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DWP executives scrambling to fix flawed customer service software

November 20, 2013|By Catherine Saillant
  • DWP General Manager Ron Nichols.
DWP General Manager Ron Nichols. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power executives admitted Wednesday that the rollout of the utility's new billing software has been riddled with glitches, resulting in longer hold times when customers call to resolve issues.

In October average hold times were nearly 25 minutes, compared to 10 minutes for the same month last year. Some customers are waiting as long as 40 minutes to reach a live representative, said Campbell Hawkins, the DWP's director of customer service.

But more customer service staff and meter readers are being hired to help bring those call times down, Hawkins said. The DWP will also look into adding a "virtual on hold" feature that allows callers to leave their number and receive a call back when representatives are available, he said.

"Every day, every week, every month it will get better,'' Hawkins told members of the City Council's Energy and Environment committee, which held a hearing to ask DWP executives to explain the delays and why so many customers' billings are in error.

The municipal utility went live with a new billing and customer service software program in early September. Since then, the department has been deluged with calls about inaccurate or late bills.

Hawkins said the new $59-million platform deals with almost every aspect of DWP's operations and that kinks usually occur when such a vast conversion is made. Overall, fewer than 3% of 1.6 million billings sent out in September and October were pending or delayed because of problems with the new system, Hawkins said.

But resolving issues has taken longer because customer service representatives are still getting familiar with the new computer system, he said. Hawkins said he expects the system to stabilize in four to six months and be fully functional within two years.

"This was a massive undertaking ... in order to serve our customers better in the long run,'' Hawkins told the committee.

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

Twitter: @csaillant2 | Google+

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