Dear Mr. West

July 17th, 2009 by Editor B
Entergy New Orleans
1600 Perdido St
New Orleans, LA 70112

Attn: Rod West, President & CEO

Dear Mr. West,

I just had a brilliant idea on how Entergy can improve customer service in New Orleans. Please allow me to explain.

Every morning I ride my bike past the Entergy office located at the corner of Canal and Jeff Davis. Before 8:30 AM time there’s always a dozen or more people standing in line, waiting for the door to open. If I don’t see the line of people, I know that it’s past 8:30 and I’m running late.

As much as I appreciate the handy time-check, I’m pretty sure the people aren’t happy about standing in line. After all, no one likes to stand in line, especially in inclement weather. But the people are always there, rain or shine, waiting patiently.

I got to thinking. Why would anybody rise early and come to stand in line before the office is even open? Why not wait and come later in the day? Let me tell you, Rod, they aren’t standing there for their health, that’s for sure.

The answer is clear. These people have jobs. Most jobs are from nine to five. They are trying to take care of their business with Entergy before they go to work.

Therefore it seems to me that Entergy could save these folks a lot of hassle through a simple expedient which I will share with you now:

Open the office earlier.

Such an easy way to better serve your customers! Sure, it might cost a bit extra to have the office open longer, but I’m sure you can afford it given the $11 billion annual revenue of Entergy Corporation.

No need to thank me for this idea, Rod. The knowledge that the citizens of New Orleans are getting better service will be all the compensation I require.

Well, I guess if you wanted to knock a few bucks off my next bill I wouldn’t mind. Whatever you think is fair.

Yours sincerely,

Editor B

Update: Shortly after writing this letter, I opened up the Times-Picayune to see the following article at the top of the Money section:

Entergy Louisiana ranked last in J.D. Power customer service rating

by Rebecca Mowbray, The Times-Picayune
Thursday July 16, 2009, 5:27 PM

Entergy Louisiana earned the lowest customer service ratings of any large utility in the South providing residential service, according to a study released Thursday by the consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates.

Large utilities in the southern United States received an average score of 635 on a 1,000-point scale, but Entergy Louisiana only scored 576 points.

Making matters worse, the gap has widened between Entergy Louisiana and its peers: while the regional average score went up by five points between 2008 and 2009, Entergy Louisiana’s score fell by six points from last year to this year.

Other Entergy utilities also performed poorly. Entergy Arkansas was second to last among large utilities in the region, earning 603 points. Among smaller utilities in the region, Entergy Mississippi was second to last with 588 points and Entergy Texas was fourth from the bottom with 597 points compared with an average score of 624.

“Entergy really across the board doesn’t perform well in our study,” said John Hazen, senior director in utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates, a California consulting firm that tests customer satisfaction in a variety of industries. “Every one of them is below the national average and the South regional average.”

J.D. Power’s study asks customers 120 questions and rates companies on power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service.

Entergy New Orleans is no longer included in the study because after Hurricane Katrina it fell below the minimum size. Entergy Louisiana is the state’s largest utility, and serves customers in suburban New Orleans south of Lake Pontchartrain, plus the West Bank of Orleans Parish.

Kerry Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for Entergy Louisiana, noted that Louisiana was hit by two hurricanes last year which caused widespread outages, and that near-record natural gas prices drove customer bills up.

Customer backlash from hurricanes and high bills also registered on the surveys that Entergy Louisiana conducts quarterly through a third-party market research study. In the first half of this year, Zimmerman said Entergy’s surveys indicate customer satisfaction is improving.

Zimmerman said her company takes customer satisfaction issues seriously, and is working to keep electricity prices as low as possible, and has made improvements in electric reliability. Last year, Entergy also launched tools so customers can view their accounts and find out about power outages online. And Entergy Corp. donated nearly $3.8 million last year to economic development and community initiatives in areas where it operates.

“We respond to what is important to customers,” Zimmerman said.

Cleco, the Pineville utility which provides electricity to most of St. Tammany Parish, fared slightly better than Entergy, but was still below the regional average. Cleco scored 608 points compared with an average score of 624 among its peers.

Cleco did “pretty well” on customer service, Hazen said, but suffered in the price category.

Cleco spokeswoman Robbyn Cooper noted that her company has many rural and low-income customers who have been hard hit by the recession, and she believes their anxiety is reflected in the survey. Cleco was also stung by its heavy reliance on natural gas, Cooper said, but that situation should improve later this year when Cleco opens a new power plant that will burn lower-priced coal and petroleum coke.

