Pay raise helps fill call center seats

Pay raise helps fill call center seats
Posted on 08/11/2022
Customer Relations Representative Abraham Rodriguez assists Customer Relations Clerk Chantal Cruz with a question.

El Paso Water’s Customer Service Department is in transition. A wage bump in June from $11 to $17 is jolting job seekers into giving the utility’s call center a second look.

EPWater boosted wages in response to staffing shortages and a new customer information system that created a surge in call wait times at the utility call center. After a report aired on a KFOX-TV news, the utility was flooded with résumés – more than 500 received. Recruitment at the utility was given a much-needed refresh.    

“We are delighted with the response to the most recent recruitments at higher starting-pay levels,” said Mark Bolduc, Utility Business and Customer Service Manager. “The Customer Service team is critical to the utility’s daily operations, and having a more stable workforce will improve the customer experience in the future.”

Undergoing changes

EPWater’s Customer Service team was already struggling with staffing shortages, resulting in a high call volume and elevated wait times. The transition to a new customer information system, which updated the utility’s over 20-year-old billing system, drove an even greater surge in March. MyAccount, a new user-friendly online service on the system, offers a variety of self-service options online in English and Spanish, minimizing the need to contact representatives by phone.

Marcela Navarrete, Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services, attributed the increase in calls to the new online portal. Customers were also given a new account number and urged to interact with the Customer Service Department away from the traditional phone line.

“When we implemented the new system, our actual time on calls with customers increased,” Navarrete said. “We had anywhere from 15 to 17 call takers, which is about half of what we should have answering our customers’ phone calls.”

The pace is brisk at EPWater’s Customer Service Department, where diligent representatives routinely deal with a multitude of calls that often total more than 1,000 per day at the center. Callers’ requests run the gamut – start/stop requests for water service, billing issues, balance and account information. The busiest days are Mondays and Fridays.

“Our call center is the utility’s nerve center and the first point of contact with our customers,” Bolduc said. “Every call taker is an account management representative for each customer. The Customer Relations Representatives who answer the phones always strive to provide the best solution possible within our rules and regulations.”

Existing employees promoted

Customer Relations Representative Adrian Batista (left) and Customer Relations Clerk Jesus Gomez assist customers.Employees already in the call center were given the opportunity to promote with testing, so they could receive the new wages.

“The feedback from our employees has been positive,” said Irma Bocanegra, Utility Call Center Supervisor. “They all know the bump in wages shows we value them as employees and their work.”

New employee Peter Garibay recently promoted from Customer Relations Clerk to Representative.

“This call center is a different pace and environment for me,” said Garibay, who has more than 20 years’ experience in customer service. “I am happy to be here and see that El Paso Water has many opportunities.”

As the Customer Service call center fills empty desks, employees report call wait times are decreasing and the workplace culture is even more supportive.

“The wage bump has definitely increased morale,” said Joe Loya, Utility Call Center Supervisor. “Representatives are the face of the utility and on the frontlines. They definitely deserve it.”

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