By Lynsey Paulo
SACRAMENTO — PG&E has increased the support it is providing to Florida Power & Light (FPL) as the Florida energy company works to restore service in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
About 30 PG&E customer service representatives are now answering customer service calls for FPL in order to help the company effectively manage extraordinarily high call volumes. PG&E representatives in the Sacramento Call Center are answering emergency and outage calls that come into FPL’s customer service lines.
On Sept. 8, PG&E sent about 125 employees, including IBEW Local 1245 line workers, equipment operators, supervisors and support personnel, to Florida ahead of the hurricane to help restore power.
“Providing support to other energy companies and their customers when natural disasters strike remains a hallmark of our industry,” said Deborah Affonsa, PG&E’s vice president of customer service. “Our electric line workers have helped restore power to tens of thousands of FPL customers so far, and now our call-center representatives will be able to help as well.”
PG&E representatives began answering calls this past weekend. Starting today (Sept. 18), they will answer calls daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. PG&E employees will help bring some relief to FPL agents who are staffing its call center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“It’s the human side of what we do,” said call center representative Robert McDougall. “I think it’s why we all do it. Ultimately helping the community in that way is rewarding.”
Ina German, strategy manager for the contact center, said employees are used to taking high anxiety calls during California storms. But these calls are different, she said, because some customers have lost their homes while others have had to relocate their families.
“We tried to set the expectation, it wasn’t until they began taking calls that they realized these are tough calls,” she said. “Many are elderly customers, so it’s really just using your soft skills and trying to empathize w each customer’s situation, and providing them resources.”
This is the first time PG&E has partnered with another energy company to provide call center support during a natural disaster.
“It’s great to have partners that pitch in when you need help,” said Marlene Santos, FPL’s vice president of customer service. “As an industry, during a crisis, we work together as one to the benefit of our customers.”
PG&E does not anticipate that this effort to support a hurricane-stricken area will result in longer wait times for its customers in Northern and Central California.
“Technology is making it possible for our members, working in their own center, to provide direct support to FPL as they work tirelessly to restore power to millions of customers. Service is their profession, and we are proud to answer the call of duty,” said IBEW Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell.
(Click here to read all of the coverage of PG&E’s response to Hurricane Irma in Florida.)
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.