Water and Sewer Authority improves call center service
By Bob Bauder
Published: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Water and sewer problems don't make for satisfied customers, but the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is addressing one of its most common complaints: the quality of its customer service department.
Kevin T. Donahue, PWSA's customer service manager, said callers' wait times have decreased by almost 50 percent since July, when a private company began managing the authority.
“We still have some ways to go, but I think Kevin and his people have shown willingness to move in another direction,” said Jim Good, the PWSA's interim executive director.
The agency said it receives 10,000 to 13,000 calls monthly pertaining to complaints, service requests and questions about billing, metering and permits. The wait time has fallen from an average of 8 minutes, 45 seconds to 4 minutes, 45 seconds, Donahue said. The goal is 2 minutes.
He said the percentage of callers who hang up while waiting for someone to answer the phone dropped significantly, from 17 percent to about 7 percent, the goal.
PWSA provides water and sewage treatment to 250,000 customers in Pittsburgh and surrounding towns. It employs 270 people, including 40 in customer service.
Customers said it might be easier to reach someone at PWSA than it was seven months ago, but the authority still has fundamental problems with flooding and sewer backups.
“Before, they didn't answer their telephone. Now they call you back. Who cares? Fix the problem,” said Rocco DiDomenico, owner of Rockwel Realty in Squirrel Hill, whose Murray Avenue properties are plagued by chronic flooding.
Good said the authority does its best, but major repairs depend on availability of money. Some of the city's aging sewer lines are more than a century old.
“It there's something we can do operationally right away, we'll do it,” Good said. “If not, we'll figure out what capital-related work we can do, and then we'll figure out how to fund it.”
The call center fix cost nothing; it essentially involved implementing operating efficiencies, Good said.
PWSA was racked by management and debt problems when its board last summer signed a $1.8 million contract with Veolia Water North America to manage the authority for one year. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has no jurisdiction over municipalities, so regulatory duties fall to the board and elected city officials, said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.
Board member Patrick Dowd, a Pittsburgh councilman, said the board instructed Veolia to seek comments from employees while assessing operations.
Good said Donahue recommended reprogramming the phone system menu to route calls more efficiently and shifting work duties so call-takers could focus on telephones rather than paperwork. The authority trained employees in phone courtesy.
“I don't think anybody is saying PWSA is operating perfectly, but there are these small indicators of change,” Dowd said. “Just being able to pick up the phone and get through to somebody has changed customers' perception.”
Chris Zurawsky, 50, of Squirrel Hill said he was surprised by his experience after calling recently about a sewer project scheduled near his home.
“I called PWSA and got tons and tons of help that I didn't expect,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-765-2312or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Man shot by Pennsylvania state police at Pittsburgh International Airport was key witness in Massachusetts murder trial
- Pa. child abuse statutes faulted as too narrow
- Result hazy as historic-building vote nears
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Companies are rethinking their holiday parties with different kinds of venues
- New Shop ’n Save grocery store in Hill District reduces staff
- Newsmaker: Lou Valenzi
- Illness briefly sidelines mayor, but he’s back in the game by late week
- Peduto puts on mayor hat at Harvard ‘camp’
- Newsmaker: José M.F. Moura