Citizens Energy deals with backlog of calls after gas, water bills combined

Utility says call volume nearly doubled

INDIANAPOLIS - Thousands of customers are tying up the phone lines at Citizens Energy since the utility consolidated gas and water bills.

Customers said they have encountered long waits and have had difficulty figuring out their bills.

"I think there is a little bit of confusion, because obviously the bill is more expensive than say their regular gas bill or their water bill," said Citizens spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple. "It's the same price. It's just combined now, so it looks like a bigger dollar figure."

Customer service representatives have been working overtime handling questions and complaints.

"Every time you call, it just disconnects because it is so busy," said customer Bill Richards

Holsapple said the customer service center's 60 phone lines typically handle about 2,000 calls a day, but daily calls are up to 3,500 since the switch, making it hard for employees to keep up.

"We are encouraging or mandating overtime in some cases for our reps," Holsapple said. "Just today, we will be adding close to 25 additional phone lines."

Citizens said it notified customers about the change a year ago and they sent letters and bill inserts to people's homes after that. Once the concerns are addressed and the growing pains are over, the utility hopes that the consolidated billing plan will be more convenient for customers.

"Everybody wants convenience, and I think it is convenient as long as it's balanced and the bills are charged right," Richards said.

Customers caught in the phone backlog who just need to pay a bill can call 317-924-3310.

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