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Rosenwald, Md.
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Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 07/09/2012

Pepco customer advocate: ‘We performed well’

This might come as a complete shock to the hundreds of thousands of frustrated Pepco customers who recently went days without power: You have a voice inside the company advocating for you, feeling your pain.

At least that’s supposed to be the idea.

Her name is Felecia Greer. Her title: Director and Customer Advocate. In announcing her appointment last October, Pepco said it “established the position based upon customer recommendations” and that doing so “aligns well with the company’s enhanced focus on improving customer satisfaction.”

“I am the voice of the customer,” Greer told me the other day. “I consider myself the proxy for the customer.”

Greer previously worked for the company in regulatory services. Before that, she worked for the Maryland Public Services Commission. She reports directly to Pepco’s top executive for power delivery, bypassing the rest of the bureaucracy. She meets with customers one-on-one. Her job: Listen when they scream.

I got Greer on the phone because I wanted to know what the voice of the customer thought about Pepco’s performance in the recent storm. I asked her, for instance, if regulators would be justified if they handed Pepco another record fine.

“This was a regional event, a severe weather event,” she said. “We are gonna have to let the process play out. I am comfortable that we will be able to demonstrate that our performance, considering the event” — and then a slight pause— “that we performed well considering the severity of the event.”

(I wonder how many people will post comments on this blog post begging to differ. I hope the comments will be polite, but I sense they won’t be.)

I asked the customer advocate whether customers had a right to be annoyed with the length of the outages considering they have endured a year-long, multimillion dollar advertising blitz declaring Pepco was getting its act together. One ad even quoted a utility worker saying, “We’re ready for everything.”

I suspect we won’t hear that ad again.

“There was just no way to prepare for this level of damage,” the advocate told me. “I understand that customers are frustrated. We live in these communities. I live in this service territory. Many of our employees were out, our families were out. Anyone who has been out of power for a week certainly has a right to be upset, but we are investing $910 million in reliability enhancements and improvements over the next five years. I can tell you, ever since the storm hit this has been an all hands on deck event. We have worked tirelessly to get customers back in. I understand that they are frustrated, but this was a widespread event of regional proportions.”

Being the customer advocate must surely, I thought, place Greer in frequent disagreement with company leadership, especially considering how frustrated customers and elected officials often are with company leadership. But Greer said nope.

“The things is, I don’t have disagreements,” she said. “I’m not really fighting because I have a very responsive leadership team. The executive leadership team, the board of this company, created this position as an independent office for a reason: so that I can have access to our chairman, to the head of the business. I’m not fighting. I’m not having obstacles. I have gotten a tremendous amount of support in terms of responding to issues.”

So I phrased the question a somewhat different way: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

“I think the willingness to create a positive customer experience,” the advocate said. “Everyone owns customer service at this company. Everyone cares about our customers. They care deeply.”

By  |  11:37 AM ET, 07/09/2012

 
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