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OP-ED: LIPA Call Center Reps on Storm’s Front Line

Union leader discusses the effort by reps in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Patch by Donald Daley, Business Manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1049 in Hauppauge.

It’s been a very long 10 days for the 300 service representatives at LIPA’s Customer Call Center in Melville.  If ever there was an example of a 24/7 team effort under very demanding conditions, this is surely it.

Working 16-hour days, every day since Hurricane Sandy struck, these representatives have answered over one million customer calls.  The commitment of these hard-working men and women to their customers and their fellow workers has been outstanding. It is a commitment that we take very seriously and pride ourselves in this tradition.

The call center in Melville is the main contact point between the public and LIPA. During Hurricane Sandy, call volume has spiked from the normal 10,000 daily calls to as much as 130,000 emergency calls. As you might imagine, customers living without power for more than a week have strong feelings and the experience for call center workers has been physically and emotionally challenging. The call center workers know that the service they help to provide gives comfort and security to the public and will not stop until everyone’s service is restored.

These reps are themselves Long Islanders who truly feel the pain of their neighbors. Many are moms, who for more than a week have left their kids for all but a few hours daily, then rushed back to another 16-hour shift.  Like the callers they help, these workers are Long Islanders and many have also been without power and have been flooded.

The call center professionals are part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1049, whose members include about 3300 workers putting in similarly long days on the street getting power back on.  Whether our IBEW members work for National Grid in power generation or gas operations, directly for LIPA in the call center or the transmission and distribution area, or for a shared organization, these professionals always pull together and coordinate their efforts to help in a time of need.

It’s true that every Long Islander has had to sacrifice because of Hurricane Sandy. But few have given as much as the hard-working, dedicated electrical workers who are helping to get power restored to their neighbors.

Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:32 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:32 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:33 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:33 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:34 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:35 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:36 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:36 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:37 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Jon Soldo November 08, 2012 at 12:37 PM
If you think LIPA's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy have been unacceptable, please sign this petition and tell politicians to hold them accountable. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again! http://signon.org/sign/hold-lipa-accountable?source=c.url&r_by=4140280
Brian S November 08, 2012 at 01:05 PM
My power was restored Monday night around 6pm. It originally went out around 10:30AM the previous Monday. I used the Automated systems and web site to track the progress which was frustrating, because it gave no information other than BS. I saw an inspection crew down my block and gratefully went to speak with them. They said they had 4 trucks assigned to them and that they were making the recommendations of what gets done when, that was on Friday. When the temp dropped to 32, we had no choice but to vacate and hope that the house was still there when we returned. So Monday AM, after still no good information, I finally gave up on technology and placed the call. Here is a Hint. BE NICE. The call center is NOT to BLAME for the lack of Upper management by LIPA to plan and prepare for a storm that was forecasted days in advance. The woman who finally answered was very pleasant, but I was told that they had no additional information than what I was getting from the txt message or the Web site. So Once again, the LIPA Management takes these hard working front line folks and gives them no information, like always. My question to Gov. Cuomo is "How will the be held accountable". He fired his Emergency Management director, when will he replace the lack of caring Upper management of the LIPA Management team and have someone in place that knows how to plan and communicate, as if they had no power.
don thornton November 08, 2012 at 01:30 PM
LIPA MUST HAVE COMPETION!
Nino November 08, 2012 at 01:31 PM
OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE AN AFFILIATION TO LIFA..... To at this time write this not only reveals poor timing,but a lack of leadership in management. Realize these emloyees, yes employees are paid very well. It is your job to report to work daily and provide the public and homeowners with the service they pay for through hard earned money. The entire LIPA is in total shambles which has been revealed this past two weeks. Realize there are those civilans and homeowners yhat have b een apalled by the work performance throughout the years and have said nothing. Now people are saying we need as new utility on Long Island and we need service and accountability. Unttil then please don't insult the publics intelligence, you have a job responsibility,now get to work ............
Ann November 08, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Renee: I agree with you the out of towners do a better and quicker job than our local utilties and authorities out here on Long Island - and some stores who are ready to build out here like Aldi's Food Store and Michael's had out of town workers - why because they do a better, quicker and cheaper job than our locals. So when I see a blown up rat on the road near a new site I know that there are out of towners working here - you gotta love it
Saro November 08, 2012 at 03:24 PM
The answer is bring ConEd out to the Island. I live in Roslyn and have been out of power for 11 DAYS! I commute to LIC everyday and have seen ConEd trucks all over Queens. They are restoring power to their customers...while LIPA is twiddling their thumbs. Just look at the numbers...they don't lie.
Lawrence Gramm November 08, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You do know that your petition is sponsored by moveon.org, an organization that is in bed with the democratic politicians who in turn are in bed with LIPA and it's unions. That petition is a waste of time and only serves the extreme left moveon.org as they collect your name. It's fraudulent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lark Dimperio November 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I do not fault the customer service reps! But what is the point of having them work 16 hour days when they have no information specific to your area that will help you prepare to stay or decide to leave? So, either by human personnel (very hard to reach by phone) or text message, the information remains erroneous, speculative, or exceedingly optimistic? At least when I call Cablevision, that other monopoly on Long Island, they can troubleshoot based on my phone number and give me concrete information for my area. Why must I find my account number in the dark via flashlight to register for text messages that have not been accurate yet? How are the elderly, the disabled, or any resident without a smart phone or internet access suppose to register for text message STATS? LIPA...it is TIME to make all your sites way more customer friendly!
candm1652 November 08, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I am a small dry cleaners owner at Hillside Ave New Hyde Park, 11th days no power, I loss all my business, insurance not cover my loss because shop didn't flood, rent still need to pay. I try to stay in freezing cold store as long as possible to comforts my customers, try my best to help them get their clothes for work, Thanks all my loyalty customers, they all so kind and understated. But I really don't know how to do if power keep not coming back? Who can help us?
sal cottone November 08, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Customer service reps and.the workers in the field have a tough job. With that said LIPA is a mess. Unorganized and unprepared! At the slightest storm I lose power. Problem never solved. When the storm ended I had 4 LIPA workers, walking around looking in backyards. 11 days later nothing! I was driving around saw 3 huge trucks , got excited to see people actually working. Then I saw one guy with a huge leaf blower with 5 or 6 other workers watching him blow leaves off the bike path. Are you kidding me!
John Dornheim November 08, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I think that it is shameful that some are taking their frustration out on crews in our neighborhoods. I was without for nine days, almost to the minute. The only house in my neighborhood without for the last two of those days. If LIPA will not return our calls, then they should not say that they will.
A M November 08, 2012 at 05:57 PM
What customer service reps? Surely I might be more sympathetic if they were actually ANSWERING the phones! LIPA has cut off all communication with customers and only leaves us an automated line to dial. It disconnects you before you can connect to a person. Shame on LIPA for making us feel MORE powerless than we already are (pun intended). Our neighborhood has not seen one single truck, and we have been without power for 11 days now. The men in our neighborhood removed the trees from the streets to make them passable. So grateful to have amazing and caring neighbors who look out for each other. LIPA has done nothing but dodge us and has given us no information. This goes beyond poor customer service and negligence, and I will do what I can to make sure someone is held accountable. Completely unacceptable.
Marilyn November 08, 2012 at 07:21 PM
The only people that I believe that have a tough job here are the nice out of state workers who have no place to sleep, but work around the clock to fix this antique power grid that we have on Long Island! The terms "customer service" and "LIPA" do not belong in the same sentence, paragraph, blog, article or planet! Before the superstorm they were incompetent and rude....now they are just invisible.
don thornton November 08, 2012 at 07:26 PM
REMEMBER THIS WHEN IT COMES TIME TO ELECT OFFICALS!
Ann Kane November 08, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Regarding they do not prepare. This summer my tree guy said a wire high up needed to have a branch taken down by lipa due to dangerous wire with live power? So I called Lipa and they asked who told me to call. It was my tree man. They said if it wasn't lipa they can't come. So what is that about? Just the bottom line. Be cheap about prevention? We need a different company. They haven't improved on a 100 year old grid. We are blessed to all be so interconnected but they should be made accountable in addition to the storm.
Ann November 09, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Really? I've just got a busy signal. This is their job ... They arent volunteers. My issue, however, are not the LIPA crews or customer service. It's the LIPA management. Poor planning and disorganized. They let us all down.
JOE November 09, 2012 at 04:57 AM
I have just been informed that there is going to be a massive rally on Monday in front of the LIPA offices on Old Country Road in Hicksville at 10 am. If anyone knows where to get the inflatable rat that you see at protests, We need that for Monday
Pat November 09, 2012 at 08:33 PM
My elderly parents got their power back on after 7 days, LIPA left a wire hanging low from their house to the pole, aqpprox. 30 feet long, if you are under 5'ft tall, you can walk under it, if not I guess you get electrocuted When they called about the line, the rep was extremely rude, said "call back another time we dont have time for that now"!! God help them if anyone gets hurt or killed by that wire. No, No, No ..... accolades for the rude reps!
Karla Allegro November 11, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Thank God for the out of state workers who worked very hard to restore power my street. We will be forever thankful. To think that these hard workers are sleeping in their trucks! Shame on Nassau County! I wonder if this happens again will these men bother coming to help us! We are grateful...
Walter Noller November 12, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Only 300 call reps. for how many hundreds of thousands of customers? This alone shows how ill prepared and incompetent the company is. Set up addition temporary call centers (this would take mere hours to do), hire temps to take calls and get managers to take calls. A busy signal is never an option for something so important as the basic need of electricity. Poor preventative maintenence of outside plant exascerbated the problem. Company reps. sent not knowing what the hell they're doing caused inefficient and multiple responses and visits and caused days of delay. LIPA needs to go and government owes the tax payers of Long Island a utility that can actually do their job. Electricity isn't just another consumer option. Lives depend on it as everything is somehow tethered to it and depends on it to work. LIPA's latest " We're gonna look and see what went went wrong, after this is over" tells how poor a job they do..They admit it. Time for them to go.
Walter Noller November 12, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Blame LIPA for their ineffective response, but it's at the leadership level, not those on the front line. They take orders from morons who redefine incompetence. Those who have encountered outside contractors who did a great job need to contact these companies and say thank you. I just sent an email to State Electric, http://www.stateelectriccorp.com thanking them for a great crew of professionals that did a wonderful job in our area. I say this based on a dozen years as a splicer having to deal with both the damage and, sometimes, poor management. Seperate the bad (LIPA management) from those who work, in spite of poor leadership and send appreciation to the companies who came and helped us get back on line.

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