Bye bye to excellent customer service from FPL

By Ernie De La Fe….
All it took was a little squirrel looking for a mango to eat and poof! My next-door neighbor and I were out of electric power for 22 hours.

Remember the good ol’ days post- Hurricane Andrew or even Katrina and Wilma, when FPL trucks were applauded by scores of citizens as they convoyed their way toward the next lucky area to be re-powered? Or prior days when hurricanes seemed to be a football team that we all cheered as they took the field at the old Orange Bowl? A time when, if your lights went out, you called some friendly person at FPL who had a truck in front of your house within an hour to get your lights back on? You’re dreaming! Those days are gone, my friends. The other day when my lights went out with a loud bang shortly after mid-day, I walked out into the back yard and, sure enough, the fuse over the FPL transformer had blown. Right there over the edge of the transformer, I could see the tail and twitching hind legs of a poor electrocuted squirrel that had obviously caused the sudden outage. I quickly realized that all that was necessary was for somebody to show up with one of those long extension poles, change the fuse and snap it back in place. So, I made the call to FPL.

Well, I immediately bumped into their automated customer “service” telephone system: “Press one for residential; Press two for your FPL account number; press one if your power is out, press one for a downed power line; press two if you have a dog. Your problem has been reported, we’ll have a specialist out there ASAP to determine what is wrong.”

When I realized that I was being electronically placed in a queue with much more complicated problems, I called back to try to get a human being on the phone so I could tell them that this was a simple fix and all we needed was the guy with the pole. I finally got through to a live person, told them about the squirrel and they thanked me. I was happy. The power would be back on in no time. Yeah, sure!

Soon, the wait started to get long, so I called FPL again. The automated system told me my estimated time of completion was 4:45 p.m. When 4:45 rolled by without the appearance of a truck, the estimated time got pushed back to 9:45 p.m. After 9:45, there was no new estimated time of completion in the system. I called FPL, and called again.

Every time I called, I got more of those fake “corporate-speak” apologies: “We DO apologize, sir.” You know, the ones who are not really apologizing to you, they’re really just trying to get your hot and hopelessly agitated butt off the phone at one o’clock in the morning so the computer records will show that their El Paso, Texas call center “successfully handled” one more complaint. After that, it was time to call it a day and I put my steaming body to rest, safely assuming that no-one would come until the following day, anyway.

When I got up the following morning, I discovered that my cell phone had recorded a call at 2:36 a.m. from an FPL field supervisor telling me that somebody had been at my door “and couldn’t wake anybody up.” None of us — not my wife, my two grownup kids or I heard a thing. What did the guy do, stand there and attempt to ring my nonworking doorbell? Did he determine from seeing my pitch black house that we must no longer need his services? Did he think that it would be too dangerous to walk through the gate into my back yard because he or the company feared an attack from my 14-year-old Golden Retriever? He could not possibly have heard my dog because the dog was inside the house. Right now I’m thinking: big mistake to answer yes to the “Do you have a dog?” question on the automated system.

After eight o’clock, I started calling again and only got a few more of the “We DO Apologize” apologies thrown my way, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to randomly hunt for an FPL crew in the area. When I happened upon one that was on the side of a nearby road, I asked them to please come to my house, only 18 blocks away. They called their dispatcher to get authority to do so and the guy refused to give them the go-ahead. He advised them that there was already a truck on its way to my house. I left disappointed and discouraged, but when I turned the corner on my block, lo and behold, there it was — a precious FPL truck sitting in front of my house!

“Good morning,” I said to the driver with glee and appreciation.

Then he proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t do it, that the transformer that we had was too small for my house and my neighbor’s, and that he was calling for another crew to come by in a couple of hours to install a bigger transformer.

“Can’t you connect us until they get here? I asked. “Our food is going to spoil and, frankly, I don’t trust another crew to show up in two hours. I don’t care that the transformer is too small. It has worked fine for eight years. I’ll call and have them look at it some other time. Don’t go away! Just reconnect me!”

“Alright,” he says with a bit of irony in his voice. “You want me to reconnect you, I’ll reconnect you.”

It was almost as if he was telling me that, after that, I was on my own. So, in a matter of three minutes, the guy put on his helmet, grabbed his pole, replaced the fuse and bingo, we had power. The old adage: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is alive and well. I’m just sorry I can’t say the same thing for good ol’ FPL’s previously outstanding customer service.

