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