Baltimore Gas & Electric has upgraded its website and customer interface software. As often happens in these matters, not all seems to be going smoothly. I've heard from several customers who are having problems with the site. Says one:
"Have you tried to pay a BGE bill online lately - much less, get a live account representative on the telephone? You'll find it is virtually impossible to pay your bill or view your account history. Good luck to us all with BGE's 'improved' service!"
I tried the new site and logged on with no problem, using my old logon and a new, more complex password that they prompted me to use. All my info seemed to be there and correct. However other customers seem to have had issues. One lady was unhappy that it takes three business days for the new site to verify bank account information, delaying her ability to pay her bill. (BGE confirms this on the site and says to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and account number if you need them to push back the due date on your bill.)
People's main complaint seems to be that there aren't enough BGE phone reps to handle the extra call traffic, even though BGE says it put 70 extra customer service reps on the job.
Here is the press release BGE put out on the change:
Baltimore Gas and Electric Company Upgrading Customer Billing and Information System
New account numbers for all customers; additional changes for specific customer groups
Utility to extend payment due dates and address related fees for individual customers who advise BGE they are unable to pay their bill on time due to system unavailability
BALTIMORE, Jan. 6, 2012 – Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) today announced that it is implementing a large-scale initiative to update several legacy billing and customer information systems—the first such wholesale upgrade in more than 20 years. BGE’s Customer Care and Billing System (CC&B) will provide an integrated, single source for customer information and will enable customer account representatives to access customer information more efficiently. The upgrade is a necessary step in enhancing BGE’s overall system architecture, which will, in turn, provide customers with better access to tools for using energy more efficiently and reducing energy costs.
“This important upgrade is key to BGE’s continued efforts to deliver enhanced customer service and a more efficient platform with which to offer innovative energy products and services,” said Jeannette M. Mills, chief customer officer, BGE. “A system upgrade of this complexity creates challenges and temporary inconveniences for some customers, and we are working diligently to resolve any issues that arise. For individual customers who advise us that they are unable to pay their bill on time due to system unavailability, we will extend their due date and address related fees. We thank our customers for their patience as we work to complete our upgrade.”
As a result of the transition to our CC&B system, all BGE customers receive new account numbers, which are included on the January bills. BGE’s upgraded system will continue to recognize customers’ former account numbers, as will all online banking systems. Therefore, the new account number requires no action for the majority of customers, including those who pay their bill through the mail and most who pay through online banking systems.
“BGE recognizes the importance of customer communication and education throughout this transition,” said Mills. “In addition to general communications via bge.com, social media channels and BGE’s Connections customer newsletter, BGE has issued targeted communications to affected customer groups, including emails, letters and phone calls. BGE will continue to work with customers to keep them informed, as well as address any issues.
“As part of this effort, BGE has temporarily increased staffing to facilitate the transition to the upgraded system, including 70 additional customer service representatives to assist with higher-than-usual call and email volumes,” said Mills. “In addition to calling BGE’s customer contact center at 410.685.0123, customers can receive assistance with billing questions by sending an email to email@example.com.”
Depending on their preferred method of bill payment, certain groups of BGE customers may need to take an action or will see a change in addition to their new account number:
Bge.com online payment customers
- Customers who pay via bge.com need to re-enter their banking information, including their bank routing number and bank account number. It takes three business days to verify customer bank account information, even if it is the same bank account used previously. During the verification period, customers will not be able to make payments. If it is necessary to make a payment during this time, customers should contact BGE for extended due dates. Customers who receive extended due dates will not be charged a late fee if they were not able to pay their bill during the system upgrade.
- In addition, new and existing customers who pay via bge.com are now automatically enrolled in paperless billing, which supports BGE’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Customers who prefer to receive a paper bill can indicate their preference by logging into their account on bge.com, selecting the “Preferences” option on the bill summary page and choosing “paper bill.”
- Customers who manage multiple accounts through bge.com will need to re-establish access to each additional account after the upgrade.
Customers who pay their BGE bill electronically through their financial institution
- Specific groups of customers whose financial institutions use two particular payment vendors to process online payments to BGE may have to set their payments up differently with their financial institution or use an alternate payment method for their January bills. These customers are receiving paper bills during January. To help with this transition, BGE mailed affected customers letters that provided details on the change and bill payment options.
Customers enrolled in Budget Billing
- While no action is needed, customers enrolled in BGE’s Budget Billing program may see a change in their monthly budget billing amount. With CC&B, the Budget Billing program has been modified to provide a more regular bill review and adjustment. Previously, BGE adjusted most Budget Billing accounts annually, resulting in a yearly true-up, which may have led to an increase or decrease in the bill for the following month. Under the revised Budget Billing program, BGE will review customers’ bills every three months to compare gas and electric use with the amount billed and make adjustments four times a year, preventing large deficits or overpayments throughout the year.
Through BGE’s enhanced CC&B system, the company can now offer more services to customers, including the ability to pay their bills through bge.com via automatic monthly payments—a convenient alternative to logging on each month to pay their bill. In the future, expanded CC&B capabilities will include more self-serve options such as scheduling appointments and signing up for BGE programs.