And now, here I sit at my computer a day later, writing this column, small, underpowered transformer and all. I’ve called FPL about trying to get a bigger one. I wonder how long it will take them to replace it, but I’m not gonna worry about it. I don’t want to hear “We DO apologize” anymore.

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10 Comments on "Bye bye to excellent customer service from FPL"

  1. Don't blame the linemen working the power lines. They've been under stern scrutiny and management has to answer to that one.

  2. Wow.. Just wow. You got your power back after berating a lineman who told you that the transformer wasn't the right one for the application. Now you are spreading your hate and vitriol against FPL on the internet and by posting all of this information, you will probably cost that person his job…

    While I work for FPL, I cannot speak for them. I do know what I see and hear at every meeting our union has, where linemen are getting laid off or days off or whatever because someone has a beef with FPL so they constantly look for ways to stick it to them…

    Guess what? You are only hurting yourselves, since every complaint against people who are only doing their jobs, the linemen, cannot control what jobs they are given and when.. So they get laid off and have nice stories to tell their fellows about how their treatment was for trying to do their job…. Then the public wonders why it takes 20+ hours to get a lineman out to the area to fix the problem… Duh. You have 1 person trying to do the work that should be handled by a crew of 4-8.

    Wake up people. Quit taking it out on the linemen if you hate FPL.


  4. If it was an employee who worked with FPL and their residential electricity went out, how long do u think it would have taken b4 they had elec.,? just a few min perhaps secs, so put urself in this customer's shoes who was out of electricity for how long? treat the customers as if though it was ur own home how about that u would not have gone a nite without electricity. Tell a lie and shame the Devil. Moron!

    • Nope. We get treated like everyone else. Still takes the same time to get the power back on as anyone else who doesn’t work for the company. A red flag doesn’t come up in our system when there’s an outage to one of our homes. Why would it? What’s the benefit to the company to prioritize outages to it’s employees while overlooking non-employees? There isn’t any. There isn’t any magic button that customer service reps can push to send out the Bat Signal to FPL trucks purposely avoiding larger outages just in case one of FPL’s precious employees’ power is out. This is something to consider before calling someone a liar and a moron in a public forum.

      As for a 22 hour long outage, yes, it is excessive. The crews that go out to restore power are overworked and underpaid as are the customer service representatives that take these calls. Calls made after 8pm are routed to the only open call center at the time, which is the one in Miami. They don’t have a hotline to the dispatcher. The dispatcher posts the information on the ticket and it’s received once the status changes. That’s all the representatives have. Another thing they have is an excess of calls as call volume has increased while the amount of hires at FPL call centers has virtually stopped as of about a year ago. So people eventually get burned out and quit and they’re replaced with contractors.

      Have you tried saying the same thing to 120 people a day, back to back, without making it some sort of mechanical speil? How many of those do you think you could get through before you started sounding like a robot? Sure maybe you could keep it up for a day. What about two? What about a week? Month? Years? That’s what customer service reps do all while being berated by customers who need an outlet for their rage. There were scripts for the hurricanes just like there’s scripts for non hurricane related outages. That has not changed. And trust me you want to hear “We DO apologize” just as much as customer service reps want to listen to unnecessary long winded stories about the outage when they ask you a “yes or no” question. If they were given more leeway to go off script and were provided with more information about the outage to provide for you, they would.

      After the hurricanes power companies from states as far north as New York and as far west as Texas are sent to help restore the service to our areas just like FPL crews were sent to Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas after Katrina. Likening the two scenarios, while seemingly appropriate at first, is like comparing a local landing strip to a major international airport.

      When crews are sent to a location they have no idea what is waiting for them? Your dog may be friendly but the employee that goes to your house to make the repairs has probably never seen your dog and can’t gamble his safety on an animals temperament. He could ignore protocol and go into a yard that’s been documented as having a dog on the property, the dog could bite him, and then that crewman would have to contend with disciplinary action as well as a dog bite. Their job is dangerous enough as is without having to contend with dogs.

      And crews rarely ring doorbells as usually doorbells run on electricity which, if the FPL crew is sent to your property, is generally not working correctly. If no one is awake to provide access to a yard, they won’t break in to repair the problem. Sure, the power may have come back when the fuse was put back in but underpowered transformers lead to low voltage, which leads to damage to your electrical appliances and equipment. The crewman was doing you a favor trying to get another transformer sent to the property. If it’s done through them at their request the order is sent a lot faster than if you request it through a non outage call. After he popped the fuse back in and left, I guarantee you the outage ticket was closed as the power was restored.

