When you walk upstairs into the call center of CPS Energy’s Northside Customer Service Center, a low roar of noise greets your ears. Seemingly endless rows of desks are occupied by busy people on headsets, talking customers through challenges and offering solutions. Walk up and down the rows, and they hardly notice you’re there.
Terence Hickman is one of those busy people. As an Energy Advisor, he gets to his desk early every day, ready to do what he loves: help customers.
“We take a wide range of phone calls, from billing to extreme emergencies,” said Terence, who’s been with the company for almost two years. “If you call in, I can advise you on good ways to lower your energy bill. I can help you improve on your energy consumption and offer you other tips. But billing is probably the most central aspect in that customer conversation.”
Energy Advisors go above and beyond the normal duties of a customer service representative. While quickly resolving a customer’s concerns is important, Advisors like Terence ensure that the customer knows they’re being heard, no matter how long a call takes.
“We always let them know that we are going to do due diligence to look into whatever their concern is,” he said. “We’re not just going to give them a generic answer. You spend as much time on a call with a customer as you need to, because it gives you time to really break down an account and give them explanations and let them know that you hear what they’re saying.”
A common question that Terence receives during this time of year is why energy bills are so high in the summer.
“We do a detailed check into their account,” he said. “Then we always share ways that customers can help lower their bills. I’ve spoken to single mothers and others who have high bills and I try to help them learn all the ways they can get it down—have the AC unit serviced on a regular basis, change the air filters. A lot of times they don’t even know that info.”
While some customers may have already interacted with an Energy Advisor, many are unaware of the network of dedicated CPS Energy employees who operate behind the scenes to make sure that the Advisors are at the top of their game.
Andrew Hush is a General Business Analyst who also works at the Northside Customer Service Center. His friendly Scottish accent testifies to the dedication he has to helping those working the phones. Since he used to be an Advisor himself, he knows the ropes.
“I do a lot of the reporting for the call center on how many calls we receive, how quickly we answered them, etcetera,” said Andrew. “We forecast long-term and short-term how many calls we are going to get and how we are going to meet our goals. We use that data to schedule all the agents in the call center for breaks, lunches and offline activities.”
While all Energy Advisors are initially trained for eight weeks in residential customer service, they eventually learn to branch out and handle more inquiries in other areas, such as solar energy, Smart Meters, commercial customers and much more.
“I want to make sure that whoever is answering a call is the best person for that call,” said Andrew. “We have all these different queues and we have to make sure that we have people available for each one. We have all these balls in the air and we have to make sure and organize it correctly. We want to make sure the Advisors are relaxed in what they do.”
This operational support helps Terence and his teammates continue to be friendly and knowledgeable bridges between CPS Energy and its customers. For them, heartfelt interactions and friendly customer service are all in a day’s work.
“For me it starts with my attitude,” said Terence. “At the end of a phone call, I can hear in a customer’s voice that they understand and appreciate the assistance. I come from a customer service background and it’s a very gratifying feeling when a customer is emotional about the help. To help people feel good about our company in a five or ten minute conversation is an amazing thing.”