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MLGW expands customer service hours as some folks said they sit on hold for hours

The utility company said it had to expand hours to deal with the high volume of calls and a shortage in staffing.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Light Gas and Water is expanding its customer service hours to help customers needing assistance. 

The expansion is due to a shortage of employees and high call volume. 

Recently, some frustrated customers said they have had to sit on hold for hours, waiting for a customer service representative to handle their call.

Customers can now call 901-544-6549 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., for assistance. The call center will also be open Saturday, November 20th, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

MLGW spokesperson Gale Jones-Carson said an employee shortage, coupled with an increase in call volume, has caused delays for people calling the utility company. Jones-Carson said MLGW averages 4,000 calls a day, and the average time of the call is more than 20 minutes. 

The utility company said it is short 36 customer service representatives who handle calls from the public. Jones-Carson said twelve new employees are going through training, and two dozen more need to be hired. The starting pay is more than $24 an hour, according to MLGW. 

Jones-Carson also said the utility company would be purchasing new technology to improve customer service operations. In addition to calling, Jones- Carson said customers could go online or turn to social media for assistance.

"Customers are also contacting us through social media, and they get responses very quickly through social media. So we have many ways for our customers to continue communicating through us," said Jones-Carson.

Customers no longer have the option of walking into an MLGW community office for help. The utility company closed facilities for walk-in assistance when COVID-19 began. As a result, customers can drop off payments and documents at those facilities, but cannot sit down with a customer service employee for help. 

"As to when our community offices will be open, I have no idea right now. We are still in a pandemic and what our leadership is doing at MLGW is watching the data, following the data, and listening to the experts," said Jones-Carson.

Some customers are frustrated with the current options. 

"About three weeks ago, the street lights went out. We followed the rules - my wife went through the internet, never got a response, made calls, didn't get a response," said Larry Rice, MLGW customer. 

Rice is a lawyer. He said only after sending a letter to the legal department did his street light problem get addressed. 

"The bottom line, people should be able to let MLGW know there is a problem. MLGW should fix it in a reasonable amount of time. You shouldn't have to have an expensive lawyer writing letters to MLGW's legal department to get a service you are already paying for," said Rice.

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Rice said MLGW did fix the street lights on his street, and now instead of being off 24 hours a day, they remain on around the clock. 

"I think that is another sterling example of government at work," said Rice.

Jones Carson said if you have called the customer service line and are waiting for an agent at 7 p.m. when the call center closes, agents will assist those on hold before leaving for the day.  

She added, people should stay on the line and don't hang up. 

"There is no best time to call. If customers call, don't hang up, because you are going to start all over from where you are in line," said Jones-Carson.