Hazen said the utility study is unique among the J.D. Power studies. Because utilities are monopoly businesses, they have little basis for gauging themselves among their peers and are often surprised by the customer-service results. But the good thing, Hazen said, is that because utilities do not compete for customers, they are more willing to share information about best practices.

Lambert Boissiere III, chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, said he hopes to use the study to implore local utilities to improve their performance.

“I’m very disappointed in the ranking that J.D. Power gave Entergy Louisiana, but I’m not entirely surprised by it,” Boissiere said. “We get customers’ complaint calls all the time that have nothing to do with natural gas prices and nothing to do with hurricanes.”

Rebecca Mowbray can be reached at 504.826.3417 or at [email protected]

7 Responses to “Dear Mr. West”

  1. Garvey Says:

    It’s possible that at least some of the folks waiting outside could also be deadbeats who had their service cutoff.

  2. Rod Says:

    Dear Mr. B:

    Let me thank you for your thoughtful suggestion. We at Entergy always value our customers’ input on how we can better serve the community.

    So here’s why I’m not opening that, or any, office before 8:30. You pointed out the “handy time-check” aspect of office opening, but I don’t know if you appreciate just how accurate on average that feature is. That is, the first person to line up will appear by 7:30. By 7:45, there’s 2-3 customers. By 8 am, 6-7 customers, and by a quarter after 8, we’ve always got 10 customers waiting. My point is that, essentially, the line-up of customers forms a primitive, public clock, not unlike a sundial or some such.

    So I feel like our offices’ opening at inconvenient times provides a public service without our having to pop for a real outdoor clock like those stooges at the Whitney have gotten hung up on. I like it, because as my driver shuttles me down Canal Street each morning, I can merely glance out the window to determine if I have time to stop off at Starbucks; I’m not encumbered with numbers or dials.

    Sure, being open at earlier (or later) hours would make use of off-peak electricity, something most utilities would encourage. But most utilities can’t wave their magic wand and drop their debts and triple their rates the way Entergy can.

    But I am glad that you, too, have appreciated the Entergy’s public clock/time-check. I appreciate your giving me this opportunity to explain its calibration.

    All the best,
    Rod West

  3. rickngentilly Says:

    hey bart.

    when you first got here did you ever get a chance to get to the old nopsi building in the cbd to pay your bill?

    it was a palace.

    30 foot ceilings with ornate swag no matter where you looked.

    towards the end it reminded me of the terry guillim movie brasil in that you had this old building with plexiglass fronts to the people you had to talk to.
    and lots of strange roadblocks to the old flow of the building.

    i miss the old n.o.p.s.i. utility structure – street cars , buses, gas , and electricity all under one umbrella of my youth.

    yah it sounds like a nightmare now but talk to some of your older neighbors

    ( my age 50 and up) and i bet they wax nostalgic.

    i remember one of the talking shows in the grandstand at jazz fest the year before katrina and it was old nopsi guys talking about how they used to keep the street cars running and how frustrating it was to ride out the days untill they could retire

    back to the future.

    those days are long gone.

    i think one of our largest civic battles is getting rid of entergy new orleans.

    they have a monopely on one parish.

    my mom who lives in jefferson parish has a house twice as big as mine and a bill half the size of mine.

    she pays her bill to entergy louisiana.

    to many battles not enough time.

    i reckkon anonther crime march against cheif reiley and mayor nagin is probably at the top of the list.

    please take care of your self and yours,

    and please keep posting.

    take care and enjoy this freakishly low humidity this weekend.

    your pal kid spice.

  4. BrooklynSaint Says:

    NOPSI….great job Rick

  5. b.rox » Blog Archive » Entergy Writes Back Says:

    [...] that letter I sent to Entergy? I got a [...]

  6. billy Says:

    Wow aren’t you snarky. So clever. Maybe one day when you get a real job you’ll realize that businesses operate in ways that don’t strike snarky bike riders as obvious. But I’m sure you’re way too smart for us…with all the time to think on your bicycle. Thanks!

  7. PJ Says:

    I think Billy is right. Maybe if you spent more time in traffic like the rest of us you wouldn’t have so much time on your hands to write your Outraged Citizen letters.

    You think you are so smug. I’d like to smack that smile off your face. The reason Entergy is profitable is because of these kinds of smart decisions.

    j/k

    I think the MBA’s are ruining this country. It used to be the lawyers. These pencil sharpening MBA’s make lawyers look like good guys.

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