HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Monica Parise
Some Hawaiian Electric Company customers are outraged over trying for hours, days and sometimes weeks to reach HECO by phone.
One Oahu resident, Choo May, said she was forced to take a bus, lugging her heavy belongings, to show up at the billing office in person. She said she spent hours on the phone, in vain, to find out why her recent bill increased so drastically.
Angry at the lack of customer service and frustrated with HECO's phone system, she went out of her way for answers."It's so inconvenient. I was carrying a lot of things, I took a bus which took me one hour to get here and that's not fair to us," she complained.
May suggests HECO handle its call backlog like other utility companies with automated systems that take the waiting customer's phone number, estimate wait time and call them back. "They didn't pick up the phone and I waited for one hour. When someone finally answered, I was disconnected," May said in frustration.
HECO admits there's a major problem at its customer call center, after changing to a new computer billing system back in May. Corporate Spokesperson Peter Rosegg told Hawaii News Now that HECO is sorry and embarrassed by the fiasco. He said training customer service representatives to use the new software has proven more difficult than expected.
Rosegg advised customers to continue paying their bills and said any mistakes will be credited later. "For other people with questions and those customers who can't pay their bills now, those are the people we feel bad about and those are the ones we want to contact us at HECO.COM if they can't get to us on the phone," he said.
Another option for customers, wanting to avoid being put on "extended hold," is to show up at HECO's Richard Street or Ward Avenue locations to talk to a customer service representative in person.
Not unlike the phone system, lines formed Monday at the customer service desk, but customers there seemed to be satisfied with their end results. "I have nothing to complain about. Coming here to pay my bills has never been a problem and the HECO employees have always been helpful with anything I need, "said customer Thomas Ishii,
Meanwhile, HECO has asked for the public's patience while the company smoothes out its transition to the new billing system.
Employee training has been stepped up and back-up customer service teams are in place to help get the phones answered on schedule. The electric company could not provide a timeline on exactly when the situation will be resolved.