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PSEG's customer service ranking drops

PSEG Long Island's overall score on a state ranking of customer service response has declined by 33 percent in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period a year ago.

The Department of Public Service ranking of state electric, gas, water and communications companies has seen PSEG drop to the bottom third of the list. Its average score during the first four months of 2015 was 6.1 out of a possible 10 points, with a low of just 4 points in January -- the second lowest state score that month among 36 utilities ranked.

For the same period last year, PSEG scored an average 9.175 in the first four months of 2014, and its overall average score last year was 7.5.

Daniel Eichhorn, PSEG's vice president of customer service, noted that the year-over-year comparison was skewed by the fact that PSEG had just taken over the system in January 2014, and there were few cases backlogged. In addition to rewarding companies for quickly addressing complaints, he said, the state score credits companies for having a lower average age of cases pending and fewer escalated complaints. A higher number of backlogged cases this year led to a lower score, he said.

Still, PSEG's complaint response time is down sharply down this year. In January 2015, for instance, the 27.2 days it took to respond to complaints was the fourth worst in the state. The company's year-to-date average response time is 14.4 days, compared with 10 days for all of last year.

For January 2014, the response time was 2.2 days. Initial complaints in January, 2014 were 64 compared to 79 in January of this year.

"Customers deserve not only to have their complaints resolved but to have them resolved quickly and efficiently," said Department of Public Service Long Island director Julia Bovey. "PSEG Long Island promised to commit additional attention and resources to make this happen and we're counting on them for results."

Year-to-date for 2015, the average age of complaint cases pending was 32.1 days, compared with 16.8 for all of last year.

Eichhorn said the company is taking steps to resolve the issues, including dedicating a manager exclusively to examine and resolve department complaint issues, with the objective of improving the company's score and response times, and reducing backlogged cases.

"We're working with the department, identifying some of the oldest complaints and trying to get them down," he said.

The company is also giving additional leverage to its customer service reps, so that customers who do have complaints can reach the person who initially tried to resolve it to make sure it's resolved.

Eichhorn said while the state standard of customer service response was an "important" measure, numerous other measures of customer satisfaction had shown improvement since the company took over from National Grid in January 2014.

Last week, at a LIPA trustee meeting, Eichhorn spent time clarifying an earlier report he'd given board members on customer service improvements based on the state data.

He'd previously said that complaints to DPS about PSEG had dropped 68 percent year over year from the first quarter of 2014 compared with 2015, to just 74 from 232.

As reported in Newsday, DPS later clarified that total complaints in 2015 were 363 at the time.

Eichhorn explained that among other revisions, the initially reported figures excluded 90 collections complaints and 16 electric grid complaints. There were also 91 relevant complaints that were mistakenly excluded from PSEG's list, and another 47 that were viewed as a "difference in reporting convention" from PSEG.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the company was in agreement that the state's 363 number was a correct figure.

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