Amid investigation, RG&E focusing on adding staff to try to counter customer service issues

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – State regulators are stepping up their investigation into major customer service and billing issues at RG&E.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke exclusively with the president and CEO, Trish Nilsen, of the utility about what is being done.

“We are still in a storm,” she said. “I will say that it’s going to take us a while to get out. However for the more than 750 people strong we are in Rochester, we’ve added to that group.”

Many of the issues stem from the fact that the utility just doesn’t have enough employees to keep up. There are currently 140 customer service representatives at the local cell center, according to Nilsen, and she says the company has added 40 billing specialists in the last few months.

“Those new people coming on the property has been a great morale boost for us,” Nilsen said. “They’re on the phones within the first couple of weeks of their training and they’re able to take some basic calls to start. The challenging areas are high bill complaints, the new service construction. That’s going to take them closer to about a year to a year-plus to be able to do.”

But there are still plenty of positions unfilled. So, what else is RG&E doing to recruit?

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “How are you evolving with what the demands of the employees are these days?”

Trish Nilsen, RG&E: “I’m glad you brought that up, Jennifer, because we have changed the way that we’re hiring and staffing and it’s a hybrid approach. So, while we’ve kept our call center here in Rochester and we have people here in the office we are also offering customer service position and a hybrid work-from- home approach.”

Nilsen says that has been of interest to a lot of candidates.

“Great thing during storms because it’ll mean they can roll out of bed, sit in their jammies, answer the phone immediately and be there for our customers, 24/7/365,” Nilsen said.

But what about the men and women who are out in those storms, actually restoring power?

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “Are you experiencing the same staffing shortages on the road that you are on the phone?”

Trish Nilsen, RG&E: “Our biggest staffing challenges have been in the customer service area. Our line workers are a dedicated group of employees that do at least five years of training to get into that position and often will start and end their careers here which we’re really proud of. We’ve got a long history of dedicated workers we’re not seeing those same shortages we are actively looking to continue to increase our ranks there including looking for apprentice classes with local community colleges may be as an option for us in the coming years.”

If you’ve struggled with RG&E, the Public Service Commission wants to hear from you. It will be coming to Rochester in January to hold public hearings with customers. News10NBC will report those dates when they are made available.

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