Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Editors' Forum | Customers seeing JPS in a new light – survey

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:38 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
r/Multimedia Photo Editor Ramsay McDonald

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has historically been burned by harsh criticisms from customers dissatisfied with the service offered by the utility company, but top-level executives last week said that things are slowly changing.

“When we started to embark on this change in 2012, when you said ‘JPS’ to the public it drew the ire of people, but over the years, we have made significant changes in working with our customers, and listening has been a critical aspect,” said Ramsay McDonald, senior vice-president for customer service.

“We have also recognised that while the cost of fuel has been a factor in the bill, we have paid more attention to making it easier to do business with JPS, and also making it easier for us to respond to our customers,” he added.

McDonald joined newly appointed CEO Emanuel DaRosa and other executives at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum held at the newspaper’s North Street headquarters in Kingston last Thursday.

Smart Meter Systems

He said that several tech-nological improvements, including communication via email and text messaging, as well as the introduction of smart meter systems, have begun to reap rewards. The power provider has also sought to improve the process of setting up accounts.

“We have recognised that we have to shorten that waiting time for customers. We still do have challenges in terms of connecting some of our larger customers because the process is a bit more complicated, but we are working to reduce that in the shortest time possible,” he continued.

The senior VP said that the cost of electricity was still a major concern for customers, even as the company tries to educate users on how fuel prices affect their monthly billing cycles. Meter readings and estimated bills are also common issues of concern.

Service unreliability is also a common complaint of customers, added Blaine Jarrett, senior vice-president of energy delivery.

He said this is usually caused by intermittent flows from renewable energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric plants. Nonetheless, he maintained that the company has been working with stakeholders to resolve the problem.

Winsome Callum, director of media and communication and customer experience at JPS, said the company has seen a marked improvement from a customer experience survey done annually.

“We have moved from a 40 per cent customer service level in 2013 to a 60 per cent level in 2018. This is a 20 percentage-point increase in improvement which is clearly not where we want to be, but I think it reflects the level of effort we have been making in terms of improving the service,” Callum underscored, noting that the research is done externally.

In the meantime, DaRosa, who took the reins of the JPS just over 18 months ago, said he aims to improve on inefficiencies that have bled the service offered to customers and, ultimately, the company’s pockets.

“It has been a goal that I have led in terms of where can we find deficiencies, and how do we improve efficiency overall in the organisation, with the goal being to reduce cost to our customers,” said DaRosa.

“If we can find deficiencies where we can lower cost, that means that when we come in for a rate increase, we don’t have to ask for as significant or as large a rate increase,” he said.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com