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In Touch: An Inside Look at Taking Member Care to the Next Level

Like many of her colleagues at Jackson EMC, Brenda Medrano (shown on cover) was working long hours to help restore power for members after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

As a customer service representative, Brenda was on the front lines answering calls from members to report downed power lines and power outages.

After an extended shift due to the storm, Brenda stopped by a store before heading home to rest. At the store, a woman noticed her Jackson EMC shirt and asked if she was one of the many employees helping to restore power.

“I told her, I sure do work at Jackson EMC,” Brenda said. “And if you’re on our power lines, I can assure you that we are working around the clock to get your power back on.”

The woman told Brenda, “Honey, I can see it on your tired face that you guys are doing your best. I’ve been without power for two days, but I know that you guys are working hard.”

Hurricane Irma became the second most damaging storm in Jackson EMC’s 79-year history. About 55 percent of the cooperative’s 224,500 members lost power at some point during the storm.

Customer service representatives, like Brenda, help members report power outages during storms. But, on typical days, they also help new members establish electric service, resolve billing issues, and direct members to resources that may serve them better, like budget billing.

“To be a good customer service representative, you need to have a strong back and a tender heart,” said Baxley Williams, a customer service representative.

Last year, Jackson EMC’s contact center answered more than 475,000 phone calls and 21,500 online requests from members. Customer service representatives receive extensive training to help them identify members’ needs, such as those who may benefit from automatic bill payments or pointing members to the cooperative’s My Energy Use portal (available at ebill.jacksonemc.com) to view energy usage.

“Many of our members want to know how they can save money on their energy bill,” said Brent Cochran, director of customer service. “Our customer service representatives receive lots of training about energy efficiency resources and green energy to help members interested in those services.”

Indeed, customer service representatives at Jackson EMC’s contact center oftentimes serve as a gateway for members learning more about the cooperative’s services.

That includes everything from how to read a residential electric meter to registering for security services through EMC Security.

“You have to know a little of everything to help members get what they need,” said Briana Minish, a contact center supervisor. “A member may be asking about one service, but during the course of the conversation, you identify and explain to them how another service may help them.”

But, there are times when members are reaching out to the contact center because of difficult situations. Customer service representatives are resources to help guide members to services that may best serve the members’ issues, even pointing them to local non-profit organizations for additional assistance.

“You hear it all,” Briana said. “We are like counselors. We hear about people going through a divorce, a bankruptcy, a loss of a loved one and really challenging family situations. We want to help and support them.”

Jackson EMC’s contact center also has more than 10 bilingual customer service representatives to better serve members.

In addition to live customer service representatives, Jackson EMC will launch a self-service portal in 2019 that will provide a turnkey solution for members to check energy usage, pay bills online, sign up for services, receive rebates and more.