps of Maine households are asking around their kitchen tables. You may be certain that the MPUC will take moves together with any required remedies, which will make certain that CMP can provide sincere, low-priced, safe and dependable shipping of strength to Maine households. The MPUC will set essential standards of overall performance for application service and control, and we expect Maine utilities to satisfy those requirements.
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