Official: Customer service a problem

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By David Giuliani

A top official says the city’s billing department has a problem with customer service. And he’s promising to make improvements.

George DuFour, the city’s utilities director, said the city plans to move the billing department to his offices on 12th Street by the beginning of June. In a couple of weeks, the city will close the department for a couple of days to make the move from City Hall.

The utilities department has paid for the billing clerks from its budget, but the finance department has supervised them. At a recent City Council meeting, DuFour and Ann Marie Gallegos, the city’s finance director, recommended the transfer of the billing department.

“The customer service staff will go through a complete training,” DuFour told the council this week. “I hear what everyone else is hearing —sometimes they (billing clerks) get a little testy. We have to do something to correct our problem.”

DuFour said sometimes people get in “tight spots” financially and that the city needs to do more to work with them. For instance, he said the billing department last Wednesday had the city cut off a woman who had paid 80 percent of her bill and promised to pay the rest by Friday.

He said that when he heard about it, he had the woman’s service turned back on.

During the uproar over natural gas bills in early 2007, many complained about their treatment from billing clerks.

By July, the city hopes to allow utilities customers to pay their bills online, DuFour said.