      It’s still no excuse for a 22 hour outage but as several replies have stated, the problem is not something FPL repair crews or customer service representatives had any control over. The problem, it seems, has to be elevated. Doing so will bring up the question of how to pay the extra crews that will be needed and if the customers are willing to abide rate hikes in order to pay for extra crews. Just recently the Public Service Commission showed that it was not willing to grant that rate hike. So the equipment replacement is put on hold and hiring and retention of repair crews stays status quo. Could the money come from some other part of the company? Probably, but honestly I don’t know enough about that to provide an informed opinion. That’s a novel idea, isn’t it? Basing an opinion on facts?

  5. Actually in the evening and night, the El Paso call center is closed as well as West Palm only the Miami Call Center is 24 hrs and past 11pm it only maintains a skeleton crew of less than 10 people. Yes, "I do apologize for the inconvenience" is the cliche"and no one including a leap rep (or in FPL speak) "account supervisor" knows where the crew is or what is the status of the problem or restoration efforts. FPL customer care updated over a year ago to a new program from reporting outages for their employees which, unlike it's predecessor does not have a link to bring up tele-type updates from the crew in the field…rather it provides "scripting" the whole way through the call….you may remember a time when customer service reps gave you some info on what was up….even before the change they were supposed to follow a script but a few people would break outside the mold to tell you what was really going on…I did….I also continued to use the old program….and always be honest with people (some people with issues with FPL may remember me…I got to a point where I just went to work after smoking a joint and didn't care anymore…if you came on the line hot I'd tell you to lower it, if you didn't I told you literally to "shut the F–k up" then tell you what was going on….interesting I got more thank yous that way than the people who read the scripts and kissed A$$ apologizing…..want to really make a difference??? push state legislators and executives to get the majority necessary to de-regulate utilities in Florida…..FPL is scared to death of this believe me! I remember myself and my best work friend telling people the truth when the winter weather caused the outages in January….namely that the transformers and grid were overloaded….then we were told that we should say that because it made us sound unprepared….well um obviously they were……just had enough one day……told someone I was transferring them because I needed a smoke….and I don't think I'm coming back. I now have a more fulfilling career working for my family business, obtaining my masters degree, and part-time work as a political activist. Peace…….Power to the People, that's you ;-)

  6. well People this is the wave of the future, Big Corporations are more important than the citizens of South Florida and our elected officials are paid off by lobbyists and other scumbag lawyers…If you want to save our country and south Florida KILL A LAWYER they have caused all the problems for everyone….even FPL which is now New Era Energy for those of you who care….They don't want employees only profit for the shareholders and big salaries for the top tear….BUT THEY ARE STILL THE BEST RUN UTILITY COMPANY IN AMERICA AND I AM GLAD MY POWER COMES FROM THEM…That being said, learn to live without electricity from them…put some windmills up and put your dog on a tread mill which has a generator etc…there are many ways to stop the bleeding….

  7. FPL is a disgrace, they are abusive and uncaring, and to be honest if they had competition, they would be out of business in a month.

  8. I don't blame the workers FPL needs to get in touch with people to give some kind of idea when power is going on .In this last storm I lost power 2am the recording said they are aware of the problem no further action needed but no estimated time given.I got a person on the line he said this is not like Wilma they should have power on soon. 300 pm the next day automated call says your power is on if not then stay on the line. So I went crazy and called 10 times till I got a person same nonsense sorry blah blah . No estimated time 6pm a knock on my door.FPL guy says ok we are here letting you know , walks away, I go out 5 trucks!!! I think great this will do it. They all leave no power no explanation , now I am out of my mind .They give me a supervisor .Sorry about that they came to see what the damage was ,5 trucks to see what the damage was.My neighbor was told they didn't have some key or some silly thing by one of the guys. So I call again demanding an explanation .We don't know why they said that sir so sorry .power will be on by the end of the next day as late as midnight .The next day 2 pm I see a truck not FPL so I call for update ,No sir your power wont be on till the end of the day .OK I said maybe it's a comcast truck. I hang up power goes right on. NO communication . I don't understand why they can't call ahead and say we are going to be there soon , what's the big freakin deal. I am disgusted with the way they do business not the workers or even the poor guys and girls who have to put up with angry people just looking for some answers .

  9. Fpl is ridiculous…..worst company….deregulate it!!!!

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